Features: Tom Carroll, Ross Clarke-Jones, Barton Lynch, Grace Carroll, Kelly Slater, Paul Morgan, Mark Mathews, Paul ‘Antman’ Paterson and Ben Matson.
Writers/Directors: Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius.
The psychology of its passionate subjects and the majesty and might of the great waves they live to ride are captured with clarity, in every sense of the word, in Storm Surfers 3D. Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones are growing old as gracefully as leathery waxheads can and directors Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius grasp with insight what it means to crave young man thrills with an ageing body and mind.
It is this very human side to their film that will see Storm Surfers 3D play to festival crowds and arthouse/doco audiences and not just packed surf club halls. As giddyingly involving as the sports action is (and, at times, it is positively vertigo inducing), it is the themes of mateship, ageing, fatherhood and legacy that resonate most profoundly.
Full-time big wave surfers, the more introspective Carroll and spirited wildman Clarke-Jones travel the world conquering open ocean breaks and tight, shallow reef barrels that sometimes top 30 feet and carry several tonnes worth of water pressure. Clarke-Jones seems immune to the effects of age, both physically and mentally, but Carroll is portrayed as a man facing the importance of his own mortality.
A father of three daughters, Carroll spends the first half of the film sitting out the big rides with a shoulder injury, then struggling with his confidence when the chance to get back out their presents itself. Periods of reflection and of two friends offering insight and concern for each other provide a soulful element to Storm Surfers that make it one of those sports films that transcends its action component.
It must be said, though, that the action is grandly presented. The use of crisp, top-tier 3D technology is occasionally too impressive; there were several moments when twinges of seasickness kick in. But first-person camera work that puts the viewer on the board with Carroll and Clarke-Jones is totally immersive; helicopter shots of vast banking walls of deep blue water are spectacular. The camera team’s stunning cinematography represents some of the finest applications of the technology in factual filmmaking ever seen.
Painting a far more enchanting portrait of Australia’s surfing brotherhood than Macario De Souza’s grubby 2007 doco Bra Boys, Storm Surfers affords two surfing icons a fitting tribute by showing them as extraordinary everymen. Whatever effort it took to get the film’s images, both intimate and expansive, it plays as wonderfully naturalistic on screen. Like the great waves Carroll and Clarke-Jones tackle, the film reveals an occasionally turbulent depth to the towering image the two men project.