Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Movie Night: Surfwise

Surfwise movie posterSurfwise follows the odyssey of legendary surfer Dr. Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz.

Doc, a Stanford trained successful doctor, turned his back on his profession to follow his dreams, taking his wife Juliette and their nine children - all of whom were "homeschooled" on the beaches of Southern California, Hawaii and Mexico - along for the ride. They surfed every day of their lives and adhered to a strict diet of only organic and/or raw foods with no sugar or fat.

This documentary, which opens in select theaters on May 9th, is reminiscent of the Christopher Mcandless story of Into the Wild - a man staying true to his dreams in spite of the pressure of society to conform.

Doc Paskowitz certainly paints a very intriguing picture of the alternative life he chose for himself and his family. By turns he seems both Messianic and maniacal. He ruled his roost with an iron hand and set the tone for what was and wasn't acceptable. Doc is quite a character: extremely engaging, smart and funny to watch. The film is peppered with a spirit of "I can't believe he just said that" voyeurism. Watching the octogenarian exercise naked gives you the solid sense that his lifelong exercise regimen has really paid off.

The interviews with the children (all now quite grown) are also contradictory in their ruminations of the glory days of living free while at the same time somewhat bitter for it. All of them seem to appreciate their unorthodox upbringing but are also resentful for having not been given the tools to operate in modern society. I would argue that the children were not exactly homeschooled, but rather no schooled. As they try to make their way in the world, they find that a lack of education (even informal) is to their detriment.

More troubling is that each of them has found a moderate amount of success either in the music or surfing world, but were ill-equipped to handle the impending fame and dubious about the monetary rewards that came with it. Having learned all their lives that money doesn't matter makes it difficult to accept it later.

Their story is extremely inspiring, but cautionary at the same time (do you sense a pattern here?). Watching this movie will make you want to sell all your worldly possessions and buy an RV, convert it to run on waste vegetable oil and travel the country, living from whim to whim. Just make sure you actually educate your kids in the process.

If you get the opportunity to watch this well-made documentary, I urge you to do so. It is time well spent. I can honestly say this is one of those movies that moved me in many different ways and has truly influenced the way I view my future and the lifestyle choices we will be making.


Connie said...

So cool. I've read about that family - the things you've just posted. I hadn't realized there was a movie coming out - yea one to look forward to.

But what I don't need is more encouragement to drop off the grid and give in to complete eccentricity!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound inspiring to me, just horrifying. Adults may do as they like, but no one has the right to actively deny their children (NINE of them?) the means to acquire the tools to function in society. No, I haven't seen it, but he sounds like an irresponsible, self-involved, and pathologically narcissistic.

katecontinued said...

I just watched the trailer and it made me think of that movie, Mosquito Coast. This could be a whole genre of patriarchal films where wife and kids follow the vision of dad. Yawn.

Show me one where mom (you reading this Crunchy?) has the vision and the world is awed and admiring. That would be worth the price of a ticket.

I live in a surf community so I have already emailed it to neighbors who will love it for the surfing lifestyle alone. Thanks

Alyclepal said...

Do you have any kind of brief guide to crunchiness for the newer crunchy family? Thanks:>

~plantain~ said...

Thanks Crunchy! Looks interesting.

I love documentaries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Crunchy, I've been viewing your blog for a couple of weeks now.

I watched "Into the Wild". It was a great story.

So, based upon that, you piqued my interest in Surfwise. Can't wait to watch it!

Thanks from Renton, WA -


Anonymous said...

Saw the trailer and thought it might be an interesting movie. THANK YOU for not confusing homeschooling, or unschooling, with what their family did with their kids ("no schooling"). We unschoolers suffer from much misunderstanding and it's nice to see a blogger who knows the difference between unschooling and just doing nothing.

Walking Green said...

I watched this over the weekend and it was fascinating! I am ready to sell everything as well--however, I would make sure that my kid has the tools he needs to survive in this world. I can't imagine not preparing him. I mean, as parents, we are supposed to prepare our children to face the world, but at the same time not let them grow up too fast. It's a fine line that wasn't walked.

No schooling? Definately not the way to go when you can unschool and your children come out well-prepared and for the ones I know who are unschooled (and homeschooled), well above the bell curve.

Anonymous said...

Moon Zappa's book Dharma Girl and her piece in the excellent anthology Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture both have a lot to say about the pluses and negatives of having a different skillset than most people.

Actually, I wish more people would read Wild Child, and My Life in Orange, and a bunch of other "I grew up in the counterculture" memoirs (including a bio of Louisa May Alcott that describes her childhood) before they make childraising decisions based on abstract theories. Kids often have a different experience than their parents think they have - and at the same time, they will likely not appreciate the bad things you don't do because they won't know what those would have been like.

Thanks for the rec, Crunchy. I'd never heard of this one and it soudns really good.

Kale for Sale said...

Terry Gross is broadcasting an interview with the Dad and some of the kids today. It's quite interesting and I was glad to have some background about the movie from you prior to listening to her program. I love documentaries too. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

two things to say:
1. I grew up like this, only there were three of us, and we didn't travel in our trailer, but went out to live in the woods (I'm not joking or making this up) and I'd have to agree with the quote I heard from one of the kids that was something like "It would have been okay if he was planning on keeping us in the trailer, but to expect us to leave and make our way in the world when we were not prepared to, it doesn't work"
2. One poster said "Show me one where mom (you reading this Crunchy?) has the vision and the world is awed and admiring. That would be worth the price of a ticket."
Well, I just watched the special edition DVD of Sound of Music, and there are parts about the actual Maria, and she sounds like she was the one who inspired and ran her family, although maybe not in a positive way!
Thanks for listening. I am very looking forward to seeing this film, since so many of the details are exactly like my childhood, and at the age of 30, I am still getting over some of the damage.
Please be careful what you do with your kids. Filter their contact with society, but don't block it. Community is a right that children have. It really can only lead to abuse even in the best meaning parents, to cut oneself off completely. The children deserve to know that they have someone to turn to if they don't want to trust the parent every time. They deserve a place in society. Sorry for going on, guess this trailer for the movie got me going...

Isle Dance said...

It is definitely possible to educate your children - even via the school systems - while living on the road. It was the best experience of my life while growing up. I've always wondered how families could possibly deny their children such amazing experiences...and wonder why (at least) every summer they don't partake. That's three whole months of annual adventure. How can one resist??

Isle Dance said...

P.S. There is no excuse for abuse. An abusive parent/personality is a completely different issue than where they set up camp.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Here's a link to the interview on Fresh Air on NPR that kaleforsale mentioned:

Growing Up In a Surfer Family, Wipeouts and All

Rechelle said...

Sounds to me like his life was just one long nervous breakdown suffered from the extremes of a medical career. I don't think he was tough enough to take it. Wus!

Too bad his kids had to deal with the aftermath.

I think the stupidest line I heard was "I demanded that they surf...and be good at it." Oh brother! How about demand they learn a foreign language and be good at it... or develop a cure for cancer and be good at it... or get along with people and be good at it... or make the world a better place and be good at it. What a self centered egocentric waste.