Billabong Odyssey

    The opening shot of “”Billabong Odyssey”” may be the most beautiful and breathtaking big-wave shot ever filmed. The aerial follows big-wave master Mike Parsons as he releases his tow line, zooming out in slow motion as he drops in on a 50-plus-foot wave at the legendary Jaws break on Maui’s north shore. The shot, like the film itself, is simply surreal in its magnitude.

    In theaters Nov. 7, “”Billabong Odyssey”” is the product of the first half of a three-year project undertaken with, as the film’s title implies, more than a little help from a certain corporate sponsor. It is by veteran surfer, former editor of SURFING magazine, and San Diego State University alumnus Bill Sharp. The goal, as Sharp tells his team of big-wave riders early in the film: “”To scour the oceans of this globe to find the biggest waves that exist and go out and ride them.”” The project required a marriage of top athletes, sophisticated weather detection equipment, a fleet of tow-in and support vehicles, and, of course, a safety team, all of which are documented in the film.

    The production quality is high and the shots are amazing, likening “”Billabong Odyssey”” to another acclaimed surf documentary released this year, “”Step Into Liquid.”” However, unlike “”Liquid,”” “”Odyssey”” is less a narrative on the tao of surfing than a practical look at that which leads people to challenge 60-foot waves and the technology that allows them to do so. At every juncture, the sheer power of the ocean, magnificently captured by director Phillip Boston, is allowed to speak for itself.

    The Odyssey takes a team of surfers ‹ featuring Parsons, Brad Gerlach, Ken Bradshaw and safety officer Brian Keaulana ‹ around the world, from big-wave hot-spots Maverick¹s and Teahupo’o, Tahiti, to more obscure, sometimes un-surfed swells off of Australian, French and Spanish reefs. The team also hits the open-ocean waves of Cortes Bank, located 100 miles west of San Diego.

    “”Odyssey”” has the crossover appeal to draw surfers and Billabong-sporting posers alike to the theaters this month. No matter, everyone can appreciate the beauty of a 60-foot wave, especially when it¹s done with such justice on the big screen.

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