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Riding Giants

Riding Giants

4.0 5
Director: Stacy Peralta

Cast: Sean Penn, Dick Brewer, Sam George


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With the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, skater-cum-filmmaker Stacy Peralta introduced viewers to the history of the West Coast skateboarding culture and made a huge splash at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, taking home both the Documentary Directing Award and the Documentary Audience Award. For this follow-up effort, Peralta leaves the land for the sea,


With the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, skater-cum-filmmaker Stacy Peralta introduced viewers to the history of the West Coast skateboarding culture and made a huge splash at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, taking home both the Documentary Directing Award and the Documentary Audience Award. For this follow-up effort, Peralta leaves the land for the sea, focusing his lens on the world of surfing. Narrated by Sean Penn, just as Dogtown and Z-Boys was, Riding Giants attempts to trace the origins of surfing and also explore the growth and progress of surf culture. Among the surfing luminaries who chime in on topics varying from the business of the sport to "the big wave" are Laird Hamilton, Greg Noll, and Jeff Clark. Hoping to find the critical success akin to its predecessor, Riding Giants premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The set piece of this hyperbolic ode to surfing is Laird Hamilton's 2000 trip to Tahiti, where a monster wave provided the opportunity for what the movie portentously calls "the most significant ride in surfing history." If you're inclined to regard the sport as important and its practitioners as heroic, you'll likely enjoy this beautifully photographed documentary, which presents Hamilton as a towering figure. Certainly he's responsible for much of the sport's current popularity: A fierce competitor who seems genuinely driven, he's a popular cover boy who's landed modeling assignments and lucrative endorsement deals that include an American Express commercial. Writer-director Stacy Peralta depicts Hamilton and his fellow surfers as not only dedicated but even obsessive, chasing the biggest waves with the single-minded determination of Captain Ahab pursuing Moby-Dick. Peralta's images testify to the physical battering surfers undergo, and the onscreen participants pay tribute to brethren who lost their lives while riding the big waves. Some viewers will think it foolish that people are willing to risk everything for this pastime, but Riding Giants clearly espouses an uncritical point of view that holds surfing to be a noble endeavor. Regardless of how much importance one places on the sport, it will be impossible not to be moved by the truly spectacular footage captured by Peralta with state-of-the-art photographic techniques. And we predict some will find it positively mesmerizing.
All Movie Guide
Stacy Peralta gives the Hollywood term "triple threat" a whole new meaning. The skateboarder/surfer/director turns in his second accomplished documentary in three years with Riding Giants, a follow-up to his critical darling Dogtown and Z-Boys. One might consider Peralta the film industry's chief chronicler of extreme sports, if that didn't belittle how seriously he takes his craft. As with Dogtown, Peralta has really done his homework, unearthing yards of priceless footage of 1950s big-wave surfers and their wonky postures. During this era of the film, he also identifies surfing as the centerpiece of a new counterculture, consisting of beach bums with no prospects other than to gleefully anticipate the swells. Where Giants diverges from Dogtown is that it pushes the sport's societal impact to the background, opting for a more mechanical focus on new techniques and the defiant quest for ever more bone-crunching waves. This turns the film into more of a highlight reel than a historical tableau. The problem is that, lacking the panoramic perspective of standing on the beach, most viewers have a difficult time appreciating the increasing enormity of the waves down through the decades. The feats are quite impressive, but the interview subjects' array of superlatives grows a tad repetitive. For the most part, though, it's a thrilling and entertaining window into a world of athletes who take as many risks with their lives as mountain climbers. Especially cool are the interviews with big wave godfather Greg Noll, who paved the waves at Hawaii's Waimea Bay. He recalls the era with off-color observations and a youthful bravado that belies his stocky, nearly 70-year-old body.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by director Stacy Peralta and editor Paul Crowder; Commentary by writer Sam George and surfers Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, and Laird Hamilton; Deleted scenes; Fuel TV's Blue Carpet Special; Making of Riding Giants; Previews

