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Ride the Moving Mountain

Not the classic surfer dudes

Shark Park: The Heaviest Wave in California. There are no sharks in Shark Park, a surfing documentary in which the only killers are the killer waves in the title's park, which isn't even really a park. Imagine being in the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles off the coast of California on a medium-sized boat loaded with Jet-Skis and a bunch of guys whose idea of fun is riding a surfboard down the face of a wave that's, say, 20 to 25 feet high. If you're not of the surf world, the very idea is probably as terrifying as an encounter with a great white. And yet, the dozen and a half or so men (and one woman) who put together an expedition to a reef in the Santa Barbara Channel in February of this year expended enormous amounts of time, money, and nerve for their Shark Park "picnic." Conditions have to be just so for the recently discovered monster wave to materialize, and the gang's research paid off. A crew of eight cameramen (including producer/director Greg Huglin) captured these daredevils gliding down wave after wave after wave — sometimes just skirting disaster at the edge of the cresting wall of water, sometimes taking a tumble in the churning, crashing mass. It doesn't take long to realize that these fellows aren't the classic surfer dude we're used to seeing — they tend to be older and more experienced, and it's hard to imagine them being satisfied by executing some fancy moves on four-foot waves before smoothly sailing onto a beach. These are towsurfers, dependent on wave runners who haul and release them onto the big waves, then retrieve them when the ride is up. Shark Park, which makes its world premiere here, is the last of the festival's three surfing documentaries, and despite a grating musical score, it's the best. It's also accompanied by the filmmaker's nifty four-and-a-half-minute short Shark Alley, an arty music video of sorts set in the waters off South Africa and featuring real sharks. (Friday, October 27, 10 p.m., at Cinema Paradiso; 43 minutes.) — Michael Mills

These reviews are part of our continuing coverage of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.


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