Parents' Guide to

Riding Giants

By Beth Pratt, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Lively look at big wave surfing.

Movie PG-13 2004 90 minutes
Riding Giants Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 13+
Originating from the Polynesian culture and island of Hawai’i, surfing has been a passion for its own people for many years. It’s popularity has spiked and peaked during the 1950s - 1960s by surfers such as Greg Noll, Mickey Munoz, Jeff Clark, and Laird Hamilton. These “big wave riders,” as they are nicknamed, have made significant contributions into the evolution of big wave surfing that we see today. Riding Giants is a documentary by Stacy Peralta that reveals the history of wave surfing from the beginning to present day. The film features many surfers that speak about their deep emotions, life lessons, and experiences that they have learned from this passion. This documentary film has many editing techniques that’s main purpose is to convey real emotions and what should be felt in the moment. There are many cuts and short 3 second clips that all relate and support the current interviewee’s topic. For example, the beginning sequence of the movie starts off with long, on screen credits of the supporting companies. At the same time, calm beach waves and seagulls are heard. After a long black screen sequence, loud crashing waves and a Latin choir with organ music is played. This is to give the dramatic sense and effect of surfing being more of a religion and dramatize the fears of the high waves that some viewers may feel. Another example is seen in the middle of the film when surfers take a brief moment to pause about the craziness and dangerous aspects of surfing, and begin to shift into how deeply heart touching a passion like surfing can become. The editors overlapped transparent video clips of surfers enjoying their time and slow them down along with a soft and calm piano. Greg Noll is one of the many big wave surfers that have made significant history and has led surfing to what we know today. For example, with new technologies new surfers have brought in, such as leg straps/leash, foot straps, and longer 10 foot+ boards, surfing has always had new advancements. Towards the ending conclusion of this documentary, a final sequence of island-like, happy Hawaiian ukulele music is played in the background as each interviewee comes to the conclusion that surfing had helped them to find themselves and their deepest self, as if that was what they were born to do. In the end, they are what surfing has become and their greatest passion is what they live for. All small cuts and clips that were played throughout the movie were seen once more as the credits rolled. Overall, after watching this film and analyzing every aspect of it, I can say this documentary is very well put together. However, I do not think that it is the best film on the history of surfing that you can watch. Fast paced editing, an organized story structure on the history of a popularized water sport, a rollercoaster of emotions; everything all comes together to create an enjoyable surfing documentary such as this one.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
age 10+

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4):
Kids say (1):

Whether you're a hard-core surfer or someone who wears board shorts as a fashion statement, there's something here to capture your attention and imagination. Riding Giants loses a bit of steam during the segment on the 1960s, which focuses on how a slew of cheap teen movies that appeared after the release Gidget popularized the sport and took it away from the original surfers. It picks up when it moves into the 1980s and beyond, with the discovery of Mavericks in Northern California, surf legend Mark Foo's shocking death, and the extreme sports trend. It culminates in Laird Hamilton's unbelievable triumph over nature in Tahiti -- the footage of Hamilton's ride is truly awe-inspiring, and almost makes you understand why these surfers have dedicated their lives to having a ride like this.

Kids may find it interesting to see that these early surfers were actually rebels, especially since surfing seems so mainstream these days. If anything, you may worry that the documentary glamorizes the sport because it makes the quest for the perfect wave seem so fulfilling. However, this spiritual view is balanced with the more practical realities of what can happen when one chases the perfect wave. No one is invincible, and that point is driven home many times.

Movie Details

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