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Storm Surfers 3D

2013 | 95 min | PG | 1.85:1

Storm Surfers 3D


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Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 14 June, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

Box office




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Storm Surfers 3D Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 13, 2013

Dating back nearly 50 years, documentaries concerning the sport of surfing have become an intriguing subgenre. Detailing the passions and pursuits of young men and their dreams of oceanic playtime, the pictures, such as “The Endless Summer,” share a common quest to outdo the competition, visiting exotic locales and taking on larger, meaner waves to make the requisite impression on a most impressionable audience. “Storm Surfers 3D” takes thrills and spills to the next level, following champion surfers Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll as they hunt for rare breaks and hidden locales using the gift of science. This is no spiritual journey, it’s a meteorological one, out the capture aquatic ferocity and personal victory using the latest in industry trends.

Clarke-Jones is something of a madman, a self-proclaimed “tow surfing pioneer” who, nearing the age of 50, has built a remarkable reputation for competition tenacity and equanimity when staring down some of the largest waves in the world. Carroll is more of a traditional champion, steady and responsible, watching his attention gradually pulled away from the water to concentrate on his three daughters, effectively dulling his daredevil instincts. Friends since the 1980s, where the pair made names for themselves as surfing embraced corporate interests, Clarke-Jones and Carroll remain obsessed with the sport, using downtime to wade into the depths of the ocean and discover fresh locales around Australia -- virgin expanse the two riders could potentially explore in full with their armada of jet skis, boats, and camera equipment.

Directed by Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius, “Storm Surfers” has come prepared to spotlight every step of this adventure, which finds the men and forecaster Ben Matson using the winter season to plan excursions into volatile territory, attempting to predict the movement of swells located far off the coast of Australia. Cameras are placed everywhere for the chase, while time is spent inside a home base of sorts, where Matson uses computer technology to pinpoint sweet spots in the ocean, passing the info off to his Luddite employers, who aren’t very good at selling the highly rehearsed nature of the conferences, attempting to come off casual when the moments are anything but.

Outside of a mid-movie stop to explore the lives of Clarke-Jones and Carroll, investigating their awareness of aging, common bonds, and expectations for surfing discoveries, “Storm Surfers” remains on the water, traveling to several turbulent areas in needs of board-based conquering, with the directors unleashing helicopters and intimate camera positions to capture these challenging moments of wave mastery, putting the viewer inside pipelines with 3D cinematography, adding depth to the footage. Of course the images are impressive, with towering breaks rolling into view, almost projecting villainy as the men map out their plan of attack, speeding along on jet skis and boards waiting for the perfect wave. It’s striking stuff, especially when the gang keeps pushing themselves to find more dangerous areas to investigate, with Clarke-Jones attempting to explain the craving for big wave exploration by comparing himself to Ernest Shackleton.

While “Storm Surfers” is packed with extensive footage of the middle-aged mavericks in action, McMillan and Nelius have trouble justifying the 90 minute run time. This can be a repetitive documentary, hitting the same notes of adrenaline and misfortune over and over, while down time intended to add atmosphere often feels like padding. “Storm Surfers” plays to a specific audience who won’t mind the picture’s echo, but those who haven’t surrendered their lives to the ocean might wonder why it’s taking so long to communicate simple ideas on determination and instinctual strength.

Despite a circular pattern of storytelling, “Storm Surfers” remains engaging due to the enormous charisma of its leading men (a highlight of the film is found with Clarke-Jones comparing drowning to clubgoing) and silky smooth narration from Toni Collette, who confidently walks through geography specifics and underlines psychological concerns. Appearances from famous surf world faces such as Kelly Slater (who refers to Carroll as the best pipeliner around), Paul Morgan, and Mark Matthews also shake up the routine, which hits its peak in the final act, where the crew stares down the grand waves at Turtle Dove, an undiscovered spot of extreme danger. Perhaps the outcome is easy to predict, but the visuals of towering breaks and panicked men remain gripping, sending “Storm Surfers” out with a bang.

Starring: Tom Carroll, Ross Clark-Jones, Ben Matson
Directors: Justin McMillan, Christopher Nelius

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