Surfwise is the second surfing documentary to come out in the last month (the other being the Russell Crowe-narrated Bra Boys, about Sydney surfer gangs). Both films are about people more than they are about surfing, and both examine questions of family, community, and brotherhood against the backdrop of big waves.
Surfwise, directed by Doug Pray, probably belongs more to the "dysfunctional family" documentary genre than it does the sports movie. It feels closer in spirit to films like Capturing the Friedmans or the Up series than to the sort of feel-good sports featurette you might see on ESPN or before the Olympics.
In many ways, Surfwise is a biographical memoir—a probing look at the life and legacy of one very singular man: Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, now 85 years old and still surfing every day. The film begins with Dorian (who describes himself as "one of the few dumb Jewish doctors you will ever meet") recounting his tumultuous early life: his medical education at Stanford, his early adoption of the sport of surfing, and his first two failed marriages. One day in 1956 he decided to make a change in his life and drop all illusions of being a "real person." He took a trip to Israel and spent a year wandering the desert like Jesus, tried (and failed) to join the Israeli military, then embarked on a licentious odyssey of sexual freedom which culminated in his marrying his third (and current) wife, Juliette.
Things only got stranger from here. He and wife Juliette bought an RV, took to the highways, and started having babies: nine total when all was said and done. For much of the 1960s and 70s, the family lived together out of this camper, traveling around the country to surf and frolic and, well, just be a family. The ...1