Riding Giants Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 26, 2012
"It doesn't get any bigger than this."

Documentary detailing the origins and history of surf culture.

"Riding Giants" opens with a brief, animated, two-minute look at the first 1000 years of surfing, which ends about 1950, when the first big-name surfers began to work their magic. Using remarkable half-century old footage, the doc then follows their path to Hawaii, where surfing became not just a hobby, but a culture that was far more than the onslaught of bad surfing movies in the '50s and '60s led many to believe. The big wave surfers gradually progressed to bigger and better waves around the Hawaiian coast, where most of the surfing community was concentrated until the discovery of The Mavericks, a dangerous but glorious surfing mecca in Northern California. Eventually that locale triggered surfing's stateside explosion in popularity. But one man from Hawaii, Laird Hamilton, has sent the sport as mainstream as possible in recent years. Using teams and jet skis, Hamilton's vision and drive radically changed the mindset of what was possible as surfing entered the 21st century.

Set up like a traditional documentary, Peralta's film lets the surfers themselves tell most of the stories, and he narrates when necessary to provide pertinent details. But the personalities and passion of the interviewees are what drive the picture. These guys are wired differently than most of us; there's no question about that. Their slightly irreverent but still respectful tone lets them get away with comparing the discovery of Hawaii's North Shore to Columbus stumbling upon America. An exaggeration? Of course, but the genuine emotion in their voices and faces make the words fully believable, much like a football player comparing his sport to a war.

Perfectly complementing the almost mythic personalities are the ridiculously massive and powerful waves themselves. From the surprisingly good old-school 8mm footage shot from the shore to the digital in-your-face shots from a jet ski, the photography in Riding Giants is nothing short of stunning. The waves are simply huge, and even though you may have seen quality shots in "Blue Crush", you haven't seen them on this grand and wild a scale. I guarantee your jaw will drop multiple times. The fact that the history of the sport can be encapsulated in less than two hours gives the film a complete and satisfying feel, as opposed to something like Baseball, for which even ten hours was not enough. Those who don't have an interest in any aspect of surfing won't care for it, but even if you can't relate to the surfing directly, you will walk out of "Riding Giants" with a greater appreciation for the sport and a better understanding of what drives those who do it.
Super Reviewer
½ September 29, 2009
A passionate and informative documentary from the people who made modern surfing what it is today. I liked it.
Super Reviewer
July 23, 2012
Nothing like seeing a documentary on a subject which isn't terribly interesting. Sean Penn actually thought this was something worth narrating. Hope he got paid well. It's polished, I'll give it that.
½ March 18, 2010
Pretty awsome. Just watched Billabong Odyssey and had to go back to review this one. This is the movie to watch on tow surfing. Just some amazing stuff even if you don't surf.
July 28, 2009
Great surfing documentary that covers surfers wanting to get the biggest waves possible! Director Stacy Peralta ("Dogtown and Z-Boys") makes great use of archival footage, giving it his now-famous editorial energy.
September 3, 2007
Awesome surfing footage and retrospectives from three generations of legendary surfers highlight this homage to three big wave icons. The film briefly delves into the history of surfing and works into solid tributes to pioneer Noll, kamikaze loner Clark, and the fearless living legend Hamilton. Laird Hamilton's skill as a big wave rider is second to none and arguably the greatest ride ever is featured in this loving tribute directed by Dogtown skating icon Stacy Peralta.
November 13, 2007
Made me want to attempt big wave surfing... even though I've never even ridden small waves (aside from on a boogie board when I was ten). Really cool insight to the world of surfing and the culture that has formed around it. A lot of awesome archive footage from way back in the day, great use of music and visuals. I highly recommend it.
September 4, 2007
I have seen this movie 20 times. there is really only one thing to say about this movie - Teahupoo. this wave, and the way that stacey sets up laird's ride is completely poetic. its the best of extreme sports and the expose of an amazing talent and a wonderful person in laird hamilton. when you see that wave and that ride and the analysis of the heavy weights who discuss if you don't get chills, you are a machine...
August 22, 2007
Another amazing surf documentary. This and Step Into Liquid are must-sees. It really shows the connections between surfing and skateboarding.
½ August 20, 2007
Visually stunning. Documenting the history of giant wave riding - it's truly impressive what these water warriors can do.
April 12, 2007
The best Documentary on the history of surfing I have even seen. A must see movie on big wave riding.
½ March 19, 2007
Great surfing documentary.Excellent footage from the early days of big wave riding.Great editing,soundtrack and interviews with many surf legends make this one well worth watching..Lots of wipeouts and footage of huge scary waves you see in nightmares!!
July 14, 2015
Great documentary looking at the search for the biggest wave for surfers. Fun history and nicely photographed.
December 15, 2013
'Surf''s up' - & Up & UP in this intelligent & moving film (..want to get both your feet wet & your eyes) - it recounts surfing's earliest history, it's evolution in style & technique (both boards & boarders), ending with the guys who discovered (& invented) the most current BIG wave theory & practice - no girls.. yet !?!.. it makes one wish one rode - even the small waves.. after all only guys such as Laird Hamilton should ride the over 50 footers - or, for that matter, even over 10 to 20 footers (..well, a lot of experienced guys & gals can handle these - & bigger.. but the truly BIG ones ??).. I write more about surfing than film-making because this film is a very direct & 'clean' use of the medium.. probably the best 'Surf Film' out there * - I should know (at least film-wise)...

* along w/ #2: 'Step into Liquid'
July 22, 2013
Riding Giants is such an amazing surf documentary - absolutely makes me want to run back to Hawaii.  Go check it out at least once
½ April 26, 2013
5/13 i was shocked at how engrossed I was with this film. I never know there was so much to know about surfing ( and that the sport has evolved so much). One of the best documentaries that I have seen in memory. Even a couple weeks after watching it, I am still thinking about the surfing culture.
½ May 24, 2013
5/13 i was shocked at how engrossed I was with this film. I never know there was so much to know about surfing ( and that the sport has evolved so much). One of the best documentaries that I have seen in memory. Even a couple weeks after watching it, I am still thinking about the surfing culture.
½ April 11, 2013
Surfing at it's best in this insightful documentary.
November 4, 2012
Great movie for those who like Surf and wnat to know more about the origins of the surf culture.
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