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Like many American outsider-adventurers, Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz set out to realize a utopian dream. Abandoning a successful medical practice, he sought self-fulfillment by taking up the nomadic life of a surfer. But unlike other American searchers like Thoreau or Kerouac, Paskowitz took his wife and nine children along for the ride, all eleven of them living in a 24-foot camper. Together, they lived a life that would be unfathomable to most, but enviable to anyone who ever relinquished their dreams for a straight job. The Paskowitz Family proves that America may be running out of frontiers, but it hasn't run out of frontiersmen. Directed by Doug Pray (Scratch, Hype!).


Doc Paskowitz is never going to watch the movie that I spent six years making
about him and his family. He says it’s shameful to aggrandize oneself in the form
of a documentary, and that he really only did it for his wife, Juliette. He thinks that
his buddies Woody Brown and John Kelly, who are legendary surfers and “far
greater men,” deserve movies and maybe even statues. They both died just this
last year without statues, but Woody did get a movie made about him.

I’m actually relieved that I don’t have to see or hear Doc’s reaction to the
damning quotes about his extreme behavior that his nine, now-grown children
gave me, and I don’t want to hear him berate me for not focusing more on what a
great opera singer his wife Juliette was when he met her. She was and I should
have. But it is annoying to me that he doesn’t understand anything about the
movie I actually did make. He’ll never know that it’s not an undeserved tribute
film, or a cruel assault on his life’s mission. Or is it? You can be the judge.

With Surfwise, I’ve learned that making movies about real people who are still
alive, and have a legacy, is a catch-22. If I pull my punches, I get “village of the
happy people,” and nobody watches it. I mean, tribute films are awful. If they
weren’t, I’d have built a big pedestal out of long boards and had Doc mount it.
But on the other hand, what kind of twisted motivation would I possess to spend
years making a film simply to devastate Doc’s legacy and bring him down?
Maybe if he were a dictator or a spammer, but this is a doctor who’s never taken
money from sick people, who’s taught thousands of kids how to surf, and whose
life’s ambition is simply trying to inspire people to live healthily. Or was he a
dictator? You tell me. I know he doesn’t spam...

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve had enough of trying to negotiate the waters
and figure out the legacy of surfing’s best-known family. I honor them deeply for
allowing me to tell their story and for being so outrageous, entertaining, and even
loving along the way, but I’ll never get Doc to embrace or respect the movie, and
I’m done trying.

This letter I’m writing to you is essentially a hand-off. I’m at that blissful turning
point, when a film is just beginning distribution and its entire history (the making
of the film) is behind me, and its future (the viewing and reaction to the film) lies
ahead. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change it, which is wonderful.
The legacy of the Paskowitz family is now in your hands. Enjoy.