- 14 January 2010 | Surfing
Featuring nine-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, The Ultimate Wave follows a quest to find the perfect wave-riding experience. Filmed in Tahiti and among the islands of French Polynesia, the film showcases dramatic giant screen surfing action in a unique Pacific paradise.
Kelly Slater and a group of friends arrive in Tahiti. With their host, Tahitian surfer Raimana Van Bastolaer they will seek out the best waves breaking on the reef at the famed surf site Teahupo’o.
Kelly and Raimana share a passion for the waves, but different ideas about what surfing means: is it a modern competitive sport or an ancient Polynesian wave-riding art? Either way, if the right conditions arise, they hope to surf some unique giant barrels created by storm swells breaking atop the shallow reef.
As the surfer’s quest unfolds, the film explores the hidden forces at work shaping the waves and the islands that lie in their path. In stylized animated segments, the audience is propelled into the cosmos to discover the sources of a wave’s energy; and then back to Earth to witness the swirling dance of the atmosphere that will transfer energy deep into the ocean and shape a wave’s long journey across thousands of miles of open Pacific.
It’s not easy to predict the best surf and Raimana hopes his visitors will get what they’ve come for; in the meantime, he helps keep them entertained. Waiting for the big swells to arrive, the troop engage in breath-hold training, paddling an outrigger canoe and carving up the gentle surf. A local young surfer boy performs carless antics on a long board under Raimana’s supervision. At night around the fire, dancers evoke the ancient rites of the Polynesian culture.
In animation we witness as fiery volcanic mountains grow up from the depths of the sea to become lush, reef-ringed island chains. The blood of the seafaring people that first rode the waves still runs in the veins of modern islanders. Raimana reflects on the arrival of the ancient Polynesians by canoe across the Pacific.
On the reef we explore the fantastic marine life: turtles, fish and sharks. The interplay of island, reef and waves has shaped a habitat dense with nutrients and life.
Suddenly there is surf. It’s modest but the surfers are enjoying themselves spectacularly, launching and performing: Raimana with his paddle and classic long board, Kelly with his short board performing elegant flourishes and aerobatic leaps. There is great surfing action, but there are bigger waves on the way.
Clouds swirl ominously through the mountainous islands, through ancient sites and weather beaten homes. Around the reef lie the scattered wrecks of ships and even an old Catalina flying boat — waves and weather continuously reshape the island and its people.
On the sea surface, we witness in animation as a tiny wave is formed and absorbs energy, evolving into a giant on a chaotic, storm-driven sea. Waves can carry storm energy thousands of miles before colliding with land.
At Teahupo’o, the great waves arrive. On the reef, surfing play becomes surfing survival as Kelly Slater tackles some of the heaviest plunging breakers on the planet — speeding through thundering barrels as they collapse around him.
Onshore, Kelly and Raimana reflect on the risks, rewards and injuries — and the loss of friends to the hazard of the shallow reef. In the water, we see surfers wiping out and being swept under the wave. Bells toll ominously in an island church. On the rocky shore, Tahitian dancers interface with the spirits of the sea.
In a series of animation vignettes we see how the chaos of storm-driven waves resolves into ordered wave sets and how the energy of arriving swells becomes concentrated by the sea bottom, creating different kinds of breaking waves. Among the examples are the plunging breakers that surfers both prize and fear — including the unusually heavy breakers that arise at Teahupoo under just the right conditions.
Kelly and Raimana consider what makes a great surfing wave. In an extended surfing sequence showcasing Kelly and Raimana, we see the magic of high-performance surfing on modest breakers.
At the end of day, exhausted surfers climb out of the water to relax on the beach. At night, around the fire, the surfers celebrate great surfing with local musicians before departing the next day for distant shores and other waves.
In the final moments, Raimana muses that you don’t have to chase the perfect wave; if you are patient, it will come to you. He swims across the reef, through the waves — around him are dolphins and humpback whales and the wide Pacific.
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Source: Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D