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Surf Gear Reviews

Thicker Than Water

Thicker Than Water

Still One Of The Best
Still One Of The Best

Thicker Than Water
Directed and produced by Chris Malloy
Directed/Filmed/Scored by Jack Johnson
Directed/Edited by Emmett Malloy

Sweet as a nut.

Thicker Than Water is a classic, and definitely belongs in any self-respecting surf video collection. TTW focuses on the element of the family and friendship involved in surfing—whether you’re stuck together on a boat in the middle of nowhere, or you opt to surf your home break with friends instead of go on yet another fancy boat trip. Voice-overs of surfers nostalgically recalling their first waves and first cutbacks are enough to bring a tear to your eye.

There’s a fun section where a number of different surfers all try to use this green singlefin board. It’s a great comparison of styles and approaches to surfing. Of course Slater puts it through moves like it’s the most cutting edge hi-performance board on the market.

I wasn’t too sure about the random New York City section, but it doesn’t hurt the film. Being from New York I was disappointed they didn’t show some shots of New York surfing!

Surfing: All shortboarding here, but it’s good. Nothing breakthrough—no 360 loop-de-loop aerials or anything, but good clean shortboarding. Surfers aren’t named—you’ll probably recognize a few faces. The beginning of the movie features a tiny Jon Jon Florence.

Waves/Locations: Good mix of “local” breaks and perfect Indonesian tubes. Cold and windy Ireland, California, Indo. Most spots are not named.

Music: Thicker Than Water offers an excellent mix of ethnically inspired folk, techno, soul, bluegrass, vocal and instrumental. Some songs are a little repetitive, but most of the tracks are instant hits. There’s even a chain-gang song on here. Make sure to purchase the special edition that comes with the soundtrack CD. I especially liked the African type spiritual chant that accompanied the T’eaupoo section.

Editing: One of the most well edited movies out there. Synched up with the music expertly, the wave sections are excellent: never too quick or too long.

Cinematography: Done entirely in 16mm (yeah!), Thicker Than Water offers a good mix of land and water photography. Most shots are very crisp and colorful. The film doesn’t slo-mo you to death either—there are some sections where the surfers are going so fast it almost seems the film was sped up. The framing is always very tight, and I wish there were more wide perspectives. Very artistic shots of kids jumping off bridges, Kelly Slater building a guitar, Irish castles and pubs, thunderstorms, crowded Indonesian streets, etc.

Extras: Great extra clips – some great cinematography and surf clips, and some great songs. I loved “Carnival.”
Jack Johnson’s “Holes to Heaven” song with accompanying video was great. I wish they played this on MTV. You’d probably never know Holes to Heaven was a song about surf travel unless you saw this. All the lyrics are illustrated with some great cinematography into a little narrative.
The feature commentary is worth the price alone…it’s like having a second movie with all the interesting tidbits they talk about.

Thicker Than Water: 5 out of 5

Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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13 years ago

The chant that you mention is actually a Tahitian piece entitled “Ei Reka E” by the Tahitian Choir

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