Highwater Directed by: Dana Brown
Starring: Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, Andy Irons, Layne Beachley, Rochelle Ballard, Mark Healy, Pat O’Connell, Rob Machado, Bruce Irons, Chelsea Georgeson, Jesse Billauer, Danny Fuller, Lisa Anderson, Bruce Brown
Release Date: August 27, 2010 (limited)
Surfing is one of those sports that can be mind-boggling to watch. With one massive wave, the very best in the world can deliver a beautiful and hypnotic run…or crumble under the powerful water beast in devastating fashion. The fact that these athletes need to not only be incredibly well-balanced and dexterous but that they need to wait for nature’s fury to collaborate with them in order to create the perfect run makes it all the more compelling.
Each year, the planet’s biggest, brightest, and up and coming talents gather at the ultimate proving ground: Oahu’s North Shore in Hawaii. They call it the “7 Mile Miracle” and it’s where the Triple Crown takes place starting around Halloween and ending just before Christmas. Three events to close out each professional surfing season and the highest level of competition among 400 participants in pursuit of eternal glory.
Highwater is a documentary from director Dana Brown that gives us a deep-rooted look into just what goes down during the Triple Crown. The director previously made the acclaimed Step Into Liquid, and he is the son of surf documentary legend Bruce Brown (The Endless Summer). The movie offers up some truly epic surfing action, but mostly delivers a behind the scenes peek into how the event plays out, the small army of hopefuls who show up to prove their mettle, and how many of them shouldn’t even be there to begin with. Throughout the film, many of the sport’s local legends, current heroes, and rising stars will talk about the sport they love and the event that can define them or destroy them.
One of the most interesting things about Highwater is the compete-level that exists. Many people show up to the Triple Crown that probably don’t possess the skills to ride these waves, but they’re there anyway. Some might shock and surprise but you can see that these outsiders can’t just show up and surf, they also need to earn respect. This also ties into Hawaiian culture, another theme within the movie. These waters are their whole life and they instill this passion in their children — some of which are already competing impressively at young ages.
Another thing that really caught my attention is the reality of it all. Much glory comes to those who can tame the waves of the 7 Mile Miracle, but with each wave comes a unique challenge. You can succeed during the Triple Crown, but you will never defeat the North Shore because it will always be different. Because of this reality, you’ll witness the grim tragedy that goes hand-in-hand with the glory. One minute you’re on top of the surfing world, the next minute you’ve lost a limb to a shark or what looks like an innocent crash turns out to cost you your life. This event truly requires the best to be at their best at all times.
Aside from that, this may end up as one of my shorter reviews but not a whole lot needs to be said here. There’s no acting, no scripts, no enhancement…just the waves of Oahu and those with dreams of conquering it.
Highwater is a documentary that opens new windows to the world of surfing and allows you to peek inside. It should join the ranks of surfing movies that fans of the sport must see and will continue to watch over the years. For those of you who are not yet a fan of the sport this is a damn good place to start, and a simple search into the director and his family will lead you to many more worth watching.
There’s really nothing like seeing a person carving their way across a wall of water born from Neptune himself, disappearing as the wave attempts to grasp them, and shooting out of the tunnel at the last moment before it crashes down in anger. It doesn’t always go so perfectly, but there’s truly nothing like it.