A bit thin on plot, but an unequivocal technical tour de force, Storm Surfers 3D follows two middle-aged Australian buddies, former world surfing champ Tom Carroll and big-wave pioneer Ross Clarke-Jones over the course of a winter as they ride the big waves of the Southern Hemisphere.
With miniature 3-D cameras set up on the surfers’ bodies, boards and jet-skis, this extreme sport documentary offers a rare chance for the average landlubber to experience the thrill of riding inside the curl of a massive wave while staying dry.
This is the third film in the Storm Surfers series from co-directors Christopher Nelius and Justin McMillan, which have been shown on Discovery Channel (Asia) as well as theatrically in many countries.
The expeditions – involving charter boats, helicopters, a support crew and a “surf forecaster” – are assembled to create the movies.
The current film consists of a series of missions for big waves, near Tasmania, off the southern coast of Australia, and in the electrifying climactic sequence, at the previously unsurfed Turtle Dove Shoal, at the edge of the Indian Ocean.
That occasionally leaves something a little strained about the non-surfing scenes, although fortunately, neither character is a cookie-cutter surfer dude. The gung-ho Clarke-Jones, at 45, is an impulsive Bert to the cautious 49-year-old Carroll’s Ernie. Carroll, as the father of three daughters, admits he occasionally holds back on activities that could leave him maimed.
As much as there’s a dramatic story, it’s about Carroll’s loss of confidence after a couple of bad wipeouts, and his eventual victory over his fears.
Real personal access is limited. Nothing is revealed about the two men’s domestic arrangements, beyond brief appearances by Carroll’s nine-year-old daughter and Clarke-Jones’s adult son.
What Carroll’s brother says, and what we see on screen in their occasional Jackass-like stunts, is that they’re adolescents living in aging bodies on land. Out on the ocean, they can still fly like superheroes.