Surf’s up! In fact, in this sports documentary, it’s waaaay up and it’s in 3D that really wraps you up in the action, as two legendary Australian champion surfers adventure out to find the world’s biggest, most challenging waves. The surfers are competing not only with each other, but with the sea itself. The result: a thrill a minute for audiences.
For surfers, it seems, there’s an ongoing compulsion to find and ride the biggest wave – the one that feels like it’s the culmination of a lifetime of surfing huge waves.
So, veteran champion surfers Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones set off to find their ultimate wave — seeking it in places where waves have never before been surfed.
Accompanied by a support crew of 25 skilled surfers and seamen, and by expert big wave meteorologist Ben Matson, the two veteran champion surfers — who’ve been best friends for decades — teamed up to locate and tackle what are deemed to be the world’s hugest and most treacherous waves — those created by stormy conditions in the southern seas around Australia during the southern hemisphere’s winter months from May to August. The year was 2011. And, guided by surf forecaster Ben Matson, the storm surfers found no shortage of tall challenges.
The waves Carroll and Clarke-Jones find are unmistakably treacherous. The surfers tackle them one after another, thrilling to the rush of adrenalin and cheering each other on. They aren’t always successful. We see them tossed from their boards and beaten up by the pounding sea. Even with their crew at the ready to rescue them, the storm surfers are clearly putting their lives at risk for the sheer love of their sport.
Capturing All The Action
Filmmakers Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius did an amazing job of chronicling this thrilling adventure. They attached cameras to the tips of the surfboards used by storm surfers Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones and others who were in the water with them, and employed some other extremely sophisticated camera equipment to captured all of the action on film. In fact, their 3D cinematography is so effective that it might make you feel just a bit queasy if you’re prone to suffering from seasickness.
Making it About More than Storm Surfing
The mere presentation of a series of the surfers’ encounters with mega-waves would have made an engrossing sports documentary, but the filmmakers have reached beyond that goal and have produced a captivating character-driven film, as well. As they progress on their quest, it becomes clear that the two surfers have different attitudes towards the adventure. Filmmakers Justin McMillan and Christopher Nellius wisely surf the personal stories of storm surfers Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones, now both approaching their 50th birthdays, and show how each is grappling with the changes in physical ability and mind set that come those who nearing middle age.
The contrast in attitude of the two storm surfers is fascinating. Two-time world champion Tom Carroll, who wants to spend more time with his daughters and has a pressing fear that he might not be around to help them when they need him, will now think twice before tackling a monster wave. On the other hand, the daredevil Ross Clarke-Jones is thoroughly young at heart, and quite defiant of his age and any restraints it might place on his behavior or enthusiasm. The contrast in their approaches and concerns and the divergence in how each surges forth in the quest for greater surfing glory adds tremendous depth to this film, making it much more than a series of ultra-spectacularly filmed storm surfer rides inside-the-pipeline and super-scary life-threatening spills.