Riding Giants is another endeavor by Stacy Peralta to document the legendary athletes that defined an extreme sport, and like his successful and energetic Dogtown and Z-boys, Riding Giants straddles the same fine line between history and entertainment. However, while Dogtown only briefly touched upon the world of surfing, Giants explores the men and women who revolutionized the sport by upping the antes and testing the limits of their boards, the ocean, and themselves.
Peralta makes it a point to summarize the history of surfing, which can be a tedious formality when making a documentary, but does so using stylized animations that are kinetic and enjoyable. From there, the film is essentially broken into three acts that span approximately five decades, examining three legendary riders who forever changed the sport in some way during their specific eras. The surfers interviewed are surprisingly humble and lucid when talking about their experiences and when combined with the amazing archival footage, it’s easy to grasp the scope of their individual journeys.
Unlike Dogtown, Giants always gives you the feeling that the stakes at play when surfing are immense. Watching the size and power of the massive waves gives you a sense of the danger involved and the tales of those who lost their lives make it abundantly clear that big wave surfing is a matter of life and death. All of the notable surfers have a deeply spiritual respect for the ocean and go into great detail about how and why they ride. We are also shown the advancements in technology, such as board shaping and use of jet-skiis and tow-lines, that made big wave surfing move from fantasy to reality. Riding Giants proves to be both a lovingly detailed portrait of the legendary wave riders who pushed surfing to the extreme and a beautiful meditation on man’s mysterious and reverential relationship with the sea.
Luckily, director Peralta decided to use a 1.85:1 widscreen aspect ratio with Giants as opposed to the congested 1.33:1 fullscreen he used on Dogtown. The newer footage of interviewes, B-shots, various photos, and the animations all appear relativly sharp and vivid in HD, but because it is a documentary, it also makes use of plenty of grainy, soft focus, desaturated archive footage. The film is edited together so well though, that it’s hardly noticable. The editing style, like Dogtown, is very fast-paced and frenetic, but tends to slow down out of necessity when capturing the long rides the surfers take on massive waves. All in all, a great viewing experience that’s worthy of Blu-ray.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio sounds fantastic when there are waves crashing, white water spilling, and ambient ocean noises, but because Giants is a documentary, the story is told primarily through dialogue and doesn’t make much use of any audio effects. The soundtrack, however, is excellent and it, like Dogtown, gives the story an attitude and proper placement in the various historical eras.
There’s a decent amount of extra features here to dig into. What’s nice is that each extra is preceded by a short paragraph describing exactly what it is and why it was cut from the final version of the film. Extras include:
Two Commentary Tracks
One features the director and editor and the other features the writer and several of the surfers.
- Surf Talk
A really funny and interesting idea where the director asks each interviewee to talk his best “surf talk.” It was cut from the film because it didn’t fit, but it’s actually pretty humorous. The only problem is it’s extremely short.
- Wave Complexity
A sequence cut for time that explores the complex relationship between the surfers and waves. It’s made apparent that a deep, spiritual connection exists between man and ocean.
- Half Moon Bay
Another sequence that was cut for time. A brief historical look at Half Moon Bay and the Mavericks surfing spot.
- Original Ending
The legends talk about surfing in the abstract and describe the feelings they experience from their perspective. I personally prefer the theatrical ending that ties back into the intro animation. These athletes, legends though they may be, get a little too hyperbolic and trippy in their descriptions at times.
- End Credits Sequence
Another portion that was cut from the film that includes all the directors favorite sound bites that didn’t fit into the film.
The Making Of Riding Giants
The films’ creators offer their insights into the motivations, struggles, and pleasures of making Riding Giants and also how it differed from making Dogtown and Z-boys.
Fuel TV’s Blue Carpet Special
A featurette that appeared on Fuel TV live from the red carpet premiere of Riding Giants showcasing interviews from the stars and creators of the film.
With Riding Giants, Peralta produces another extreme sports documentary that successfully merges education with entertainment and it’s quite apparent that he has a deeply rooted love and respect for his subject matter. Whether you enjoy surfing or not, Giants undeniably captures the majesty, danger, and beauty of the ocean and paints a loving portrait of the men and women who dare to harness its power if only for a moment.