When Stacy Peralta — director, Powell & Peralta CEO, pioneer of the concrete wave, ambassador of all things board, and Dogtown surf rat — rolled film on his Zephyr skate team pals for DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, he turned a clique into cultural history. In RIDING GIANTS, Peralta turns big wave surf into pop philosophy.
RIDING GIANTS may lack Z-BOYS’s intimacy (these aren’t Peralta’s boyhood friends after all) but, between the incredible vintage footage and openness of the interviews, the treatment loses nothing of the insider’s feel.
Starting with an arcane quote from Captain Cook about native Hawaiians riding waves, the film jumps quickly to modern surf culture’s genesis point in the fifties.
Surfing is viewed as an alternative to the alternative, every bit as outlaw, as remote as Kerouac’s Beats and the then flourishing biker scene, but without the grit, smoke, and cynicism of city culture.
When Greg Noll, Mike Stang and the small band of hardy souls who joined them hit the North Shore, they weren’t just scurrying to the edges of THE MAN IN THE GREY FLANNEL SUIT culture. They were inventing a reality entirely outside of it.
From the 50s to present, from the early triumphs of Greg Noll to the revolutionary antics of today’s sport leader, Laird Hamilton — through the monster swells of Hawaii’s Makaha Beach, Waimea Bay, Peahi, California’s Mavericks and the Tahitian “freak of hydroponics” at Teahupoo, and in the big wave fatalities of Dickie Cross and Mark Foo — Peralta elevates the energy of big wave surfing into an entirely different sphere than the fleeting bad boy thrills of skateboarding’s off-the-lip aerials.
For Peralta and his subjects, surfing is the true frontier — more religion than lifestyle.
Real surf will never be as populist as the asphalt kind, but RIDING GIANTS will doubtless be the video textbook of the water-slicing faith’s future prophets.