Only Mother Nature’s most awesome brews interest the maverick big-wave surfers in Storm Surfers 3D, an immersive documentary that uses pioneering technology to get right inside the lip of some truly monstrous waves.
Unusually character-driven for a genre that typically deals in braggadocios montages of big-barrel riding, this polished Australian production is buoyed along by the outsized personalities of a pair of pushing-50 best mates—tow-surfing legend Ross Clarke-Jones and two-time world surfing champion Tom Carroll.
Without the heart-lightening sensuality of Dana Brown’s Step into Liquid, still the best of the more recent surf documentaries, Storm Surfers will struggle for the same crossover, but its adrenalized thrills, enhanced by the 3D format, make it a must-see for surfing aficionados and fans of extreme sport.
“Surfing big waves is not about how big your abs are or how much you bench-press, I think it’s about your nerve,” the stocky, freckle-faced Carroll observes, and these guys have it on tap. They’re in their element with the thundering crash of several tons of water at their back, and go to extreme lengths to chase down the most majestic of the open-ocean swells, often being flown and towed behind jet-skis up to 25 miles out to sea. Anything under 30 feet is a ripple.
Across three months of southern winter in 2011, filmmakers Chris Nelius and Justin McMillan pulled together a crew of 25 and over 1,000 kg of equipment to follow Carroll and Clarke-Jones as they set off on eight different surfing missions around Australia and the Great Southern Ocean. Meteorologist Ben Matson is onboard to pinpoint and track the storms that produce the colossal swells these men live to ride.
It’s a mad, half-comic boys’ own adventure, but the stakes are high. The drama reaches a peak at Turtle Dove Shoal, 75 km off the coast of Western Australia, when Carroll nearly loses his life tackling a brute of a wave never before documented or ridden.