For pure summer action, however, you can’t beat state-of-the-art surf porn. Storm Surfers 3D is not a great movie, but its pleasure is guilt free. Directors Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius takes the camera deeper inside an ocean wave than it has ever gone before. Unlike World War Z, with its entirely gratuitous use of 3D, this earnest documentary shows just how effective that extra dimension can be in the right hands. When used properly, 3D is an immersive medium, not an invasive one, and what on earth could be more immersive than water? Hey, the ocean is built for 3D, as Ang Lee showed with Life of Pi. And I challenge anyone to find a more essentially stereoscopic shot than a surfer corkscrewing through the tube of a massive wave. The other innovation that revolutionizes surf photography in this film is the ultra-small and portable GoPro 3D camera, which is worn and held by surfers from every conceivable angle. Along with five other camera formats it allows directors Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius to take surf cinematography to a whole new level.
I use the term with affection; I love surf porn. But as a documentary, Storm Surfers lacks the strong narrative and characters that distinguished Riding Giants, Stacy Peralta’s definitive 2004 doc about the history of big-wave surfing. A movie consumed by its own POV, Storm Surfers is about a trio of wave “explorers” on a quest that is, in essence, the making of the film at hand.