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Step Into Liquid

Other // PG // June 24, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted June 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

With Endless Summer filmmaker Bruce Brown created the first widely distributed surfing documentary. It's fitting then that his son, Dana Brown, continues the tradition that his father started with Step Into Liquid, an interesting and sometimes awe inspiring look at different aspects of surfing as a sport and as a culture.

This documentary takes us from the Great Lakes surfers of Minnesota, to the cold water wave riders of Ireland with stops at plenty of tropical locations throughout the world in between. Brown and his crew scour the globe to bring us some of the more interesting people from the world of surfing and so we see how a young man who has lost the use of his legs surfs by laying down chest first on his board. We see how three ex-pat Americans who call Ireland home have introduced the sport to both Protestant and Catholic children in Northern Ireland and see learn of a quirky middle aged hippy who made it his mission to not only surf once a day for a quarter of a century, but also to build a big ball out of his spent surf wax. Ick. We spend time with some foxy female beach bums in Australia and we visit with some of the old guard who have since become legends of the sport.

More importantly, however, we're treated to a lot of really amazing footage of average looking people surfing some very big waves and it's here that Step Into Liquid really excels. The interviews and narrative are moderately interesting at times but they serve only to stitch together the surfing scenes and to give them some context. What matters the most here are the visuals and on that level this picture definitely delivers. We see a few surfers trying things out off the coast but where things get really intense is when we travel out a little further and take a boat trip a hundred miles off the coast to watch a few experts surf on sixty foot waves. These people appear almost as specs at times, almost vanishing into the water when the camera pulls back.

Step Into Liquid isn't deep nor is it earth shattering in any way, shape or form. It doesn't really do anything that other surf documentaries haven't done before or since nor does it really dig deep into the psychology of the people who risk their lives for thrills in the middle of a gigantic wave in the middle of the ocean. It does, however, manage to bring some absolutely stunning footage of the surfers, the waves, and the various landscapes that it all plays out over into the safety of our own homes so that experienced surfers and the curious alike can watch some of the best in the industry strut their stuff.



The AVC 1080p 1.85.1 anamorphic transfer on this disc is very nice even if it is a bit inconsistent due to the nature of the film. Interview scenes and interior shots look fine, they just don't jump off the screen and really wow you the way a good high-definition transfer can. Some of the outdoor surfing scenes, however, look almost three-dimensional. You can see almost every drop in the mist that flies off of some of the waves and the depth of the picture is pretty impressive. Detail can get fuzzy in the background at times because of that amount of water in the air but really, you can't get around that. Color reproduction is nice and natural looking and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts to complain about. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and there aren't any problems with print damage, grain or debris on the image (though you'll notice it from time to time if you really look for it in certain scenes). This is a very well authored disc that does a good job with some erratic source material and for the most part, the picture really does look quite good.


The English language 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 48 kHz sounds great during some of the surf scenes with the big waves as it really envelopes you with the roar of the ocean. The music used throughout the film carries a nice punch and delivers some very strong bass response while the quieter moments in the picture, such as the interviews and conversational bits, are more subdued but never the less quite clean and clear. Surround channels aren't used quite as frequently as you might expect at times, which is a slight disappointment, and the mix is geared towards the front of your surround set up. That said, there aren't any real problems with it, everything sounds quite good. Optional subtitles are supplied in English and in Spanish.


First up is a commentary track courtesy of the film's director, Dana Brown. Dana talks about what inspired him to make this film, where it fits in with other surf movies such as his father's original Endless Summer and what it was like traveling the world shooting this footage and interviewing the people that we see on camera. It's a fairly interesting and primarily scene specific track that gives you a good idea of what went into creating this picture.

From there, check out the selection of Deleted Scenes And Alternate Footage. There are four scenes here: Dana's Angels (2:14, footage of some female surfers in action),Dirtboarding (1:41, footage of some guys using a wheeled surfboard on a dirt track),Surfing Rabbi (6:47, an interview with and footage featuring a Rabbi who enjoys surfing) and Scenics (4:36, random shots of the ocean and its surrounding landscape set to music). These are all presented in non-anamorphic standard definition.

A few brief featurettes are up next, starting with "Let's Go Surfing: Surf Lessons" (13:12) which is a look at the basics of surfing such as picking your spot and choosing your board and how to stand on it. Up next is Making A Surfboard. (8:30) which is, as the title implies, a look at how surfboards are made by way of some footage from a shop that actually builds the boards. Capturing The Wave (13:19) is an interesting look at how Dana Brown went and got some of the remarkable wave footage that we see in the feature by way of interviews with himself and with his cinematographers. Passion For Liquid (14:25) is a look at how Bruce Brown inspired Dana Brown to make Step Into Liquid with his original Endless Summer movies as well as how his films inspired a generation of surfers as well as how and why these various surfers have become addicted to the sport. These are also presented in standard definition non-anamorphic widescreen.

From there, check out a series of interviews starting with Dale Webster (7:53), the strange hippy guy who has surfed every day for twenty-five years and who shows no signs of slowing down whatsoever. There are also production oriented interviews here with Dana Brown (6:38),Bruce Brown (6:43),Robert 'Wingnut' Weaver (4:23),Robert August (7:51),Sam August (4:37),Jim And Alex Knost (4:40),Maureen Drummy (3:32), and Peter Townsend (4:12). These interviews basically serve as brief biographies for the players involved in making and featured in the movie.

Rounding out the extra features are a few musical montages, trailers, animated menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Surf fans already know that Step Into Liquid delivers the goods and those who want to see it in the best possible quality should certainly consider upgrading to this Blu-ray release. The picture quality and audio are much improved over their standard definition counterpart and all the extras are here. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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