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Riding Giants (2004)

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Documentary detailing the origins and history of surf culture.


1 win & 1 nomination. 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:

$134,400 (USA) (9 July 2004)


$2,276,368 (USA) (3 December 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

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


Features Ride the Wild Surf (1964) See more »


Performed by Dick Dale
Written by Milton Leeds, Jose Pina, Nicholas Roubanis, Bob Russell and Fred Wise
Courtesy of (and special thanks to) Dick Dale
See more »

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User Reviews

Surfing finally gets its movie
18 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There have been a few decent feature films about surfing ('Big Wednesday', 'Endless Summer' and its sequel) and quite a few clunkers ('Blue Crush,' 'Point Break') that are still respectable for strong surfing footage and homages to the cult within the culture. But I've yet to see a film that surpasses the scope of 'Riding Giants,' which simultaneously traces the history of big wave riding from its Polynesian origins to its high-tech present, provides the audience with some of the most breathtaking footage recorded on film (much of it archival), and opens a window into the peculiar allure of high risk activities to men and women of a certain mindset, as well as into the evolution of surfing's own unique subculture of big wave riders.

The narrative revolves around three legends of big wave riding: Greg Noll, who pioneered the swells of the North Shore of Oahu and Waimea Bay, Jeff Clark, who discovered the Northern California break known as Mavericks and ushered Californian surfing into big wave territory, and Laird Hamilton, the undisputed ubermensch of the sport from the turn of the century to the present. Noll and Clark are framed reverently by director Stacy Peralta, but Hamilton is the star of the show, and rightly so: he is an all but perfect athlete, combining superior physical conditioning with an understanding of physics and wave behavior earned from a lifetime surfing the big breaks of the surf capital of the world, the Hawaiian islands. Because of his high-profile marriage to model/pro-volleyball star Gabrielle Reese and his magazine cover-friendly looks, Laird Hamilton has been a little overexposed in the media of late, but, matter of factly, the guy more than lives up to the hype, and he doesn't seem to be motivated by anything other than his love of surfing. Hamilton is all the more appealing for his apparent humility--he repeatedly insists that his acclaim also belongs to his teammates/companions, who tow him by jet-ski into waves no mortal could catch with the traditional 'paddle-in' method and then sweep in to pick him up before he gets caught in the wave wash of the next big one--embodying the free-spirited, 'because it's there' attitude shared by most elite high-risk athletes and the true ethos of hardcore surfers, who live for the ride and see the trappings of the culture (parties, chicks, sponsorship, etc.) as incidental if not entirely unimportant.

Certainly the most appealing aspect of the film is its portrayal of old school, hardcore surf culture, which has always been about the fraternal bond that crops up between people who share a common passion and are willing to devote everything to its pursuit. Peralta and co-writer Sam George manage to persuasively present the nearly monastic social order of the first surf devotees, contradicting the traditional 'beach bum' image associated with surfing in popular culture. If you happen to be someone who thinks of high-risk sporting activities as venues for purposeless thrill-seeking, 'Riding Giants' may give you the necessary insight into at least one extreme sport that, at its highest level, transforms mere mortals into epic heroes.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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