For such a clean-cut, mild-mannered and presumably intelligent guy, I believe Mike Parsons to be secretly, certifiably insane. You might also come to this perfectly rational conclusion after watching the little man from San Clemente continually defy physics, logic and common sense in the film Billabong Odyssey. Opening on November seventh, this big-wave, big-screen, big-budget documentary might just make Parsons, and alter-ego best friend Brad Gerlach, bona-fide stars. And they’re not the only ones. In this terribly clever piece of Billabong brand-marketing, the film’s jaw-dropping waves and iconoclastic crew might be destined for celebrity status too.
The Odyssey opens with one of the most brilliantly executed pieces of surf cinematography ever. Suffice it to say that this seagull’s-eye view of Mike Parsons towing in at Jaws is worth the price of admission alone. What follows is an informative and often staggering series of documentary vignettes. Brian Kealana’s harrowing personal watercraft training session at Washington’s Cape Disappointment is enough to make even Barney, Flea and Skindog get serious. The Cortes Bank coverage hinted at in Step Into Liquid is terrifyingly fleshed out with Gerlach declaring that being out there is “like walking on the moon.”
Please see below for a list of theaters showing BILLABONG ODYSSEY beginning this Friday, November 7.
- Aiea Pearlridge West (808) 483-5339
- Honolulu Ward Stadium 16 (808) 593-3000
- Kahului Maui Mall Megaplex (808) 871-6684
- Kaneohe Signature Windward Stadium 10 (808) 234-4000
- Oahu Signature Dole Cannery 18 (808) 526-3456
- Monterey Osio Plaza (831) 644-8171
- San Francisco UA Galaxy 4 (800) 326-3264 #523
- Santa Cruz Signature Santa Cruz Cinema 9 (831) 460-2599
- New York AMC Empire 25 (212) 398-3939
- Portland Regal Fox Tower 10 (800) 326-3264 #327
- Burbank AMC Media Center 8 (310) 289-4262
- Chatsworth Pacific Winnetka All Stadium 21 (818) 501-5121
- Covina AMC Covina 30 (626) 974-8600
- Foothill Ranch Regal Foothill Towne Center 22 (800) 326-3264 #135
- Hollywood AMC Hollywood Galaxy 6 (323) 957-9246
- Huntington Beach Edwards Charter Centre 5 (800) 326-3264 #139
- Irvine Edwards University 6 (800) 326-3264 #143
- Long Beach AMC Pine Square 16 (562) 435-4262
- Long Beach UA Marketplace 6 (800) 326-3264 #509
- Beverly Hills AMC Beverly Connection 6 (310) 659-5911
- Manhattan Beach Pacific Manhattan Village Mall (310) 640-1075
- Ontario AMC Ontario Mills 30 (909) 484-3000
- Orange AMC The Block 30 (714) 769-4262
- Pasadena Pacific Hastings (626) 351-7555
- San Diego AMC Palm Promenade 24 (858) 558-2262
- San Diego Pacific Gaslamp All Stadium 15 (619) 232-0400
- Ventura Buenaventura 6 (805) 658-6544
In a great exchange, Gerlach’s wild-child days are contrasted with the more temperate, earnest life of his competitive arch-rival Parsons, and then the pair reveal how they work so well together as tow-partners. You’ll also see the Mavericks crews’ bare asses while you laugh and share a brew with them and gawk at their bravery. Mad scientist Rush Randle gives flight lessons on his foil-board, and the film is interspersed with surprisingly educational vignettes on the how and why of swell-generation, bathymetry and what creates a big-wave spot. Layne Beachley tows into waves that should make you feel small, Ken Bradshaw tells how a Texas football hero ended up in Hawaii and Bill Sharp glibly declares that “we’re the Delta Force of surfing”.
The film also contains some never-seen footage of Teahupoo, and a Garrett McNamara wave that, on the big screen in particular, simply defies description. In fact, he gives Laird Hamilton’s legendary hell-ride a run for its money. And speaking of Laird, where the hell is the rest of the Jaws crew? While this film is a perfectly legitimate documentary without them, their absence should have them kicking their agents for bad advice.
While the film would have benefitted from more personal anecdotes from its stars, it’s a solid piece of work. On a five surfboard scale, I’d give this one a four, plus a kneeboard