ICON-oclast

posted by / News / July 31, 2008

Surfing royalty – or royal asshole? Fierce leader and forward-thinking philosopher – or control-freak father? Insanely ahead of his time — or just plain insane? These are the questions that course through Surfwise, the 2007 documentary on Dr. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and nine children: David, Jonathan, Abraham, Israel, Moses, Adam, Daniel, Joshua and Navah. Often lauded as the ultimate surf family, Doc raised the whole brood on the road in a 24-foot camper, keeping them out of the classroom and in the lineup, seeking an existence full of healthy living and free of worldly possessions —all decades before homeschooled amateurs, the “Drive Thru” Series, David Koresh and Richard Simmons.

Directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Doug Pray, Surfwise moves from hilarious to heartbreaking as the kids remember their upbringing as both an endless summer camp of adventure and a philosophical prison. And as they grow into adulthood, it strips bare Doc’s world — and worldview. (Not bad for a film that Paskowitz didn’t want to make and still refuses to see.) As the DVD hits stores this week, more people than ever will get a peek inside the RV and all the ups-and-downs of this living experiment: the thriving, the starving; the loving, the fighting; the endless cursing and the ridiculously blunt one-liners. (“We all had scrupulously clean assholes.”) And with each new viewer, another member of society stands ready to cast judgment. Yet, for all the potential fallout, Doc says nothing can force him to watch the film or worry about the response. Proof that in a world of bad-ass rebel stars making their own surf vids and companies carefully crafting their anti-establishment image, this 87-year-old longboarder remains surfing’s reigning “I don’t give a shit” icon of non-conformity. – Matt Walker

SURFING MAGAZINE.COM: How did the film come about?

DORIAN PASKOWITZ: Well, Doug Pray read my book, [Surfing and Health,] and went to my son Jonathon. He said, “I think your dad is an interesting character for a documentary.” And Jonathon said, “You’re right.” So I come out of the water at San Onofre one day and this guy says, “Hey, I’d like to make a movie about your life.” And I said, “F–k off.” I was very upset by it. I told him I didn’t want anything to do with it. And then my wife and Jonathon kept after me — saying this would be a wonderful chronicle of our family and so forth. But I still really, truly object to it. I’ve never seen the movie. And I don’t intend to see the movie. But I basically worked my ass off for four years with these guys because I felt like if I was gonna do it, I was gonna go for broke.

Well, you definitely put yourself out there. Do you have any sense of how it came out and how it portrayed you? If it was a negative, or positive – or even accurate . . .

I don’t give a damn how it portrayed me. I don’t care! [laughs] I don’t care what they say. Dr. Bill Rosenblatt called me this morning from New Jersey and said, “We showed your film. Some people thought it was very interesting, some people thought, ‘What?! This guy’s an asshole!’” And I said, “Wonderful!”

What about the rest of it the family?

They love it. My wife’s seen it five times. So as long as they like it, I’m happy.

I’m surprised there weren’t more mixed {{{reviews}}} with nine kids. And the film does paint you as a somewhat controlling figure. Some say they wish they’d gone to school, and you even reflect at some point and say “I made some mistakes’ . . .

Do they make it that equivocal!? I never intended to send the kids to school. Ever. I wanted them to surf. They can go to school now; they’re 50 years old. But they can’t do the things they did when they were surfing. When they were the last ones out at big Pipeline or when Israel won the championship in Australia. They can’t do that now.

And a lot the control in conventional families is in order to press the child into behavior that’s consistent with the conventions themselves. I pressured them that if you go near the blowhole when the rocks are wet beneath your feet, you are gonna get knocked on your ass.

But can you see how some might say raising those kids under your unorthodox life philosophy was selfish because it wasn’t putting the kids first?

That? That was very simple: it was a way of life. There was no philosophy behind it. No plan. No template – like the belly of the board is six inches behind the midline. There was just my wife and I did a lot of f–king and we had a lot of kids. And once we had them, we wanted them around us. All the time. That was my job: to raise the puppies. When they became dogs, I don’t think I was as good a leader as I was at raising puppies. Because to raise children, God, nature, The Force – whatever you call it – gives us the where-with-all to do it. Just being with them, having fun with them, living with them, feeding them — nature fixes it so if we just do that we’ll have normal, healthy wondrous offspring who will in turn have normal healthy wondrous offspring. To raise children you have to be a great father; to raise adults you have to be great man. And I’m not a great man. So the mistakes that I made are the mistakes I made as the children grew up, from 14 on.


The Paskowitz family circa 1976

That’s largely when the friction comes in the film — adulthood. But at the end of the movie, they get all 11 of you together for the first time in 10 years. Do you think doing the movie ended up being a wise choice in that sense?

Yes. And [that meeting] was kind of a contrivance that [the producers] set up as a way of bringing the movie closure, but it actually accomplished in real life what they tried to contrive as a storyline. As a matter of fact, right now, we are all very close together and all the little nuances of hostility and regret have all vanished. And it’s really just wonderful to see that.

Without seeing the film, what do you hope people bring away from it?

Well, mommy says there’s a bit of my philosophy of trying to save lives by teaching people what health is, and that they even mention the book. That’s all I care about.

That’s it?

Yes! Listen. I’ve had many things given to me. It’s my job in every one of those things, including my medical profession, to give back as much as I’ve been given. Now I was a piss poor doctor, but I was passionately in love with health. And I said, I need to sit down and write a book so everyone can know this wisdom I’ve been able to garner from ordinary people and extraordinary people.

If I were out surfing and a guy lost his board and was drowning and I didn’t pick him up ,I’d feel like shit. Well, I wrote a book that saves lives. I wrote a book that can help surfers be outstanding surfers at 50, 60 years of age. I wrote the book for fat people to get skinny. I wrote the book to make people have 25% better sex life, have 25% more compassion and spiritually, to make 25% more money. For people to extend their life expectancy, all by what they do consciously — not by some roll of the dice. In other words, the book is about health, which is more than not being sick and more than just being fit; it’s a superior state of well being that has to be come by every single day through diet, exercise, rest, recreation, and attitudes of mind. There’s the formula right there. And surfing has been the sort of … the domain from which all of the energies and soulfulness and spirit and the basic wisdom has come. And if surfers can catch onto that, they can surf into their 80s.

I went surfing yesterday — I went surfing yesterday in spite of the fact my heart leaks so much I can’t sleep lying down. But I’m still healthy. Does that sound like a paradox? Well, the stories in that book are what got Doug Pray wanting to make the film to begin with.

So saying that, is there anything that will make you watch the movie to see how those ideas and stories came off?

No.

Jonathan and Juliette couldn’t even pester you into it, the same way they got you to make it?

No, no, no. I don’t’ have any objections to [other people watching it]. I don’t have any objections to anything that makes someone happy. But me watching the movie? That’s just a pain in the ass to me. But it’s not a pain in the ass to talk to you about it. That stokes me. Or to talk to that young boy Marzo and say, “Kelly Slater says you are the most talented young surfer he’s seen in his life” — that stokes me. Or today I went down to Salt Creek and watched the kids run down the hill to paddle out – God, they’re such passionate surfers at Salt Creek. That stokes me. All of that stokes me. But the movie? The movie is for you.

For more on the movie go to www.SurfwiseFilm.com and for more on Doc’s book, “Surfing and Health” — the philosophy behind the film — go to www.AlohaDoc.com

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