Riding Giants

Poster for Riding Giants

Winter 2006 Documentary series

Thursday, February 16, 2006 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by


Rated 14A · 1h 45m

There is no way of telling the story of big wave riding without telling the story of surfing itself, a sport that has become one of the world’s most potent symbols of youth, romance, adventure and freedom. But in sharp contrast to surfing’s vital, contemporary appeal is its history—which goes back way further than the Beach Boys and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” In fact, surfing is an ancient sport, tracing its origins back over 1500 years to ancient Polynesia. This is where Riding Giants begins, taking us from surfing’s early Polynesian roots to its rebirth in the early 20th Century to the development of a fledgling surf culture along the coast of Southern California in the 1940s. This new ideal, with its romantic form of dynamic bohemianism, took root on the U.S. Mainland, where the modern surfing lifestyle was born.

Riding Giants is the story of the big wave riders, of where and how their quest began, of the classic characters who throughout the eras chased their dreams out into the blue water, and of the surfers who still do today, riding 50, 60 and even 70 foot waves in a manner once considered the realm of fantasy.

We meet Greg Noll, the pioneer, whose relentless push into Hawaii’s “unridden realm” in the late 1950s and ’60s earned him the nickname “The Bull.” Then there’s Jeff Clark, Northern California’s lone frontiersman who, after discovering the massive waves of Maverick’s near San Francisco, rode there alone for over a decade. And finally Hawaii’s Laird Hamilton, the prototypical “extreme” surfer, a rare breed of athlete/innovator considered the best big wave rider who ever waxed a board.

In turns funny and spirited, often poignant and dramatic, their stories are the heart of Riding Giants. Yet in the telling comes a picture of not only these extraordinary characters, but authentic insight into the birth, development and ultimately the global appeal of the romantic, culturally significant surfing lifestyle itself. Riding Giants is driven by the same sense of freedom, the same love of nature, the similar discovery of self that all surfers seek—that all of us seek, in one form or another. Experience the breathless moments of quiet grace that, for these extraordinary adventurers, are to be achieved within their elementally violent world.