Annick praises the nuance of this documentary that follows a child handling a whole wave of pressures.
Most 16-year-old boys care about football, video games, maybe girls, but they are certainly not in the position to regularly make the choice of deliberately risking their life. Neither would they know about freediving breathing techniques, wave forecasts or self-inflating life jackets. Ben Larg is certainly not a regular 16-year-old. Having won the Under 18 Scottish Surfing championship and competed in the world surf championship in Japan for Under-18s, both at just 12 years old, Larg is an exceptional talent when it comes to surfing the big and bigger waves.
The documentary Ride the Wave, from director Martyn Robertson, was part of Glasgow Film Festival 2022 and shows four years of Larg’s life starting at the age of 12. Living with his family on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, Larg navigates his goals of becoming a great surfer and growing up. Larg’s life is far from an idyllic fairy tale: living on an island with a population of 650 means isolation; he faces bullying in school and struggles with self-confidence. His opportunities to surf in championships are weighed down by the question of how his family will afford such trips. Larg faces all these challenges while the camera unobtrusively shows him growing into himself and his abilities as a surfer. While the blond mop of hair on his head stays the same, his voice breaking over time sweetly shows the years passing during the filming.
The film is a tale of growing up, navigating danger and opportunity, as well as parental dilemmas. Both of Larg’s parents, Marti and Iona Larg, share their excitement onscreen about their son’s journey and the immense opportunities opening up for him, but they also express their worries and they watch their child surfing waves that show no mercy for mistakes. How far do you go? What do you allow your child to do? Iona Larg speaks to her strained enjoyment, for example watching from the cliffs, unable to provide any help except from providing the proper preparation before, as her son attempts massive waves in Mullaghmore, Ireland. “How can you encourage your child to do something and when they get to the point that they want to do this thing, can you pull them back? That wouldn’t be fair but equally that’s what I want to do sometimes”, she says, wondering at the same time: “But what will happen if he actually does surf it? What comes next?”The documentary manages to capture the monumentality of monster waves, towering over the small boyish figure of Ben Larg surfing them, isolated within the elements. There may be jet-skis to get you onto the wave, they will be there to try to get you again after – but there is nothing but yourself and the wall of water inside the wave in the crucial moments that dictate success or failure, luck or disaster. Ben´s biggest challenge so far of surfing waves as high as 30 feet is shown in all its magnitude, up to a point where the viewer feels like they are inside the wave, balancing and going with the flow fearlessly.