Riding Giant brings surfing to the people

By Leah Sasges

Anyone else pumped for snowboard season? You’ve waited all summer to ride up the chairlift on a bluebird powder day, catch a snowflake on your tongue and take that first blissful ride. There couldn’t be anything more glorious, but even before the birth of our tantalizing sport was another, the granddaddy of all board sports: surfing.

Riding Giants profiles the men who gave surfing life, back in those early Polynesian days. They poured their passion and inspiration into spawning the culture and community we now know is surfing.

First off, if your main reason for watching a surfing film is to stare, salivating at the nearly naked baddass surfer guys and gals, stop reading here. It takes a special breed of person to adamantly believe that to catch the ultimate thrill, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price. Anyone who participates in extreme sports knows limits will be pushed to achieve that adrenaline rush, unfathomable unless it’s first hand. This feeling is ultimately what drove surfing to evolve from riding ankle biters on Waikiki beach to the sickeningly huge pipe lines that have been conquered in the last decade. Conquered may not be the proper word. What makes surfing such a beautiful sport is the unpredictability, the divine feeling of that relationship with nature–you get beaten more than you get rewarded.

This movie inspires, from watching Greg Noll and his cronies (the original dozen vagrants to migrate to Hawaii in the pursuit of big waves) to Californian thrillseeker Jeff Clark who was riding the treacherous Mavericks for 15 years before he could convince anyone they were legit. There’s also Native Hawaiian Laird Hamilton, revered as the epitome of big wave riders. It was he who launched the idea of towing surfing, making what was once sheer fantasy, possible.

Written, directed and produced by Stacy Peralta, this is the story of how these men nurtured and advocated the culture of the sport, from the late 1950’s until today. If anything this movie is brimming with rare original footage, and lets audiences gain a little more insight into the pleasures and dangers of the sport. Riding Giants draws a better picture of the birth, development and the global appeal of the surfing lifestyle. That’s not bad for a handful of dropouts.

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