Big-wave surfing documentary made by Los Angeles filmmaker Stacy Peralta; released by Sony Pictures in 2004 to critical acclaim and medium-strong ticket sales.
Peralta—a top pro skateboarder in the 1970s, cofounder of the Powell-Peralta skateboard company, and a longtime surfer—made a splashy entry into general audience filmmaking with 2001's Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary about the rise and fall of the Santa Monica-based Zephyr skateboard team. Surfing played a big part in the formation of Zephyr, and the waveriding clips in Dogtown provide some of the films strongest moments. At the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, Dogtown won a Directing Award and the Audience Award for Best Documentary
Riding Giants, Peralta's follow-up, is a big-wave history as told through profile segments on Waimea Bay pioneer Greg Noll, Maverick's surfer Jeff Clark, and tow-in virtuoso Laird Hamilton. Like Dogtown, Giants has a first-rate soundtrack (David Bowie, Link Wray, Stray Cats, Pearl Jam, Moby, others), a wealth of archival footage, and interviews with dozens of the sport's key figures. Giants was the opening film at the 2004 Sundance Festival, and was introduced by Sundance founder Robert Redford.
Some reviewers commented on the movie's self-mythologizing air and the shallowness of the surfer profiles, but notices in general were good (the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called it "an essential document, on one of the world's most spectacular obsessions"), and it won an American Cinema Editor's award for best edited documentary film.
Riding Giants cost $2.6 million and earned just under $2.5 million at the box office in a five-month limited-release run. In 2005, Sports Illustrated gave it a spot on magazine's list of "Essential Sports DVDs."