There have been surfing documentaries before -- mostly hot-dogging sports flicks comprised of "wow" footage with ace boarders facing down big, beautiful, ominous waves. But even "Endless Summer," this mini-genre's high-water mark, isn't as comprehensive or exhilarating as "Riding Giants," which revels in the sport's thrills and perils, in its history and minutia, with the same wit, insight, enthusiasm and cinematic acumen that director Stacy Peralta brought his ingenious 2002 skateboarding doc "Dogtown and Z-Boys."
Opening with a Hallelujah Chorus of monster swells crashing over on themselves (heard in 5.1 Dolby Surround and seen from all the traditional angles plus awe-inspiring aerial shots), the film gets off to an imaginative start with a rapid-fire primer tracing surfing from its Polynesian roots to its "Gidget" popularization. Peralta then coasts into the unique crux of this movie: the personal histories of (and engrossing interviews with) some of the sport's 20th century heroes.
Beginning in the 1950s with Greg Noll, who along with a dozen or so other Hawaiian beach bums forged the whole surf culture we know today, the film waxes poetic about the purity of their lifestyle (these guys literally slept on the beach and lived off the land and the sea) and pays homage to their pioneering pluck and their particular landmark accomplishments.
Continue reading: Riding Giants Review