You wouldn't expect that a summer surf movie would lead one into spiritual and religious musings, but that is one of the results of seeing Stacy Peralta's documentary, "Riding Giants" that opened here this weekend. There are a lot of reasons to go see this movie in August in Dallas. The star of the show is the ocean. Lots and lots of water. More water than it's possible to comprehend. Some of it warm, much of it cold, all of it powerful and seductive. These are images to remember when you get into your car after work and can't even touch the steering wheel.
My tried and trusty summer escape video is "The Hunt for Red October". An all-male cast led by Sean Connery with that cute beard, and the cold, deep waters off Newfoundland. It is not necessary to discuss the symbolism of submarines in this PG blog.
"Riding Giants" has an almost all-male cast, all muscular and bronzed, and all crazy in their obsession. The documentary is a history of surfing, but the first 1000 years of surfing are covered in two minutes in an imaginative children's' book pop-up style. The giants of the title are both the waves and the legendary surfers who ride them. Some of these "giants" have been surfing for over fifty years. Their comments are insightful and entertaining, and my friend was ready to invite them all to her house for dinner. These are fun guys of all ages, and much more intelligent and philosophical than the stereotypical surf bum.
The surfers sometimes refer to the wave as a woman who allows them to have their way as long as they respect her. They more often refer to the challenges of extreme surfing as "faith". It becomes clear through the movie that surfing is about both being one with the wave and being one with the moment. A blink of self-consciousness and loss of focus can easily result in death. Surfing is play, but in the sense of "flow", where challenge and ability are matched to lift one out of the mundane realm. Obviously, the surfers tackle the giant waves for the adrenalin and endorphin rush. They are devotees, fanatics, enthusiasts in the ancient meaning:
enthusiasm...n. ... 3. Archaic. a. Ecstasy arising from supposed possession by a god. b. A fanatic religious ardor.--See Synonyms at passion.... from Greek enthousiasmos, inspiration, from enthousiazein, to be inspired by a god, from enthous, entheos, possessed, inspired : en-, in + theos, god...
And if religious ecstasy were not enough, there's lots of vintage footage of automobiles from the 40's, 50's, and 60's, and Dick Dale's surfer guitar music! My Barbie used to listen to that music! My clueless Ken who could not bend was absolutely hopeless on the surfboard I cut for him out of a cardboard shoebox. Wipe out!