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Surfwise (2007)



Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 17
Fresh: 16 | Rotten: 1

An intriguing account of a unique family.



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Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 35,599

My Rating

Movie Info

"Surfwise" follows the odyssey of 85-year-old, legendary surfer Dr. Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and their nine children--all of whom were home-schooled on the beaches of Southern California, Hawaii, Mexico and Israel. They surfed every day of their lives and were forced to adhere to a strict diet and lifestyle by their passionate and demanding, health-conscious father. What happens to eight brothers and a sister that are raised under such extraordinary circumstances? "Surfwise" is


Documentary, Sports & Fitness, Special Interest

Jul 29, 2008


Magnolia Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (45) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (1)

The fallout decades later provides the drama in this documentary by Doug Pray, who lets his eccentric octogenarian subject off a little too easy.

December 17, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
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A provocative documentary about a man who dropped out to follow a dream that gradually evolved into something not unlike a nightmare.

July 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
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Not just the story of one man's obsessive quest to find harmony on a plank of wood, Surfwise offers a cautionary tale about parenting, homeschooling (camper-schooling, actually), sibling rivalries and family sacrifice.

June 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's director, Doug Pray, has been able to track down each and every Paskowitz child, and he weaves their memories together with old home movies, still photos and news clippings to create an evocative portrait of their lives.

June 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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A riveting documentary that focuses more on weird family dynamics than big waves.

June 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Some documentarians think like essayists, propagandists, abstract painters, or magazine reporters. Doug Pray approaches his documentaries as though he's writing books.

June 19, 2008 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
Top Critic IconTop Critic

New Bohemian lifestyle: good, bad, or neutral?

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

This documentary about a famous family of nomadic surfers is fascinating not only because of the certifiable oddball patriarch, but also because of his endlessly creative offspring.

February 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Intriguing family story of the sunny and dark sides of extreme home-schooling by surfing, through a trove of photos, home movies, and reminiscences, but little insight.

December 7, 2008 Full Review Source:

Surfwise will make you hug your parents a little harder the next time you see them.

December 4, 2008 Full Review Source: What Would Toto Watch?
What Would Toto Watch?

Provocative but even-handed subculture lifestyle film.

November 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Doug Pray, has made a fascinating look at a man who not only was a great revolutionary, but a pure human being.

October 17, 2008 Full Review Source: Sin Magazine
Sin Magazine

Pray's fast-paced editing matches the Paskowitzes' rootless existence, though at times it's difficult to keep track of who's who.

August 1, 2008
Salt Lake Tribune

The most fascinating parts of the movie explore how the Paskowitz children -- who are now in their 30s and 40s -- continue to adjust to a more 'normal' lifestyle.

July 31, 2008 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Surfwise is a graceful, searching film that seems to have missed no opportunity to reveal truths about parents and children and how they come to understand each other.

June 20, 2008 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

...captures both the lure of the proto-hippie life and the often unresolved tensions...

June 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

Surfwise spills the gripes, the frustrations and the pain onto the screen like damaged driftwood finally feeling the steadiness of shore after a long, stormy voyage at sea.

June 16, 2008

In the end, Surfwise is a fascinating portrait of a family that manages to be both radical and conventional, divided but still tightly bound by blood.

June 8, 2008 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for Surfwise

After watching Surfwise; I don't know what to think of "Doc" and the way he raised his children. All I know is that I wouldn't have wanted to grow up that way. Doc seems like he had the best intentions, but still have this feeling of hate towards the way he chose to bring up his children. I don't understand how he can think he did the right thing. He closed them off to the world and prevented them from getting an education. He wants us to believe that they got the education they needed and that public education is not important.

I liked listening to his kids talk about their experiences and how it affected them, but I hated having to listen to Doc speak his weird views on life. Even with how I feel about Doc's choices and beliefs; I still don't think he is a horrible father. He was with his kids, and he obviously loved them. He just didn't allow them the basic freedoms most kids have. He kids called him a dictator.

Surfwise is a well-made and entertaining documentary about a "different" family and the ways it affected all of them.
July 16, 2011
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

A sad film chronicling the unconventional lifestyle of one of surfing's leading families. Sad, because although their childhood was an idyllic bohemian dream that most kids would die for, none of the Paskowitz kids were prepared for life. Still, it was interesting to hear each of them talk about the way they lived, and to hear Doc Paskowitz, a Stanford educated doctor, talk about his philosophy and explain why he raised his family as he did. Interspersed with the interviews, was what appeared to be home-movie footage and newspaper clippings of the family as they lived the adventure of raising nine children as nomads and traveling the continent in a 24-foot motor home.
February 12, 2010
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]"Surfwise" is an engaging, if not substantive, documentary about Dorian ' Doc' Paskowitz who graduated from Stanford University with a medical degree but fearing the good life, dropped out and took up surfing. After introducing surfing to Israel and failing to enlist in the country's paratroopers, he proceeded to get married for the second time to Jeanette. Together, they would eventually have nine children who were all raised in a 24 foot camper, traveling wherever his whims took them while basically focusing on surfing. These cramped conditions forced them to maintain a certain level of hygiene and the lack of privacy made the parents' energetic sex life a bit disturbing to everyone else. As hard as life was due to being perpetually broke, nobody starved. They eventually settled down to a degree with the establishment of a surfing camp and the children became expert surfers, winning their share of trophies.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]In this tale of man versus society, all good things must come to an end. And whereas I admire Dorian for finding another path, it is not for everyone which is the conclusion his kids came to as they became adults. However, his idea of an education did not prepare them for life in a structured world, most settling for life in music or on the waves. No matter how tyrannical or possibly abusive Dorian was, all nine of his children participate in the documentary but it has been ten years since they have all been together in the same place.[/font]
May 12, 2009
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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