Surfer dudes can go deep |

Surfer dudes can go deep

Kimberly Nicoletti

Jeff Clark is either the most unselfish extreme athlete I’ve ever heard of, or he’s the most stupid.For 15 years, he surfed the big waves of Mavericks off the Northern California coast alone. And for 15 years, he tried to talk others into joining him.Now, I understand ecstatic experiences are more fun shared, but I can’t say that if I had a powder stash all my own, I’d be eager to tell more than one, maybe two, people. And they’d have to pledge secrecy.Clark told some friends, who told some friends … and the secret spot wound up in a documentary. So much for his sanctuary.

“Riding Giants” washes the audience in a sea of appreciation for all things wild and free.After a brief and bouncy history of surfing – portraying how religious settlers exorcised its demonic influences by banning it – director Stacy Peralta recaptures the bewitching sport with footage from a group of 1950s, blonde beach bums in Hawaii. Before ridiculous special effects in “Gidget” sent wanna-be surfers paddling, a small group of guys dedicated their lives to surfing. Their vintage footage captures the counterculture attitude of trading work for play, women for surfboards.It reminded me of my highly educated decision to put off college in favor of skiing.On the surface, “Riding Giants” swells with footage of big-wave riding. But the undercurrent flows deep with a carpe diem philosophy.

Dr. Mark Renneker draws a parallel between his cancer patients and his surf buddies. Both have put life in perspective and dedicate themselves to following their bliss – only, one group didn’t have to face death before it began living.Greg Noll, aka “The Bull,” who lent personality to surfing, rode the then-largest wave during the storm of the century in Hawaii. He knew he had a 50 percent chance of dying, but he also knew he couldn’t live knowing he passed up a righteous opportunity.His quips throughout the documentary hit like a tidal wave.The crest of the film occurs early when Peralta catches the passion of the pioneers. By the middle, “Riding Giants” turns into yet another high-adrenaline, bigger-is-better flick.While it still held my interest, I wondered how many more extreme scenes I’d have to ride out.

In the I-can-go-bigger-than-you category, Laird Hamilton, the Ken doll of surfers, won with his legendary ride in Tahiti in August of 2000.The film closes with an explanation of how jet skis and smaller boards now allow surfers to ride up to 70-foot waves.But edited between the most gnarly scenes, the athletes still wax philosophical, proving that surfer dudes – and surf movies – can be deep.Inspired by surf seekers, Kimberly Nicoletti is out looking for the perfect powder stash. Leave a message at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at

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