Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 9p (with an encore at 11p), HDNet unveils another exclusive “sneak preview” of a film in advance of the theatrical release. HDNet’s Surfwise tracks the 50-year journey of surfing’s legendary Paskowitz family, led by their uncompromising, flawed father, Dorian.
In 1956, after years of insomnia and two failed marriages, Stanford graduate and physician Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz walked away from it all and embarked on an odyssey of self-discovery through surfing.
With his wife Juliette and their nine children stuffed into a 24-foot RV, Doc hunted waves on the beaches of Southern California, Hawaii, and Mexico and surfed relentlessly.
Surfing was life, the connection to god and universe.
This story is the true “Endless Summer."Surfwise is what HBO’s John from Cincinnati should have been. If creator David Milch had more closely modeled JfC after the Paskowitz story, the series might have developed a following. There’s enough drama, conflict and surf excitement in Surfwise for ten seasons.
Warning: after watching this film, you may want to just walk out your front door and never look back. Doc and Juliette rejected the trappings most of us believe we can’t live without – mortgages, car payments, bank relationships, phones. So disconnected, as Juliette observed, they weren’t running from the truant officers because no one knew they existed.
(It’s not entirely clear how Doc earned money much of the time. Later, the family established a surf camp which son Izzy still runs today.)
But the documentary is also cautionary tale. As the grown children reminisce, what unfolds is a more nuanced view of the price they paid for the radical liberation that on the surface seems so enticing. The deprivation makes for an interesting tale but the heart does go out to the children and their lost dreams.
Doc demanded adherence to a strict diet. His homegrown philosophy was a strange brew of Judaism, Jack LaLanne, and eating tips picked up by watching zoo animals. He became increasingly tyrannical as the sons especially began to chafe.
Doc defied convention with enormous conviction and courage and led his family into an idyllic hell.
Said Doc, "it’s easier to die when you have lived." Heaven and hell, they LIVED. And you have to wonder if all of Doc’s seemingly crazy talk about wild animal diets is right. He’s 85 years old and sharp as a tack, and so is Juliette. (He’s written a book called "Surfing and Health.")
It’s hard to walk away from this documentary not wanting to at least attempt a grand experiment, to try to improve upon the flawed path blazed by Doc.
(Unfortunately, Comcast subscribers will miss out on this compelling documentary because Comcast still doesn’t carry HDNet. sigh!)
NY Times, “Prescribing Surfboards for Peace," Doc Paskowitz opens up surfing for the Palestinians.
Surfwise hits the theatres on Friday, May 9, according to the very cool website for the flick.
A trailer for Surfwise: