Riding Giants (2004)

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Released 19-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Surfing Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-Stacy Peralta (Director) And Paul Crowder (Editor)
Audio Commentary-Sam George (Writer) & Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, Laird Hamilton
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Fuel TV's Blue Carpet Special
Deleted Scenes-5
Trailer-Being Julia, Bobby Jones: Stroke Of Genius
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 97:13 (Case: 101)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Stacy Peralta

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jeff Clark
Darrick Doerner
Laird John Hamilton
Dave Kalama
Brian L. Keaulana
Buzzy Kerbox
Titus Kinimaka
Mickey Munoz
Greg Noll
Evan Slater
Kelly Slater
Darryl Virostko
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    An ode to big-wave surfing, Riding Giants is an overly long documentary that lacks focus and subsequently tries to cover far too much material. Co-written and directed by Stacy Peralta of Dogtown and Z-Boys fame, Riding Giants has a number of problems.

    Director Dana Brown recently provided us with a cheeky, inviting, and entertaining exploration of surfing with Step Into Liquid, but sadly, Peralta's deadpan Riding Giants is far too solemn and far too ambitious. Peralta tries to cover far too much, and the film often meanders between being a history of surfing, a history of big-wave surfing, a history of surf movies, and a biography of the film's Executive Producer Laird Hamilton.

    There are also way too many talking heads, with extensive interviews with surfers Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, Billy Hamilton, Ken Bradshaw, Dave Kalama, Titus Kinimaka, Gerry Lopez, Steve Pezman, Buzzy Kerbox and Laird Hamilton. Noll, Clark, and Laird Hamilton would have been enough.

    While there is some great footage of Teahupoo, Jaws (Pea'hi), Mavericks, and Waimea Bay, the film lacks some of the hair raising big-wave footage that we've been treated to elsewhere, such as in the brilliant Billabong Odyssey.

    Also, probably because Quiksilver is the film's Co-Producer, this documentary on Big Wave surfing chooses to ignore the annual big event in Big Wave Surfing - the annual Billabong XXL Awards, which honours big wave surfers and their accomplishments each year.

    On the other hand, the film also has a number of good points. For example, the interviews do provide a decent insight into the lifestyle of the big-wave chargers, and the risks they take. Perhaps there could have been some further exploration of the psyche of the men who decide to cheat death on 60-70 foot waves for a living (and hobby).

    The film also features some great and clever animation, such as the opening "1,000 Years of Surfing in Two Minutes or Less". This section animates a large number of archival stills, maps, and diagrams to cover how a Polynesian pastime, invented by Hawaiian natives, was developed and exported around the world.

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Transfer Quality


    Overall the quality of the transfer is good, considering the age of a lot of the source material.

    The widescreen transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is quite soft throughout, but the sharpness depends on the source. A lot of the material is taken from old 8 and 16mm films, and there is also some home video footage. The shadow detail is good in the interview segments. Obviously all of the surfing footage is shot outside with natural light..

    The colour is good overall, but obviously there is some black and white and even sepia tone archival footage included.

    There are no problems with MPEG artefacts, but a lot of the footage, including the recent interviews, is very grainy. There are no problems with film-to-video artefacts. A number of film artefacts appear throughout, and understandably in the archival footage they can be frequent and huge.

    English, Hindi, and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are present, and the English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a dual-layer disc, with the layer change placed at 79:12.

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


    There are three audio options on the DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and two English Audio Commentaries, both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine, and importantly the narration is always clear.

    There is no musical score per se, but rather the music consists of a collection of Hawaiian-themed music and a collection of surf tunes from the 1950s to the present.

    While the surround mix is quite front heavy, there is some surround presence and activity. The rear speakers are used notably to help carry the score and provide some ambience. However, while the surround sound is rather average for a documentary, the film is accompanied by a great LFE track. The subwoofer is used very effectively, for example with the deep rumble of the giant wave that opens the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is a good collection of extras, dominated by two audio commentaries.


    Animated with audio

Audio Commentary 1

    Stacy Peralta (Co-Writer and Director) And Paul Crowder (Editor) provide a screen specific commentary, in which they focus on the aims of the film and the techniques employed to achieve these aims. They also identify a number of locations and surfers in the film who are not mentioned in the documentary's narration.

Audio Commentary 2

    Sam George (Co-Writer), and surfers Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, and Laird Hamilton provide a relaxed and chatty screen-specific commentary. There are a number of anecdotes and jokes throughout.

Featurette-Making Of Riding Giants (28:03)

    Stacy Peralta (Co-Writer and Director) joins a number of other key Crew members, including the film's Producer and Editor, to discuss this film project moving from an idea, to a script, and into a finished film.

Featurette-Fuel TV's Blue Carpet Special (20:21)

    A look at the film's premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. This Featurette also includes the film's trailer. Interestingly, the film also opened the Sundance Film Festival.

Deleted Scenes (15:41)

    There are five deleted and alternative scenes, and text explaining why each scene was cut.


R4 vs R1

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

    Riding Giants was released on DVD in Region 1 in January 2005. Apart from some minor differences, such as subtitles, both versions are the same.


    Riding Giants starts off well, but I found it quickly became a little tedious. As a well-known Elvis song lyric spells out, the film needed "a little less conversation and a little more action".

    The video quality is good overall.

    The audio quality is very good, albeit quite front-heavy.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, September 02, 2005
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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