Sports docs are having quite a thing right now. From the giddy heights of hoop-shooting The Last Dance to the many iterations of Amazon’s All Or Nothing franchise, with plenty of cricket, ice hockey and Olympics docs thrown in for good measure. And now comes 100 Foot Wave, in some ways a sports piece about surfing, but also a series about nature, friendship, fear and death.
100 Foot Wave tells the story of Garrett McNamara, and his pursuit of riding the biggest… well, this much you know. The location for this dare-devilling is Nazaré in Portugal, which turns itself from sleepy fishing town to surfers’ paradise. The series is not just about the people involved in the crazy endeavour, but the reinvention of a place.
“The series is replete with images of the sea as a place of terrible beauty” according to James Jackson in The Times, who goes on to say that “big-wave surfing is presented here as a curious harmony of ego and respect; an extreme communion with Mother Nature.” Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times feels that the series delivers some refreshing subject matter. “If you are in the market for a docuseries that has nothing to do with crime or cults — well, there is a cult, briefly — this could be your wave.” Lloyd also refers to a “spirituality” in the series and thinks that “like most quest sagas — for a grail, for a whale — 100 Foot Wave is less about the object of the quest than the person questing. There is a touch of the oft-told tale of the aging warrior strapping on his armor, or inflatable survival suit, for one last battle.”
So often, multi-part documentaries can seem a stretch, but writing in The Guardian, Adrian Horton thinks the six episodes are justified here, “the series goes deep not just on the personal demons that partly fuel McNamara’s hunger for the biggest waves, but the symbiosis of the team that built and trained at Nazaré for years, largely under the radar.” It’s a series not just about the man on the board, but also the “jet ski drivers (who split the pot with a tow-in surfer), backup skis and cliff spotters, videographers, jet ski makers, restaurant owners and trainers.”First shown November 2021.