Hawaii documentary featuring world’s biggest waves, and their surfers, screening at Waimea Ocean Film Festival

  • The film "White Rhino" is screening this week on the Big Island as part of the Waimea Ocean Film Festival. (White Rhino/Courtesy Photo)

KAILUA-KONA — As a surfer in Hawaii, filmmaker Brent Storm knows the rarity of finding the perfect wave.

“It’s like unicorns and white rhinos,” Storm said. “You’ll never see something like that again, and if you do, you’re lucky. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime wave.”

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Those rare types of monster waves in the South Pacific were captured by world-renowned photographer Brian Bielmann during his 40-year career, and the story behind the photos are told through the eyes of Bielmann and the surfers who caught those waves in Storm’s documentary “White Rhino.”

The film makes its Big Island premiere at the Waimea Ocean Film Festival this week, one film among many at the festival celebrating the big blue expanse that surrounds Hawaii. Storm is a resident of the North Shore on Oahu, and all the interviews of the film’s surfers were filmed on the North Shore as well.

Storm and Bielmann met in Haleiwa on Oahu at the HIC Pro three years ago, where the two brainstormed the idea of interviewing the surfers Bielmann had captured throughout his career. The original concept for the interviews was to release them in two-to three-minute clips online, but Storm felt the duo had something more.

“After we finished the interview process, I went to Brian and said, ‘Hey man, we’ve got a way bigger story to tell then just these three-minute clips. I think it would be a waste if we just took all these great interviews and put it toward a three minute video,’” Storm said. “I thought we should do a full feature documentary about their stories and these epic swells he went to, and that’s how it all began.”

Storm said the film wouldn’t have been the same without Bielmann and his history and relationship with the surfers.

“The surfers were just so candid with Brian, they have such a great relationship and rapport with him,” Storm said. “We definitely drew different emotions out of the guys that I don’t think we would have got out of a huge production.”

Storm, who’s main gig at the time of meeting Bielmann was wedding cinematography, was looking to flex his creative muscles and do something more with his talents behind a camera. “White Rhino” is his first feature film, and as a surfer himself, the subject was a perfect fit.

“I was actually searching to do something with surfing, because surfing is my overall passion,” Storm said. “And I’ve watched every surf film. I’ve seen them all.”

What makes “White Rhino” different from other surfing films, according to Storm, is the involvement of producer Randy Olson, who helped with the film’s story structure.

“He helped us structure the story line behind it,” Storm said. “I’ve watched a lot of surf films where it’s a lot of surf clips with music, but there’s no story behind it.”

Storm grew up in Canada, where he was a professional snowboarder. After an injury that kept him off the slopes, he turned to surfing in Northern California. The feeling of being on the water alone with the ocean kept Storm hooked, and led him to moving to the North Shore.

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“The moment I started to learn to surf, as soon as I stood up, snowboarding didn’t exist anymore in my eyes,” Storm said. “It’s just the feeling, the first time you actually ride a wave, catch a wave. It’s so hard to explain, but everybody that does it gets that same sort of bug.”

Info: To see the complete schedule of the Waimea Ocean Film Festival, including screenings of “White Rhino,” visit waimeaoceanfilm.org. The festival started Tuesday and runs through Jan. 9 at venues in Waimea, Waikoloa and at the Four Seasons Hualalai.

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