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sean Penn Narrator
Dick Brewer Interviewee
Sam George Interviewee
Buzzy Kerbox Interviewee
Jeff Clark Interviewee
Ricky Grigg Interviewee
Greg Noll Actor
Pete Cole Interviewee
Billy Hamilton Interviewee
Peter Mel Interviewee
Pat Curran Interviewee
John Milius Interviewee
Lyon Hamilton Interviewee
Mickey Munoz Interviewee
Darryl "Flea" Virostko Interviewee
Walter Hoffman Interviewee
Steve Pezman Interviewee
Sarah Gerhardt Interviewee
Randy Rarick Interviewee
Gabrielle Reece Interviewee
Buffalo Keaulana Interviewee
Mark Renneker Interviewee
Evan Slater Interviewee
Kelly Slater Interviewee
Mike Stange Interviewee
Matt Warshaw Interviewee
Grant Washburn Interviewee

Technical Credits
Stacy Peralta Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Alan Barker Sound/Sound Designer
Paul Crowder Co-producer,Editor
Dane A. Davis Sound/Sound Designer
Nathalie Delest Executive Producer
Lori Dovi Sound/Sound Designer
Marty Franck Executive Producer
Michael Gatt Sound/Sound Designer
Sam George Screenwriter
Laird Hamilton Executive Producer
Jane Kachmer Producer
Eddie Kim Sound/Sound Designer
Lew Maddox Sound/Sound Designer
Alex Matter Score Composer
Agi Orsi Producer
Peter Pilafian Cinematographer
John M. Reynolds Sound/Sound Designer
Larry Scharf Sound/Sound Designer
Wolf Seeberg Sound/Sound Designer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Start [4:20]
2. Southern California [4:35]
3. Hawaii = Paradise [2:26]
4. Astronauts of Surfing [6:54]
5. Waimea Bay [2:38]
6. The Impossible [3:36]
7. Wipeout [3:07]
8. The Legends [2:44]
9. Gidget [3:22]
10. The Big Wave [4:44]
11. Surfing Revolution [1:23]
12. Northern California [2:28]
13. Mavericks [5:28]
14. Making the Wave [3:28]
15. Surviving the Wave [2:13]
16. The Leash [4:04]
17. Death of a Surfer [1:43]
18. Invisible [3:55]
19. Oahu, Hawaii [2:33]
20. Laird [3:41]
21. Catching the Wave [2:04]
22. Surfing Evolution [3:44]
23. Jaws [4:16]
24. Hazardous to Your Health [2:54]
25. Purification [2:36]
26. Depression [:53]
27. King of the Big Waves [6:40]
28. The Ultimate Wave [8:33]


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Riding Giants 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I lived in Hawaii and went to all the places mentioned in the film. I was there when the large storm mentioned that came in and there was a 60 foot wave that came up the side of the hill we were all standing on and into the road. There was a rescue also performed for a surfer who did not fare so well.... I loved the film and am buying two for my brother who surfed in Hawaii and my brotherinlaw who lives and surfs in California. All scenes were breathtaking especially on our big screen. Thank you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
what a great big wave surfing documentary. not just for surfers, but a must have for any surfing enthusiast. the commentaries from some of the earliest big wave riders really bring home the msg how dangerous this sport was and is today. the photography is stunning, and puts you right on the wave. anybody who enjoys sports in general will love this movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rented this movie a while back and decided I wanted to have it for my collection. It's great, if only for the amazing surfing footage. But the history and music and characters add to it to make it even more enjoyable. I highly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a truly "kick back and enjoy it" movie that pays serius tribute to the big guys surfing the big waves of long ago. It brings you right into today and embodies the true surfing spirit--not of the hot dogs, but of the heroes. Having hung out at The Trestle, San Onofre, and Huntington Beach in the late '40s, and surfing Makaha myself in 1953....I heartily recommend this. Just wish I could find it in VHS for my surfing buddies who are in their late 70s and up nowadays, and who don't have DVDs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago