The Billabong Odyssey (2003)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Surfing Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-FUEL Special
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 87:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Philip Boston

Warner Home Video
Starring Mike Parsons
Brad Gerlach
Rush Randle
Laird Hamilton
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Dorian Cheah

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but the PP is not annoying or overt
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    As noted in Billabong Odyssey, all of the highest mountains were climbed over 50 years ago, and the North and South Pole reached over 100 years ago. Thus, one of the extreme-sports goals that now looms large is to ride the biggest wave ever surfed. Advances in technology have allowed big-wave surfing, and now a number of big-wave chargers are roaming the globe in search of that elusive 100 foot wave.

    Along with other great Aussie surf companies, like Quiksilver and Rip Curl, Billabong produce an excellent, high-quality range of surfwear, wetsuits, and surf accessories. Interestingly, when I recently visited the excellent Surfing Museum at Torquay (check out, I discovered that these surf companies generate over 80% of their revenue from fashion, and less than 20% from wetsuits, surfboards, and surfing equipment. It almost appears that these multi-billion-dollar global companies continue to manufacture these genuine surf products as it adds legitimacy to their fashion lines. Indeed, I have noticed that even in inland cities such as Canberra, and in country towns, almost everyone 18-30 seems to be wearing surf-fashion (especially girls), although I imagine most of them have never touched a surfboard in their life.

    Anyway, Billabong support a number of professional surfing contests, such as the Billabong Pro. They have also championed big-wave surfing, and have sponsored the XXL Awards, which pay $US1000 for every foot, for the biggest wave ridden (and photographed) that year. The current champ is Pete Cabrinhaa, aged 43, who won $US70,000 for surviving his ride on a 70-foot monster at Jaws, Hawaii. For pictures of his suicidal ride, check out

    "In search of the world's biggest wave".

    Advances in science have allowed big-wave surfing through a combination of satellite technology, advanced meteorology, and the development of jet-skis for tow-in surfing. Billabong Odyssey has united a team of courageous big-wave chargers. Team leaders and veteran big-wave surfers Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach, along with safety co-ordinator, Brian Keaulana, recruit the Santa Cruz Boys, Ken Bradshaw, and five-times world champ Layne Beachley. Along the way we also get to meet Rush Randle, and see some of his amazing abilities in aerial surfing, wind surfing, and even kite surfing. One of the world's best (and innovative) surfers, Laird Hamilton, also makes an appearance, and we also get treated to some footage from the Tow-In World Cup, held at Jaws.

    Interestingly, there isn't that much product placement for Billabong. For example, the Billabong Surf Team Riders include Andy Irons, Danilo Costa, David Rastovich, Donavon Frankenreiter, Joel Parkinson, Luke Egan, Mark Occhilupo, Mike Parsons, Shane Dorian, Taj Burrow, and Tiago Pires. You will note that Mike Parsons is the only one featured in this DVD.

    "Surfing is the easy part, surviving is the hard part".

    In a three year project, the relatively simple concept is; relying on meteorological and satellite information, the team will travel the globe in search of big waves to ride, and then film the results. After the team trains at the windswept Cape Disappointment, Washington, their Odyssey takes them to Teahupo'o, Cyclops, Jaws, Mavericks, Santa Cruz, Todos Santos, the Cortes Bank, and Mundaka.

    The cinematography is fantastic and the opening shot of Mike Parsons riding a 66 foot wave at Jaws is quite simply the most awesome big-wave sequence I have ever seen in my life. Indeed, it is probably the most inspiring extreme-sports footage that I have ever seen. The whole DVD will have your adrenaline pumping and your heart pounding.

    For those interested, the trailer for the DVD can be found at

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Transfer Quality


    Billabong Odyssey was filmed over the course of two years in 35mm and high-definition 24p digital formats, and it has been given the great transfer it deserves.

    I was over the moon to discover the transfer has been beautifully presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. As I noted with my review of Step Into Liquid, widescreen surf-DVDs are very rare, and it certainly adds to the film's cinematic quality and presentation.

    The sharpness is good. The shadow detail is fine, but as a lot of the footage is shot with natural light, the contrast can be quite harsh at times. Some file footage has been used, and some of the source material is very grainy, such as at 41:01.

   The colour is excellent throughout, except, understandably, for some of the file footage.

    There are no problems with MPEG or film-to-video artefacts.

    Tiny film artefacts appear infrequently throughout, but I never found them distracting.

    There are no subtitles which is a little disappointing.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 54:01. It was smooth and not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    I was also pleasantly surprised to find that there are two audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.

    The musical score is credited to Dorian Cheah, and there are also a few songs throughout.

    As one would expect, the surround sound mix is a little front-heavy, but the rear speakers are used throughout to help carry the score and provide some ambience, such as the wind and spray of the surf at 02:01. The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively to provide an ominous growl for many of the big waves.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are two genuine extras.


    Animated menus with audio.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes-FUEL Special

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, and running for about 22 minutes, this extra features host Jodie Nelson in an E-Entertainment or HBO style report. It includes behind-the-scenes footage, with some short interviews and scenes from the movie, and its premiere.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this trailer runs for about 2 minutes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Billabong Odyssey was released on DVD in Region 1 in April 2004. From the limited details I can find about the R1 edition, it strangely appears to be Full-Frame (Pan & Scan), and devoid of any extras. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone with the R1 to verify this.

    In the meantime, I'll declare our R4 version the winner.


    When it comes to big-wave, tow-in surfing DVDs, I thought that I had seen it all. After all, I own all the classics on the topic, including To', The Discovery Channel's Extreme Surfing, and Biggest Wednesday. However, let me introduce you to THE big-wave, tow-in surfing DVD, Billabong Odyssey. Billabong and the Producers have obviously decided to go all out, and spend a fortune on this film and DVD, and it really shows.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent, but understandably a little front-heavy.

    The extras are genuine.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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