Few outside the surfing cognoscenti are probably aware the sport took its first steps towards professionalism in the mid-’70s when young Aussies and South Africans started riding the Hawaiian waves in ways nobody had tried before. Narrated by Edward Norton, this impressive sports doc finds enough drama in the situation to involve a wider audience, since the archive footage of these chaps gliding through waves the size of a house is quite something, the interviewees certainly have a tale to tell, and the editing wraps it together with dash and imagination (ever see surf footage cut to the strains of Leonard Cohen?). Although the surfers’ innate sense of self-importance is a given, the central thread of struggling to create a professional context to recognise their athleticism (in contrast with today’s millionaire surf stars) proves engrossing, while the increasingly threatening response from Hawaiians who felt their cultural heritage was under attack adds a note of surprising disquiet – and a sense of more at stake than narcissistic aquatic display.
Friday September 4 2009
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