SURFWISE — *** — Documentary feature about the Paskowitz surfing family; rated R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, brief nudity, brief sex, brief drugs, slurs)

Watching "Surfwise," you can't help but feel a little envious of Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz.

After all, he is an 80-something who's still relatively healthy. And he's had the good fortune to spend about half of his life surfing some of the best waves around the world.

Of course, Doug Pray's documentary about surfing's so-called "First Family" makes you question his parental skills and feel sorry for his nine children — who were arguably the victims of abuse and neglect.

Actually, you have to credit Pray (1996's "Hype!") for choosing to portray the Paskowitz family warts and all. The resulting film may be a little glossy and scattered but is still watchable and surprisingly complex.

Pray begins by profiling the family patriarch, a well-regarded Stanford University graduate who essentially "dropped out" from society in the late 1950s with his third wife, Juliette.

Dorian began traveling around the United States in a camper, taking odd jobs here and there and adding children to his brood — eventually the couple stopped at eight sons and one daughter.

Given their bedouin-like, or Bohemian, manner of existence, the children wound up being unschooled, though their father insisted on physical fitness and daily surfing. Also, it should be noted that a couple of his sons wound up becoming champions in the sport.

The most fascinating parts of the movie explore how the Paskowitz children — who are now in their 30s and 40s — continue to adjust to a more "normal" lifestyle.

And there's some real unease in a sequence showing a family reunion that occurred some 10 years after the Paskowitzes drifted apart.

"Surfwise" is rated R for strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang terms and some pretty frank sex talk), some strong violent imagery (Holocaust photos and surfing violence), brief male nudity and nude artwork (some of it sexually suggestive), brief drug content (mostly references), and slurs based on sexual preference and ethnicity, as well as other derogatory language. Running time: 93 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com