Saturday, July 24, 2004

Riding Giants



As I've noted previously, George has a habit of seeing one movie per year. This year, he selected Riding Giants, which he, Martin and I went to see last night at the Landmark Bethesda Row theater. Martin and George have a bit more familiarity with surfing (the subject of the movie) than I do, given that they have, well, surfed.

We walked into the theater just as the trailer for Maria, Full of Grace was playing. It's in Spanish, and it's about a 17-year-old from Colombia who is a drug courier. I'm really not sure what the expected audience overlap is between that and a surfing movie. That was followed by a trailer for Danny Deckchair, a movie about a guy who goes up in the air in lawn furniture. It seemed both better and worse than you'd think, if that makes any sense.

"Riding Giants" focused on the sport (pursuit?) of "big wave surfing". They said it often enough during them movie that it seemed to become one word -- bigwavesurfing. I eventually realized (remember, I'm the one not entirely familiar with surfing) that there were (at least) two types of surfing -- bigwavesurfing and "performance surfing," which was mentioned once, briefly. Bigwavesurfing centers around riding really big waves. "Riding Giants" covered the subject from the pioneers in the 1950s to the advent of "tow-in" surfing in the 1990s. The hardest part of surfing a big wave is catching it, and by towing the surfers in with a jet ski, they can ride much bigger waves than anyone ever imagined.

The part from the 1950s involved old home movies, and it was an interesting glimpse into a long-gone era of surfing -- evidently Gidget was soon to cause surfing to explode in popularity. The part from the 1990s started out technically interesting. But as you can imagine, catching bigger and bigger waves gets more and more dangerous as you wipe out, and the movie contained a lot of surfers ruminating on the Nature of Death and the Nature of Danger. That dragged a bit.

Martin commented that the director's previous effort, Dogtown and Z-Boys had the advantage that skateboarders don't risk their lives as much as surfers, so it was lower on the pretention scale. Afterwards, though, I remembered my visit to an exhibition of skateboarding photographs, which imposed a really highfalutin political ideology on skateboarding. So I guess you're never quite safe...
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