Riding Giants

Riding Giants

Riding giants is a 2004 documentary film. It is narrated and directed by a famous surfer and skater – Stacy Peralta. The movie starts with the origins of surfing, and pays particular attention to the form of surfing known as big wave surfing. It features a lot of famous surfers and surfing pioneers. It was produced by Agi Orsi, Jane Kachmer, Franck Marty, and Nathalie Delest. Laird Hamilton served as the executive producer for the documentary. The film features archived footage, recreated scenes, home movies and interviews with various figures. Check out all the home entertainment systems you can choose from to access this film.

Plot Synopsis

The film starts with a look into the origin of surfing. It thus begins in Hawaii, where surfing seems to have originated as a sport in and of itself. The documentary then goes on to describe the growing trend of that time to surf ever bigger and more dangerous waves – the pursuit of which would become known as big Wave Surfing. (In big wave surfing, surfers will ride waves of up to seventy feet in height.)

The documentary then talks about the changes that happened to the sport from its 1950’s origins in Waimea Bay through to the present day. It does this by chronicling the technological advances that came to the sport – lighter boards, tow-in surfing and other improvements to the boards as well as the technical aspects of the sport. It then goes on to feature some of the main figures of the growing movement throughout the various generations of the sport. For instance, Greg Noll is featured as a fearless pioneer and surfer from the 1950’s through to the 1960’s. The film also featured Jeff Clark – who discovered Mavericks and surfed alone in North California for many years. The film features Laird Hamilton as its last example of a multi-generational pioneer as he is the man who pought tow-in wave riding into the spotlight.


Riding Giants was the first documentary film aired at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. It received hugely positive reviews. It also won an award – the 2004 A.C.E. award for the Best Edited Documentary. Paul Crowder received this award as he served as the films editor.

Review Aggregator Rotten Tomatoes currently lists the film as having secured a 92% fresh rating with almost unanimous positive reviews. Famous film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about the film, praising it for its depiction of the reality of surfing, “Before seeing Riding Giants, my ideas about surfing were formed by the Gidget movies, Endless Summer, The Beach Boys, Elvis and lots of TV commercials. Riding Giants is about altogether another reality.”


The documentary features interviews, recreated scenes and archive footage of various surfers. There are also many interviews with various people from the big wave riding subculture, such as Some of the surfers interviewed include Jeff Clark, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Gerry Lopez, Greg Noll, Kelly Slater and Peter Mel. Also featured are feature stories on Greg Noll, Laird Hamilton, and Jeff Clark, and surfing pioneers such as Mickey Munoz.

Of particular note are the features on the following:

Mickey Munoz was a surfing pioneer. He has played numerous roles in the development of surfing as a sport. He is an example of an early surfing pioneer. He is recognized widely for creating a stance during surfing called the quasimoto. He is perhaps most famous for being a surf-board shaper, that is, he designs and creates surfboards by hand. The reason for big wave riding taking off was due to technological improvements in the way surfboards were made – they became lighter and more manoeuvrable as the sport developed.

Laird Hamilton is a surfer. He is the co-founder of the two-in surfing movement, which allows people to surf higher and fast waves. He is also a big pioneer in the big wave riding movement for this very reason. He is held up by the documentary as someone who pought big wave surfing into the modern spotlight.

Greg Noll is a revolutionary figure – famous for his physique as well as his method of “Charging into” a wave as a means of riding it. He has always been considered an early pioneer of big wave surfing and is also widely regarded as being a longboard shaper par excellence.


Riding Giants was produced by Agi Orsi, Jane Kachmer, Franck Marty, and Nathalie Delest. Laird Hamilton served as the executive producer for the documentary. The documentary was directed by Stacy Peralta, who also narrated the film. Stacy Peralta also shares writing credits with Sam George. The music was created by Matter. Cinematography was completed  by Peter Pilafian and Sonny Miller, and the film was edited by Paul Crowader, who won an A.C.E. award for best edited documentary. StudioCanal served as the production company, and the distribution was handled by Sony Pictures Classics. It has a running time of one hundred and four minutes.

Previous to directing Riding Giants, director Peralta had previously worked on the critically successful documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys. This was a history of the rise of skateboarding – which he himself was a huge contributor to. He was thus chosen to direct Riding Giants, a documentary about Big Wave riding. Peralta claimed the success of the film was due to he himself wanting to see a film like this one, and he was driven by the question of why people dedicate their lives to riding the highest waves possible.

The documentary utilizes archive footage, still photos as well as home movie footage, interviews and re-enactments. It also stars a host of famous surfers from the various generations of the big wave riding movement.


The soundtrack is filled with huge names from the time period, as well as bands which were popular with the subcultures of both surfing and skateboarding. These included acts such as: Basement Jaxx, Moby, Pearl Jam, The Ruts, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Soundgarden, The Stray Cats, Alice in Chains, David Bowie, Link Wray, Dick Dale, Doves, Fila pazillia, Bill Haley & His Comets, The Hives, Linkin Park, John Mayall, Érik Satie and The Waterboys.