Step Into Liquid

dir. Brown

Opens Fri Aug 29

Pioneer Place

It was a low day on the Banzai Pipeline, one of the crown jewel surf spots on the North Shore of Oahu, and I was sitting on my board waiting for the next set to roll in. The sun was setting and the crowd was gone, leaving just me and a local who was straddling his board 30 yards away. At that time of day the water gets unbelievably glassy, the wind dries the salt water on your face, the waves gently lap over your board, and you begin to understand the Zen-like happiness surfers talk about. The local gives me a hello. "How's it going?" I respond. "Pretty good," he says. "But get in my way, and I'll put you in the fucking hospital."

The point of this story? In a minute.

Step into Liquid is directed by Dana Brown, the son of Bruce Brown, who's best known for The Endless Summer. The big kahuna of surf flicks, Summer captures the youthful exuberance of globe-trotting surfers looking for the perfect wave. Liquid is a sequel of sorts, focusing instead on a myriad of obsessive wave-riders and what makes them tick.

Brown features a charismatic cast of daredevils and oddballs; though big wave rider Laird Hamilton exhibits steely-eyed nerve while navigating monster-sized swells, Liquid isn't just about tanned surfer gods. There's also an older group of fun-seekers tackling the two-foot waves of Lake Michigan, and a Texas trio who surf the wakes of oil tankers.

However, cinematography makes or breaks a surf flick, and Liquid certainly delivers. Shot from inside, overhead, and underneath the waves, viewers get a visceral sense of their thundering power. And while the self-inflated hippie-dippy language of some surfers may temporarily annoy, most of its subjects are straight-up knowledgeable and charming.

Now back to my original point: the guy who told me he'd "put me in the fucking hospital" isn't represented in this movie. And, believe me, there are a LOT of "him" out there. Nevertheless, Liquid is still a great movie, and if there's any subject that deserves to be overly romanticized it might as well be the endless allure of the wave.