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Cinematic: Riding Giants


By Bethany Powers '11

Published Jul 1, 2010 8:00 AM


Laird Hamilton takes on the challenge of Teahupo'o in Tahiti in a scene from Riding Giants, the iconic film about the exhilarating history of the sport and the subculture it spawned. Photo by Tim McKenna.

Experience the thrills of "hanging 10" that the Beach Boys immortalized and Californians are famous for in Stacy Peralta's iconic surfing documentary, Riding Giants.

The Hammer Museum features this masterpiece of surf, sand and monster waves on Wednesday, July 14 — the perfect solution if you need a break from the summer sun or are looking for motivation to catch some swells yourself. The legitimacy that the documentary style offers will leave you on the edge of your seat, as surfers either conquer the waves or are pummeled back into the ocean if they can't quite catch it.


Surfing pioneer Greg Noll at Oahu's legendary Pipeline in 1964. Photo from Greg Noll Collection.

The International Movie Database describes the film as "a semiserious, often rollicking, multigenerational insider's look at the origins of surfing, the colorful and subversive birth of surf culture, and the mythology and lure of the big wave." As Peralta traces the roots of surfing from its early Polynesian roots to the "tow-in" style that surfing superstar Laird Hamilton has popularized today, each decade showcases taller and more dangerous waves for its surfers to challenge.

As surfers pushed the boundaries of what was possible in the water, their feats grew more and more dangerous. And for surfing pioneers like Greg Noll and Jeff Clark, riding the waves is more than a sport — it becomes a way of life, one gloriously showcased in this film, with surfing greats performing some truly radical, death-defying feats.

Breathtaking footage shows the contrast between angry, crashing waves and the ease and delicacy these daring riders display. An eclectic soundtrack perfectly complements everything from the roaring waves to the surfers' beach-dominated lifestyle.


Surfing superstar Laird Hamilton rides a giant in Peahi, Hawaii. Photo by Erik Aeder.

Peralta, a famous surfer and skater himself, is the director of films like Dogtown and Z-Boys. Riding Giants was the first documentary to ever open the Sundance Film Festival when it was shown in 2004. It drew roars of approval, and with mind-blowing surfing footage and in-depth interviews, that's no surprise.

So if you think it would be rad to experience the visceral thrill of carving waves that tower nearly 100 feet high, this movie will take you into, over and under the turquoise ocean in a whole new way. Catch a curl and check it out.

Riding Giants. July 14, 7 p.m. Hammer Museum. For more information, call (310) 443-7000 or log on to