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I’ve always dreamed of being a surfer. I’ve tried to ride the waves, but I don’t like saltwater in my eyes. I’ve even tried dating a surfer. When I heard of the movie Surfwise about the infamous Poskowitz family, I was excited to watch it and thought it might be fun to view with my daughter, until I noticed the R-rating. I wanted her perspective on what it would be like to not go to school and live in a camper, but there’s a lot of talk about sex in the movie.
Surfwise is the story of legendary surfer Dr. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and their nine children. Doc is a Stanford educated doctor who left his successful medical practice to chase the waves, towing along his 9 children (8 boys, 1 girl) in a 24 foot camper. The children slept like “puppies”, were raised on a strict natural diet of seven grain cereal, and surfed almost every day. As one of the children described, their life was like being on vacation all the time. Most children’s parents felt it was dangerous to swim with sharks and safer to go to school, but Doc felt the opposite about education. He felt that school was dangerous, and the sharks safe.
It all sounds rather idyllic, other than the crowded camper; however, Doc is a dictator jerk. He insisted on having sex every night in the camper with his children present, he beat his son for not surfing, and he demanded his wife breastfeed each child until they were two years old. I agree with long term breastfeeding, but instead of supporting his wife’s decision, Doc insisted this was how his children would be raised if that was how primates did it. There are some redeeming qualities about Doc, such as going to towns that hadn’t had a doctor in years for a job when money was needed and starting a surf school, but he left his children unprepared for the world and resentful of his domination.
I think I would get tired of living my life as a vacation, but for an 85-year-old Doc is in amazing health. He still surfs, does his calisthenics naked, and his family is reunited at the end of the film. I respect Doc for leaving the rat race behind and living his life for pleasure, but I do wonder about the consequences his family suffered. When one of his sons wanted to go to Stanford and follow in his father’s footsteps, he was told it would take him 10 years to catch up before he could be admitted. He gave up on that dream. Another son Izzy started a surf school for autistic children, and each of Doc’s children seem mostly happy with their current lives. I still am amazed at the patience of his wife to live with such a domineering man in a 24 foot camper with 9 children! You got to love the waves to put up with that, and it does make for a good movie!