It’s not difficult to see why Joel Conroy’s at times disjointed surfing documentary has won so many fans in the last year. The shots of surfers making light of four-storey high waves in the shadow of the Cliffs of Moher and elsewhere provides jaw dropping entertainment, while the protagonists are a great mix of Ireland’s leading lights along the waves – Richard Fitzgerald, Gabe Davies and Easky Britton – along with names that have genuinely shaped the world’s view of the sport.
Throw in a carefully picked soundtrack (the use of -Silver & Gold’ is a great choice, giving the whole thing a uniquely Irish identity before the camera leaves the water for international audiences), and it’s difficult to imagine one soul taking out the DVD and feeling they’ve been short changed. If there is one aspect that lets it down somewhat though it’s that some of the stories covered are of such depth that they deserve 80 minutes of their own rather than appearing as somewhat fleeting passages.
The story of the -father’ of modern surfing, George Freeth (who had an Irish grandfather) is an incredible tale including one episode where he appears to turn into some Superman/Batman combo special to save tens of Japanese fishermen heading for certain death. The trails of surf writer extraordinaire, Kevin Naughton, who tracked down the best waves in the world – including those in Bundoran – when the surfing community didn’t think there was life beyond California and Hawaii, could be a great gonzo adventure by itself too.
Both stories, though intertwined neatly enough with the tale of Ireland’s surfing community, feel a tad rushed. This is though, just one small mark against what is otherwise a magnificently shot, brilliantly edited documentary. What’s more for all those who, like State, went on a surfing weekend in Bundoran and always swore they’d go back, this will have you dying to get on the wetsuit at some ungodly hour to stand shakily on a board for four seconds before smashing into the water. Job done.
Director: Joel Conroy
Starring: Kelly Slater, Richard Fitzgerald, the Malloy Brothers