COURTESY DON KING
A photographer in the surf captures Rob Machado riding the waves in Indonesia while shooting the film "Water Man," directed by Hawaii resident Don King, along with Sonny Miller and Jeff Hornbaker. The 55-minute movie screened at the outdoor Celestial Cinema during the Maui Film Festival last week.
Poetry in motion
Laird Hamilton stands out in an indelible film about life in search of the surf
WAILEA, Maui » It's not all about Laird. Indeed, Laird Hamilton, legendary surfer/god, stars in "Water Man," a poetic 55-minute film directed by Hawaii resident Don King with Sonny Miller and Jeff Hornbaker. But other elements add to the magnificence of the simple theme.
The movie premiered last week at the Maui Film Festival on the 50-foot-wide screen at the Outdoor Celestial Cinema to an enthusiastic -- and largely local -- crowd. It's uncertain whether it will screen in theaters on Oahu when its limited release begins Sept. 23, but it should. "Water Man" is one of those movies that combines the majesty of surfing with what it means to spend your life in the ocean.
True, it's difficult to watch anyone else when Hamilton is on the screen shirtless, as he usually is, but the different perspectives enrich the production. Also on the boat trip to Indonesia are legendary surfer Gerry Lopez, Dave Kalama, Rob Machado and brothers Chris, Keith and Dan Malloy. Together, they surf, ride stand-up boards, tow-in and hydrofoil in the Indian Ocean, sharing advice and philosophies with each other along the way.
COURTESY RANDALL MICHELSON
Surfer Dave Kalama, left, cinematographer Don King and surfer Chris Malloy join Thomas Steinhauer, general manager of the Four Seasons Resort Maui on the red carpet before the screening of their new surf documentary "Water Man."
Some of the most exquisite footage takes place when Hamilton -- wearing a custom-made body suit used by Olympic swimmers -- body surfs underwater for up to 100 yards with the suppleness of a ballet dancer.
"On the shooting side of things, we had five really great cinematographers," said Don King, an award-winning cinematographer himself. "Together we got amazing coverage of the surfing. We had angles from the helicopter, swimming, a small boat, a big boat and underwater."
The most challenging aspect, King said, came down to editing the footage shot over two weeks.
"There was so much good footage that it was hard to decide what story to tell, and how to tell that story," he said. "We went into the trip not having a definite story. We had an extraordinary group of surfers with an extraordinary history in surfing. We really wanted to get them together and see the chemistry between them and also hear what they had to say about surfing, and how that relates to life in general."
For surfer Chris Malloy, who traveled with his two brothers, the experience fulfilled a dream he thought might be unattainable. "About 10 or 12 years ago, I got to go to Indonesia with some of my heroes, and surf this wave that was the session of my life. I never thought I'd get it again. So to get invited on this trip with my favorite filmmakers and my favorite surfers, and the gear. ... and to get that wave (again) -- my favorite wave in the whole world -- was just beyond comprehension. To get put through the paces with these guys towing and foil-boarding was really humbling and memorable. It was the trip of a lifetime for us."
As Kalama said in the film, "If I'm dreaming, don't wake me up."