Friday, July 16, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Riding Giants": An ode to surfing and its affable, daring golden boys

Seattle Times movie critic

Stacy Peralta, who explored the world of skateboarding in "Dogtown and Z-Boys," hits the waves for "Riding Giants," an entertaining if audience-specific look at the history of surfing. Using movie clips (including some funny stuff from the "Gidget" movies) and interviews with some of surfing's biggest names, Peralta traces the evolution of what he describes as "an emerging lifestyle in opposition to mainstream values," not to mention a kick-ass sport.

"Riding Giants" is aptly named — some of the waves appear to be the approximate size of the Space Needle, and it's an undeniable thrill to see a dwarfed figure coasting along on a tiny board, the wave looming far over his head. Those not already fascinated by the sport, however, may ultimately find the movie slow going, as after a while, those waves all start to look the same, and the discussions of surfing technique may be a bit more than the casual viewer wishes to learn.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"Riding Giants," a documentary directed by Stacy Peralta, written by Peralta and Sam George. 101 minutes. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Metro, Meridian.

But Peralta wisely centers his film around the likable personalities of the great surfers he profiles. Laird Hamilton, who looks right out of Central Casting — this blond god appears to have been born on a surfboard — shares his touching stepfather/son relationship with '60s surfer Billy Hamilton, and demonstrates seemingly superhuman feats as a "tow-in" surfer, on waves too big to approach by merely paddling. Wildman Jeff Clark, the first to surf the dangerous reef break known as Maverick's, is a laid-back presence, as is the legendary Greg Noll, now in his 60s.

It all comes down to "the ride," described eloquently by many in this film — that feeling of effortlessly surfing a perfect wave. As summer entertainment for those who love this sport, "Riding Giants" might just provide a similar feeling.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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