In the stunning looking 3-D shot documentary Storm Surfers, viewers will be transported and plopped into the middle of the ocean for a show they’ve never seen before, likely never will again, and in a way that can bring them as close to the danger as possible. It’s all well and good for a little while, but soon repetition begins to kick in and the film can’t entirely sustain a feature length running time without feeling padded.
Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll are world renowned tow surfers in Australia. What this means is that instead of paddling out from the shore to catch a gnarly wave, they head out into the middle of the ocean in sometimes far below freezing temperatures just to catch untouched, unencumbered crests of water when they are at their most massive. Hitting speeds of up to 60km an hour in 20-40 foot high tubes makes even some of the best boarders heading out from land look like amateurs. And they are shockingly scientific about it, enlisting the help of meteorologist Ben Matson to keep them abreast of where the best (often meaning choppiest) weather will be before heading off to one of their three base camps around the country and hopping onto powerboats and jet-skis to head out to sea.
Directors Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius definitely show a great degree of skill, dexterity, and willingness to go the extra mile to get a shot in this gorgeous looking effort. Mounting 3D cameras to the boards and helmets of the participants seems like an easy thing to do, but what’s most intriguing is how close they get to the action themselves even outside of the nail biting first person styled footage. It’s the kind of film that 3-D technology works best for: bringing people into real life situations devoid of gimmicks to create a world that many would never get a chance to see.
The problem with Storm Surfers is that while the process by which Clark-Jones and Carroll go about their thrill seeking is fascinating, there’s not a lot here to warrant maybe more than an hour long film. Despite other surfers coming into and out of the experience, the lack of personal stories to pad out the film leads to essentially nothing more than a really well done highlight reel. It’s exciting, but it starts to turn slightly monotonous at times. There’s no huge drama to be found, or really any of any consequence for that matter. There are only huge waves, and overall, that’s fine.
Storm Surfers also screens with the locally crafted, twisted animated fairy tale short Foxed!. It’s about a young girl who has found herself transported to a nightmarish alternate dimension and replaced at home by a nefarious fox in disguise. It’s a great looking bit of work from director James Stewart with a great sting in the tail, but it feels more like a trailer for a potentially longer work. It’s still worth showing up early for.