Surfwise: A Film I Just Saw, and Suggest to You the Same.

Surfwise originally came to theaters and DVD last year (2008). It’s definitely worth seeing – even if you’ve never touched a surfboard.

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz leads the sort of life that the weak ridicule, the mediocre lament and only the strong will attain. At face-value it may come across as an observation of zealous pride and cult-like elitism. As Stanford cum laude Medical graduate and the head of Hawaii’s American Medical Association, Doc chose at the height of all worldly and societal comforts to leave it behind for a soul-searching odyssey that ultimately gave him a third wife, nine children and a lifestyle of controversy and admonishment. His vessel on this quest–the surfboard.

After first introducing the art of surfing to the shores of Israel, one of his journey’s first stops, he came to the conclusion that his sexual ineffectiveness precipitated the loss of his first two wives. From that epiphany he set forth on a crusade of sexual mastery, learning new techniques (one in particular he labels as “life-changing”) and developing a “male deficiency quotient” system to rate women that he encountered. Upon taking his highest reading at a 93, he chooses a young woman from California and after an incredibly short courtship he proposes to a gladly-accepting bride-to-be.

In as short a time as anatomy would allow his wife is with-child and stays in said condition or nursing for the next ten years. His initial decree to her is that he would not be outdone by any monkey (or other primate) and so if it breast fed for two years than he would expect her to follow suit. With the children falling into order, so begins the wild chapters of the film–the rearing years, all housed in one form or another of a 24 ft. RV.

A Paskowitz family portrait in front of the RV

A Paskowitz family portrait in front of the RV

Surfing, true to its definition, becomes the only constant platform guiding the family through life’s waves of change. All of the children are taught to surf and the eat healthy, surf clean-live clean mantra becomes their code. Docs rules are absolute and simple, a demand to surf and a demand to stick to the family program–fireworks ensue.

Because of their perpetual movement and wave-chasing, the Paskowitz children were never formally schooled and didn’t necessarily exist in the “system.” Doc’s intention was to teach them the difference between knowledge and wisdom, the latter being the greater in his philosophy and therefore set out to give the children as many experiences as possible, thereby forging wisdom. The now-grown children reflect on this, at first with a resentment and ultimately with a gratitude for the irreplaceable memories. It’s beyond me to say if their upbringing is a viable crutch for their difficulties in reaching certain goals. Ultimately they all leave the 24′ nest for their own pursuits, all seemingly quite successful (by society’s standards). Only one son has chosen to replicate his childhood with his on progeny.

Adding raw gems of wisdom to the film is Dorian; commenting on true health (as opposed to the absence of illness), the healing power of the sea, human nature and the conquering of strife. Even beyond his high-brow education, he is a brilliant man and has the sort of grounded self-understanding that few can experience–even through someone else. His methods are his, pure and uncompromising; any substitute would be likened to blasphemy of his very being.

Admiring their unorthodoxy is not really my intent, however I do agree with one of the son’s in that people spend entire lives working, acquiring assets and preparing to live their ideal lives when this man was simply able to let go of everything and seize it, that spiritual utopia. I acknowledge and respect Dorian as a romanticist and someone who taught his children essential principles, but as paramount gave them his passion. In many of my other articles I’ve mentioned life priorities and how we actually allocate resources towards them. I think this man loves his family and surfing, hence they harness the finite energies of his life.

To learn more about the Paskowitz Family through their Surf Camp website>


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