With the passage of time, both the strengths and flaws of Milius' 'coming of age' epic are even more immediately conspicuous than back in '78. The film charts the changes wreaked by ageing, families, reputation and Vietnam, on the lives and friendship of three top Californian surfers - irresponsible Matt (Vincent), sensitive, steady Jack (Katt) and loony Leroy the Masochist (Busey). It's easy to mock the rowdy machismo, stereotypical situations and characters, maudlin sentimentality and overblown mythologising, such as,'Who knows where the wind comes from? Is it the breath of God?' At the same time, however, it's nearly impossible to imagine anyone even attempting such an ambitious, poetic and genuinely personal movie in today's Hollywood. At its roots, it's merely a mixed-genre piece: part soap opera, part beach movie, part American Graffiti-style wallow in nostalgia. But thanks to its seasonal structure (the four acts centre on oceanic movementss, opening with the South Swell of the summer of '62, and culminating in the Great Swell of spring '74), the action not only reflects various changes in the Californian Zeitgeist, but is lifted into the realm of legend. Matt, Jack and Leroy - kings of a dying race, and themselves in thrall to Surfing History as represented by their now bemused, widely neglected mentor, The Bear - virtually become one with nature, their moods echoing those of the restless sea. All this, along with the tremulous romanticism, might seem unbearably portentous were it not for some lovely comic moments - notably, Busey in the draft-dodging scenes - and the sheer exhilaration of the surfing footage.