The surfing documentary Riding Giants breathtakingly captures the wide cultural history and immense beauty of big wave surfing.
Riding Giants is a collection of surfing footage expertly pieced together by Dogtown and the Z-boys director Stacy Peralta. The documentary chronicles the history of big wave surfing from its Polynesian roots to the present day X-games style. The best surfers of the past and present add narratives about their experiences with various ocean swells.
The film focuses on three innovators of the sport. Greg “The Bull” Noll was a pioneer, surfing Hawaii’s Waimea Bay relentlessly, his charisma drawing attention to the young sport. A true soul surfer emerges onto the scene with Jeff Clark. Clark surfed a break in Half Moon Bay, nicknamed “Maverick’s,” alone for over 10 years before others caught onto this surfer’s paradise. The current big wave hero is Laird Hamilton. Hamilton has opened a whole new world to the surfing community by riding a wave previously thought impossible at Teahupoo.
The Riding Giants special edition was recently released and is packed with extras. The magnificence of the big waves could only be captured and presented in the anamorphic widescreen format. Some of the older footage is a bit distorted, but generally the film is visually outstanding.
The DVD features two sets of commentary. The first features Peralta and Paul Crowder, the film’s editor. They detail the difficulties of piecing together footage while maintaining a flow and storyline. The second commentary has writer Sam George with legends Noll, Clark and Hamilton.
About 15 minutes of deleted scenes are included in the package. One segment called “Surf Talk” has the narrators spouting their best stereotypical surfer lingo. Another clip has the original ending for the film with an explanation beforehand for the change. An “Ending Credits Sequence” features some interesting comments that did not fit in the flow of the film and, consequently, were scrapped.
A unique segment called “Fuel TV’s Blue Carpet Special” shows the premiere of Riding Giants at the Egyptian theatre in Hollywood. The special, intended to be star-packed and glamorous, seems a bit dull. Yet the segment does contain some candid interviews with the stars and makers of the film.
“The Making of Riding Giants” is about 27-minutes of information already contained in other segments, as well as clips from the film itself. However, a few behind-the-scenes extras and interviews are tucked between clips.
The final quality touch is the previews. While most DVDs contain plugs for other films by the same studio, of which there are a few, this DVD also contains the previews for the older movies referenced in Riding Giants. The trailers for the cheesy Ride the Wild Surf and Gidget Goes Hawaiian are included. Of course, the trailer for Riding Giants and Dogtown and the Z-boys are also in the previews.
The special edition for Riding Giants is, like the film, well done and nicely put together. It is a perfect ride with a mix of history, true drama, beauty, heroes and freedom. Not bad for the tale of three men and their ultimate wave.