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Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family (2008)

Juliette Paskowitz , David Paskowitz , Doug Pray  |  R |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Juliette Paskowitz, David Paskowitz, Jonathan Paskowitz, Abraham Paskowitz, Israel Paskowitz
  • Directors: Doug Pray
  • Writers: Doug Pray
  • Producers: Jonathan Paskowitz, Amir Feingold, Dana Merwin, Graydon Carter, Jason Kliot
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Magnolia
  • DVD Release Date: July 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00180R040
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,747 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Legendary surfer, Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, abandoned a successful medical practice to withdraw from the lifestyle of mainstream America. But unlike other American searchers such as Thoreau and Kerouac, Paskowitz took his wife and nine children along for the ride, all eleven of them living in a 24-foot camper. The family spent their days living by Doc's rules on health, fitness, sexuality, and above all surfing. The Paskowitzs' prove that America may be running out of frontiers, but it hasn't run out of frontiersmen.

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American history is filled with legendary characters who turned their backs on society, snubbing its conventions and opting for a simple, contemplative life. Like Thoreau. Kerouac. And.. Paskowitz? Well, actually, yeah. Surfwise, director Doug Pray’s 2007 documentary, tells the decidedly offbeat tale of Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz. Now in his mid-80s, the guy who calls himself "one of the few dumb Jewish doctors" was once on a big-time career track; a Stanford-educated physician, he was the head of the American Medical Association in Hawaii, an expert surfer, and a strong, handsome man who often donated his services and was asked to consider a run for governor of that state. But more than 50 years ago, Paskowitz and his third wife, Juliette (his previous marriages had failed due to his own "sexual ignorance"), essentially chucked it all for the sake of family, surfing, and precious little else. They had nine children, all but one of them boys, and the entire brood lived in a 24-foot camper, traveling constantly. Money? There was precious little of that (although years later the family generated some income by establishing a popular surf camp near San Diego). Food? They managed, with Paskowitz enforcing a strict organic regimen. School? "Education be damned," Doc said, and not one of the children ever attended classes regularly. To outsiders, it was an idyllic life; "we were not attached to the physical world at all," says one of the (now middle-aged) kids today. But the downside was deep. Crammed into their tiny space, the children watched and listened as their parents noisily made love every single night (not a great thing for the kids’ own later sex lives). Driven--and sometimes abused--by their ultra-controlling, narcissistic dad, they became excellent surfers but were ill-prepared for adult life when finally, in their 20s, some of them began to leave "home." Remarkably, they all seem relatively (so to speak) fine now, with real jobs in surfing, music, and the film business and a fairly clear perspective on their strange upbringing ("Don’t do anything a gorilla wouldn’t do" was one of Doc’s mantras). Extras include outtakes, commentary, surfing footage, and more. --Sam Graham

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
"Surfwise" is another fascinating feature-length documentary by filmmaker Doug Pray, who has made several amusing, enlightening films on pop-culture sub-groups such as the Seattle grunge scene ("Hype") and hip-hop DJ turntabulists ("Scratch").

In this new film he paints a one-third celebratory, two-thirds tragic portrait of the Paskowitz family, a once-legendary surfing clan whose patriarch, Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz dropped out of mainstream society in the late 1950s, to follow a near-absolute rejection of modern materialism. Paskowitz and his wife traveled anywhere on a whim for over a decade, surfing up and down the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of North America, surfing, having lots of sex and making lots of babies. In all, the Paskowitzes had nine children, eight boys and one girl, and raised them outside the confines of "straight" life. Instead of going to school, the children surfed, and were reared according to their father's bold, yet ill-defined personal ethic.

