Writer-director Dana Brown clearly had a blast burning through the film's travel budget. From Hawaii to Vietnam to Easter Island, his crew captures some gorgeous footage of surfers at play (or at work, depending on how you look at it). Regardless of where he travels, surfers world-wide all share a childlike wonder at how much fun they get to have in the water. Off the coast of Galveston, Texas, Brown follows a group who find pleasure in surfing on the wakes of the massive supertankers that pass through; in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, he discovers a group of decidedly un-buff men cruising the modest tides of Lake Michigan, offering surfer-dude talk in Midwestern accents.
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Obviously inspired by the crush of skateboarding-as-rising-sport movies like Dogtown and Z-Boys and Stoked, Billabong Odyssey ostensibly follows a surfing competition in which the winner is crowned by surfing on the biggest wave in the world (this turns out to be about 70 feet high, which the breathtaking opening sequence presents in all-too-dramatic size). That's all well and good, but Billabong falls into the deadly trap of being more about its subjects than about the sport. I don't know Brad Gerlach from Mike Parsons, but if you're the kind of person who does, you might find something interesting in their life history and entree into the sport of surfing.
Continue reading: Billabong Odyssey Review