Although I have never been surfing myself and know very little about it, I still enjoyed Storm Surfers, a powerful 3D surfing documentary (2012 winner of Best 3D Documentary from the International 3D Society). It focuses on long-time Australian surfing buddies Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones as they seek out and surf the most intense waves they can find over the course of a few months- June through August to be exact, when it's summer in most of the world but winter in Australia. Yes, they surf during the winter, meaning that it's very cold and they must wear a lot of warm clothing- first time I'd heard of this. Aiding Tom and Ross is "Surf Forecaster" Ben Matson who uses computer and satellite technology to track where these waves are and when they'll hit.
Narrated by Toni Collette who explains some of the weather phenomena and gives us a bit of background on Carroll and Clarke-Jones, the movie takes us with them on each trip out to the big waves. We watch them study the weather maps, gather their equipment together and head out in the middle of the night in order to make it to the waves by the time the sun is out. When they surf, we're along for the ride thanks to a number of small cameras made just for this production, which we can see the riders holding on poles. Many of these shots are just breathtaking especially in 3D, with views from literally inside the waves. There are additional shots from camera crew in the water, on boats and in a helicopter. Five different locations are hit altogether, each one with its own unique challenge. The last place they visit, a spot known as "Turtle Dove" located a few hours away from land, had never been surfed by anyone before and it wasn't certain what type of ride they were going to get until they were actually there.
In between trips, we get some insight from Tom and Ross themselves. They talk a bit about their pro-surfing heyday in the 1980s with several archival clips and reflect on getting older today. Tom states that his philosophy is always to "drop everything" and head out when he knows of a good wave anywhere. Ross tells us "Surfing big waves is not about how ripped your abs are or how much you bench press- I think it's about your nerve." There's also some footage of Ross driving an Audi on a racetrack which also looks spectacular in 3D, and there are a couple animated segments to accompany reflections from Tom and Ross' childhoods. Narrator Toni Collette speculates that the two of them never matured beyond age 17. I hadn't heard of either before seeing this film, but they are certainly memorable characters.
Not having gone surfing myself and likely never will at this point, I still enjoy watching surfing films like this occasionally just for the sight of the waves and seeing how those who do surf pull it off. I don't quite get some of the surfing jargon used here and some of the spoken segments drag a bit, but just enjoying the view makes for a great time. Words really can't do justice to the experience of watching the surfing scenes here.
Picture quality in general is excellent aside from some compression artifacts in the water that I noticed at one point (which could very well have been from the source material and not the disc's encoding). The color scheme gives a vibe of the cold conditions we're witnessing. Of course 3D is a big thing here- I found it a very pleasing experience, with lots of depth and the feeling of being right there in the waves. There are no real gimmicks however, and nothing really "comes out at you" except the occasional spray of water- this is good 3D that doesn't call attention to itself. (I did find the 3D in another surfing film The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti much more involving, but that's really a different movie than this one.) The disc does not give an option for 2D playback, but will play in 2D if your equipment does not support 3D- re-watching parts of this in 2D on my computer shows that it really loses something that way.
Sound is in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio with a very involving mix. During the surfing scenes, the sounds of waves and boats are all around you, and even during the spoken portions voices and sounds are moved around a bit. The music score by Michael Yezerski and Richard Tognetti is very unique too, being rock flavored but using violin in a way you may not have heard before.
Although the cover indicates English SDH subtitles, there aren't any on the disc.
In addition to the trailer in 3D with 5.1 sound, there are a few 2D extras each running about 3 minutes each. A "Behind the Scenes With the Directors" shows a bit of production footage where you get a good look at some of the 3D cameras but they don't really discuss shooting in 3D. Short "Profiles" on Tom Carroll, Ross Clarke-Jones and forecaster Ben Matson give them each a couple more minutes to talk, and "Ross and Tom's Need For Speed" shows them having more fun racing a car on a track.
On my Oppo BDP-93, the picture was glitchy after the first opening logo. Checking the disc on my computer, it seems this is because there is another opening logo which was authored to be skipped over. Lightly scanning forward or backwards will restore playback to normal.
Storm Surfers is filled with great 3D photography that makes it a must for any fan of 3D or surfing. It may very well be the closest I ever get to actual surfing. This disc should especially make for great viewing on a ridiculously hot day.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.