Although Doc's decision to drop out preceded the hippie movement by almost a decade, his family's journey intersected with the 1960s hippie-era rejection of cultural norms, and with the "Me Generation" self-absorption of the '70s. But while these larger cultural shifts were widespread, the choices of the Paskowitz family were much more far-reaching and severe than most of the counterculture types of the time. With no fixed income and a total abandonment of the American work ethic, the Paskowitzes were both legendary and tragic. As the children came of age, the strains of traveling together in a small camper intensified, and the family fragmented and fell apart.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
Anyone looking for a glorious ode to the surfing life should pause a moment before viewing this terrific documentary film about life in the Paskowitz family. Although surfing was the stated main focus of this highly unconventional family's life, it's not the center of the story that's revealed in the film. Kudos to the filmmakers, who peel back the layers of the story gradually until you gather the sense of the awfulness at the center. We see a life that on the face of it might appear appealing -- who hasn't at some time or other wished for a more 'authentic' life? What if we could slip the rules of the prevailing society? What if we weren't forced to be educated in institutional settings? This film and all the Paskowitz children, who thankfully are brave enough to speak of what they endured at the whims of two of the most narcissistic parents you'll ever meet, will give some answers to those questions. Abundant with archival footage that makes the past come alive, the film also gives us interviews with everyone in the family that will resonate with you for a long time after you view it. You may well be left with lots of questions after it's over, but one is very happy to see that the kids seem to have made good lives for themselves despite the bad models that were their parents. In any case, this is a film for anyone who loves good documentary filmmaking -- you don't have to know anything about surfing to appreciate this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
"Surfwise" chronicles the story of the "first family of surfing": Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and the 9 children whom they raised in a 24-foot camper, traveling up and down the west coast of the United States and Mexico, following the waves and Dorian's whims for more than 2 decades. Dorian Paskowitz was a respected public health doctor and president of the American Medical Association in Hawaii, before he left it all behind in 1956 to live a peripatetic life of poverty that revolved around surfing. He isolated his family from the outside world, raised his children in his strict lifestyle regimen, and taught them to surf. Many became accomplished competitive surfers, and in 1974 the family opened the Paskowitz Surf Camp in Mission Beach, CA.

Dorian Paskowitz was 84 years old when "Surfwise" was made and still very much a passionate and controlling man, and still surfing. His children are all grown and living very different lifestyles from the one in which they were raised. Director Doug Pray tries to construct a picture of what it was like to be a Paskowitz, living the ideals of a single-minded patriarch in a crowded camper, and what its lasting effects were through archival home movies and interviews with Dorian and Juliette Paskowitz and all 9 of their children -7 boys and 1 girl- and Dorian's siblings. We also get an impression of the family's iconic stature and influence on surfing culture through interviews with "The Surfer's Journal" founder Steve Pezman and some big names in competitive surfing.

The Paskowitz children talk about the benefits and disappointments of their itinerant, impoverished lifestyle, isolated from most of American culture.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making Waves with an Unconventional Lifestyle August 8, 2008
Format:DVD
SURFWISE is a fascinating documentary chronicling the unconventional lifestyle of "Doc" Poskowitz and his family. The latter includes spouse and some nine kids, who live a bohemian, itinerant, surf-centric lifestyle in a 24-foot camper van. No school for these kids! Nevertheless, they lived a somewhat regimented existence, one envied by kids who were more wealthy in material things.

All of the kids grew up with various "baggage" due to the unorthodox upbringing, and the father is a rather magnetic, charismatic character.

The cinematography here is great - you feel you are out in the ocean, in the surf, and can see how this aspect of nature would be seductive. SURFWISE raises questions about the tradeoffs involved in turning your back on the conventional path that society beckons you to follow - the good and bad features, the frayed nature of family ties, the family love that can (at least temporarily) transcend differences and childhood trauma.

Whether you endorse or abhor the lifestyle depicted in this documentary, SURFWISE is an excellent movie!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing life journey for this family....
Published 2 months ago by Elle
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed
Good camera work and editing.
The character of Mr. Paskowitz comes through nicely.
So does the special relationship with soul mate Juliette. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Avraham Melamed
5.0 out of 5 stars Of The Beaten Path
This was an inspiration to me. A doctor quits his job and gives up his house to go on the road with his 9 kids in a camper van. They surf and eat healthy. Read more
Published 6 months ago by matthew
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Documentary About A Fascinating Family
An interesting documentary about the Paskowitz family, their unconventional patriarch, and how surfing became an integral part of their lives. Read more
Published 6 months ago by D. Rudnick
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch with an open mind
Enjoyed watching this documentary about a man who was living his dream and his philosophy. Some segments are contain mature language.
Published 8 months ago by Sparqui66
4.0 out of 5 stars surfing movie
A very interesting documentary. About a family with 9 children traveling around the world. Their up and downs - family interactions, childhood stories.
Published 9 months ago by Janet S Blossman
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Movie
One of my all time favorite movies. It is so entertaining, i have watched it 4 times, and i still enjoy watching it. It has a little of everything. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ryan H. Less
3.0 out of 5 stars I had to watch this as a college assignment. It is not family...
I had to watch this as a college assignment. Though many things about this family were fascinating, there was quite a bit of unnecessary language. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Bryan K. Mcdonald
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
interesting portrait of this family - a reallly well done documentary that swept me into a different reality. Utterly fascinating and enjoyable.
Published 12 months ago by Rebecca Maden
3.0 out of 5 stars saw the movie ... now reading the book
Movie was great for the first half then horrible. Hopefully the book doesn't turn sour ... I'm not done with it yet. It's not a book that you can't wait to get back to. Read more
Published 13 months ago by julie
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