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Riding Giants (2004)

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Documentary detailing the origins and history of surf culture.


1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Jeff Clark ...
Darrick Doerner ...
Sarah Gerhardt ...
Dru Harrison ...
Brian L. Keaulana ...
Buzzy Kerbox ...
Mickey Munoz ...


A semiserious, often rollicking, multigenerational insider's look at the origins of surfing, the colorful and subversive birth of surf culture, and the mythology and lure of the big wave. This passionate and fluid film is without question the first authentic history of surfing from its humble Hawaiian beginnings to the big business it became to the still-rebellious universe it inhabits today. Riding Giants is a study in individuality and freedom, the pursuit and techniques of pure kinetic pleasure, and the risk taking and attitudes that characterize its leading figures. For some viewers, this is perhaps more than they ever wanted to know. But Peralta's detailed knowledge of the surfing lifestyle, its icons and locations, its boom and exploitation by the media, and the fascination it has held for young men for more than five decades is unparalleled and fuels this expedition for the expert and initiate alike. Closely chronicling the sometimes-life-and-death drama that big-wave riding ... Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It doesn't get any bigger than this.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language | See all certifications »





Release Date:

13 August 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A hullámok lovagjai  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$134,400, 11 July 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,276,368, 5 December 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

Various additional, cut scenes are shown during the credits. See more »


Spoofed in Surf's Up (2007) See more »


Messe Solonelle: Sanctus
Performed by The Orpheus Chamber Ensemble
Courtesy of Bis Records AB, Sweden
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User Reviews

An A+ Entertaining Documentary
17 January 2004 | by See all my reviews

Wow! Stacy Peralta has followed up Dogtown and Z-Boys with an equally stunning documentary about the history of the big-wave surfing culture in America. Piecing together insider archival footage along with interviews from surfing legends, we are transported into the daring and free-spirited life of the early pioneers whose sheer passion for the sport spawned an industry that today touches the lives of millions.

It's getting to know these icons and their stories that gives the film its warmth. You can feel the respect Peralta has for this group as we hear accounts of Greg Noll striding from a pack of awestruck fellow surfers on the beach to singularly challenge 50-foot swells off Hawaii's North Coast. Or Jeff Clark, surfing the outrageously dangerous Maverick off the northern California coast all alone for 15 years before it was discovered and became the surfing destination in California. And the storybook history of Laird Hamilton, today's surfing icon. Hearing Greg Noll reverently refer to Hamilton as the best surfer ever sent chills up my spine.

(As an aside, Noll, Clark and others were at the Sundance screenings. Noll humbly described himself as an old, over-the-hill surfer. He was deeply moved by the audience reception of him and film. Both he and Clark were as likable in person as they were in the film.)

Riding Giants pays homage to these extraordinary athletes while at the same time rewarding us with an insight into the magnitude and terrifying power of the waves they seek to conquer, the gut-wrenching vertical drops required to get into them, and the almost unfathomable combination of adrenaline and fear that the surfers experience each time they take on a monster swell.

All this, and the movie has more. For those of us that didn't live in California in the 60's, we get an insight into the impact of surfing on American pop culture. (And, to my surprise, the impact of the movie Gidget on surfing!) Peralta also weaves in a primer on some of the technical aspects of the sport and the history of innovation in equipment. I'm not a surfer, but like the rest of the Sundance audience, I was absolutely captivated by this film. Peralta is staking his claim as the Big Kahuna of American documentaries.

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