Cure for the Common Life

Your job is a prison, gas is expensive, you’re in debt, and both your house and your SUV aren’t worth the money you chuck at them. During times like these, it’s hard to see the merits of the American way of life. If you’re desperate for some escapism, check out Surfwise, the story of a man and his wife who, with nine children in tow, lived a utopian existence, free of material trappings and full of surfing.

A celebrated doctor and Stanford graduate, Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz upended his life after two devastating divorces and years of anxiety. Vowing to find a new standard of health and to avoid the trappings of wealth, he found his third wife, Juliette, and traveled the country in a 24-foot camper over several decades, surfing with his family. None of their children went to school, they never paid taxes, and they never stayed in one place for very long. The Paskowitz family rode the wave of surfing culture to stardom.

It’s a fascinating story, but the occasionally lazy film making gets in the way. I really wanted to know the meat of the story; how they made it work financially, the consequences of the unusual lifestyle and how the sons and daughter fare after life in the camper. The film touches on those questions, but it isn’t as satisfying as I was hoping for. Beneath the cacophony of the Paskowitz family wisdom ("Wash your asshole!" "Live like the animals live!" "Don’t be lazy!") there are a few really great moments, but at a lightning fast 93 minutes, I wish Doug Pray did a few more interviews.

The good news is, despite some problems, the film will leave you wanting to learn more. Desperate to look at life through a different lens? Give it a try, dude.

Opens Friday, June 20th, at Landmark Lagoon Cinema