The Australian surf documentary Storm Surfers (2012) took out the Best Feature Doco category at the most recent AACTA Awards. It was also, I believe, the first Aussie doco to be filmed in 3D. Whilst I was unable to see the film in 3D, it was definitely one of the most visually arresting films that I have seen in quite some time.
The film starts off with a massive wipe-out to emphasise the rather dangerous nature of big wave surfing as a pursuit. From there, we meet the two surfers whose big wave odyssey the film follows. Both are Australian and in their younger days surfed on the pro-tour – Tom Carroll was the golden boy of the tour, winning two world titles and garnering big money sponsorship; whilst his mate Ross Clarke-Jones, also an incredible surfer, enjoyed the tour mainly for the partying. Unless you are in the (presumably vast) minority of my readers who are professional big-wave surfers, Storm Surfers will repeatedly boggle your mind. To me, it is insane that you can surf utterly huge waves, 75 kilometres from the coast. The fact that in this day and age, there are still top-secret surf breaks that people inside that world have never heard of. Other questions will arise for you too, like who in the world first thought it would be a good idea to combine jet skis and surfing? In addition to these kinds of facts and questions, the sheer beauty of much of the photography in the water is truly something to behold. Shots from inside barrels and attached to surf boards only add to the exhilaration. The success of these innovations is that they help convey the kinetic intensity and activity of what these people are undertaking. Indeed if the film was just a collection of images with this kind of beauty, it would still be well worth checking out.
Perhaps the area where Storm Surfers succeeds most though is in bringing a ‘human’ side to the incredible power of the images onscreen. Tom and Ross are not young men, 51 and 47 respectively. And the film shows the impact that ageing is having on these two blokes, however young at heart they may be. Tom especially struggles with the physical and mental strains of throwing yourself headlong at waves that strike sheer terror into everyone else. His role as a diligent father only adds to the conflicts that surfing big waves bring to his perspective on life.