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Robert Redford opened the 2004 Sundance Film Festival before the screening of "Riding Giants" by telling about his surfing exploits as a kid growing up in Santa Monica, saying the surfers symbolized what independent filmmaking is about ."This film is about people who do what they do just for the thrill of it. In a way, that's why these filmmakers are here. . .because we love what we do, and it's the thrill of doing what we do that gives us such pleasure."

Docs Dominate Sundance '04, Fest to Open with Peralta's "Giants"

by Eugene Hernandez

Stacy Peralta's surfing doc "Riding Giants," including this shot of Peter Cole (bottom) and Max Lim (top) at Waimea Bay in 1963, will open the Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Greg Noll.
For the first time in the history of the festival, a documentary will open Sundance. The film, "Riding Giants," is a surf film from Stacy Peralta whose "Dogtown and Z-Boys" was a double award winner at Sundance in 2001. The movie follows such famed surfers as Jeff Clark, Laird Hamilton, Darrick Doerner, Titus Kinimaka, Brian Keaulana, and Dave Kalama, in its look at three generation of wave riding.  


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. Bill, Internet User Data Base

Introductions and ovation: Grant Washburn, Jeff Clark,

Greg Knoll, Dr. Mark Renneker


Jeff Clark Q & A

Colette, Chris and friend waiting for the 9:30 show to begin.

Greg Noll, Q & A opening night

Grant Washburn, Q & A .