A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Surfwise" sounds, of course, like a surfing documentary. It contains surfers and surfing, all right, but in fact, it's about the strange and problematic Paskowitz family, "the first family of surfing." We meet Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz at 85 years old, doing exercises in the nude and then providing a full body inventory: arthritis, muscular degeneration, but nothing that keeps him from surfing. "And I don't take a single pill!" he boasts. This from a 1940s graduate of the Stanford Medical School.
Young Doctor Paskowitz was on a standard post-college career track, I guess, through two failed marriages. Then he sold everything, went on a quest for meaning, found that he loved surfing more than anything else, introduced the sport to Israel, and took a wife named Juliette, with whom he had eight sons and a daughter. These 11 people lived a nomadic life together in a 24-foot camper during the kids' formative years.
We see the campers -- there were three, all purchased used, all the same size. A little crowded for two people. Not for the Paskowitz family. As Doc drove from one surfing mecca to another, they crowded in the back, slept together "like puppies," had to listen to their parents make loud, energetic love every single night, ate a lot of gruel and organic soups, and had just about enough clothing to muster eight clothed children, but not always nine. There was nothing at all like formal education.
What are we to make of this existence? Doc sees himself a messiah of surfing, clean living and healthy exercise. We might be more inclined to see him as a narcissistic monster, ruling his big family with an iron fist. Sounds like fun, driving from one beach to another, unless you're crowded in the back of the camper with eight other kids and not much of a view. One son recalls the day he discovered other people had eggs for breakfast.