"Finding Aloha" marks a cinematic convergence of body and mind. It contains dynamic action footage, some of the most stunning ever to appear on film, but it is also a testament to the human spirit. Armed with both qualities - physical prowess and a gentle heart - these adventurous athletes find the key to harmony in the Hawaiian islands. They discover, and nurture, aloha.
As the film depicts, aloha can be a simple barbecue on a Hawaiian beach, graced by laughter, generosity and a visitor's respect. It comes easily to anyone who spends a lifetime sharing, giving and raising a family. It forever evades the rude, the insensitive and the arrogant. Countless water-sports athletes, particularly surfers, have gone to Hawaii with a warrior's mentality. Knowing the best spots are crowded and fiercely protected, they try to barge in, impose their will, take what is not rightfully theirs. They will find no aloha. Aloha has its roots in patience and understanding, a feeling that there's always another wave, that it might be more worthwhile to make a few friends along the way.
Dan Moore knows the feeling of aloha. He moved from the East Coast to Hawaii in 1974 and never looked back. Inherently humble and not at all concerned with publicity or notoriety, Moore launched a career of big-wave surfing --usually far at sea, on the North Shore's outer reefs - that has placed him among the sport's elite. He came upon such recognition honestly, at a measured pace. Nobody seemed to hear much about Dan beyond his craft as a cabinetmaker. But Hawaii's hard-core surfers knew that whenever the surf got big, to the point of being uncontrollable, Moore was out there trying to meet the challenge. Under more ordinary circumstances, you could find him kite surfing, wakeboarding, parasailing or snowboarding. Director Philip Waller, who also narrates the film, takes us on his journey through Moore's world. He sees a brand of paradise that has always existed but is known only to those with a sense of aloha. We meet Mark Anderson, for years an underground legend on Maui and now Moore's tow-in surfing partner at "Jaws," the fabled spot representing the sport's ultimate test. As these two veterans tow each other into waves up to 70 feet high, we're treated to awesome, slow-motion footage of both triumph and disaster.
We meet Vetea David, the Tahitian surfer whose spirit and generosity has always captured the spirit of aloha, and Layne Beachley, the wise and good-humored master of women's surfing. We catch glimpses of Laird Hamilton, whose tow-surfing ability has long set the standard. We get a mind-boggling glimpse into the thrilling, all-too-brief life of Jimmy Hall, a longtime friend of Moore's and a man for whom the term ¿daredevilî seemed inadequate. As we watch Hall fly through the air (as a ground-breaking paraglider) or descend to the depths (to interact with sharks), we learn that his attitude - his incredibly giving spirit - was really his essence.
In the end, the viewer may wish he knew more about Dan Moore and his friends, on a personal level. In due time, perhaps. Their lives are built around the quiet pursuit of excellence, and as such, they share with us a visual experience. It becomes evident that they represent maturity, belief and self-esteem, and that they have long been accepted by the Hawaiian community. Philip Waller says he hasn't been quite the same since home from Hawaii. He leaves the unmistakable impression that he did, indeed, find aloha.
Written by Bruce Jenkins