There are many different ways to drop off the grid, but few dropped off with such style and urgency as Dorian Paskowitz, the paterfamilias of what is lovingly and at times enviably described as the first family of surfing. It was an intensity in part born of his passionately felt engagement with history as a Jew, which took him from Stanford Medical School in the 1940s to button-down respectability in the 1950s and, thereafter, on the road and into the blue yonder with a devoted wife, nine children, a succession of battered campers and the surfboards that were by turns the family's cradles, playpens, lifelines and shields.
You meet Mr. Paskowitz, or Doc, straight away in the documentary "Surfwise," Doug Pray's wonderfully engaging look at love and family and the relentless pursuit of happiness, personal meaning and perfect waves. At least half the battle in the documentary is finding a worthy subject, and few live up to their screen time as easily as Doc, a born pitchman, part carny, part evangelical, who even in his 80s continues to spread the Paskowitz gospel (clean living, clean surfing) with fervor. It's Doc who revs up the story, opening the family's book of life while doing unclothed calisthenics in front of Mr. Pray's hovering camera. As he shares his philosophy and leathery skin, Doc doesn't earn your attention -- he commands it.
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