Australians Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones are well-known figures in the world of surfing. Carroll, age 49, had a Hall of Fame career that included two world championships in 1983 and 1984. Clarke-Jones, age 45, was the first non-Hawaiian to win the prestigious Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau in 2001 and remains a highly acclaimed big-wave rider. Together, they teamed up with directors Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius to create two Storm Surfers TV specials, airing on Discovery Channel Asia and FUEL TV, as they pursue the biggest waves they can find. They have now brought their thrilling adventures to the big screen in Storm Surfers 3D.
Surfing for these guys isn’t just a board and some wax. They are extreme surfers with a whole team behind them, including surf forecaster Ben Matson. His job is to find prime locations, which he does with weather-tracking computer models, though there are no guarantees what the conditions will be upon their arrival. They also use a great deal of gear, from the video recording equipment to the jet skis that pull them into position in front of the big waves.
In this film, narrated by Toni Collette, the team travels off the coasts of Tasmania and Australia in search of action. At Botany Bay there weren’t big waves, but they were extremely powerful and had the potential to throw surfers against rocks. When they learn about a region named Turtle Bay, off the western coast of Australia that’s never been surfed before, the team gets excited about being the first, seeing themselves as explorers conquering new lands.
Carroll also takes a solo trip to Pipeline in Hawaii at the invite of current surfing phenom Kelly Slater, which he is uneasy about because he hasn’t had good experiences there of late. Even though the waves are nowhere near what he tackles with Clarke-Jones, Pipeline looks dangerous because of all the people out there in the water. Surfers have to not only tackle the waves but also watch out for each other.
Though they appear insane as their commitment to greater and greater thrills finds them taking greater risks with their lives, Carroll mentions what he and Clarke-Jones do “touches your soul.” Whether the spiritualness is derived from their defiance of nature or the proximity of death, there’s no denying these men heed Joseph Campbell’s maxim and follow their bliss. However, Carroll’s decision-making of late is tempered by his age as well as the fact that he has three daughters. Clarke-Jones hasn’t slowed down at all. He’s a kid in an adult’s body and he teases Carroll about being a girl when he doesn’t keep up.
The film was shot with the first 3D Go Pro cameras, and they were placed all over to capture the action: on jet skis, on surfboards, and even on a stick held behind the surfer. Credit is also due to the cameramen floating in the water, who appear just as courageous as the surfers. The 3D is impressive and the immersive visuals offer viewers a better understanding of what’s taking place. At times, close-ups were a little too shaky but they never stayed with those shots too long.
Storm Surfers 3D is a marvelous adventure to experience from the comfort of a theater seat.