Waxheads would rather talk than fight about surfing’s major turning point in the well-researched but easygoing Oz docu “Going Vertical: The Short Board Revolution.” Veteran pundits from the U.S. and Australia both claim their key man invented the shortboard, which, in contrast with monolithic “Gidget”-era longboards, allowed talented surfers more control over wave riding. Awash in vintage and contempo surfing footage, entertaining digressions about ’60s counterculture and adventures of surfing’s trailblazers, the docu could take an easy trim to fit tube slots. Documentary fests will dive in.
With a distinct pro-Down Under slant, the film sets up the Australia-vs.-Hawaii divide over the origins of surfing’s most important development. Hawaii-based Dick Brewer chimes in first, but Australia’s main man, Bob McTavish, who has an obvious gift for gab, is given almost free reign. Pic is perhaps over-generous with surf imagery, but interviews assembled by political documaker David Bradbury (“Chile: hasta cuando?”) and the narrative structure provided by David Margan and Phil Jarratt’s text keeps “Going Vertical” from falling overboard. Lively graphics divide pic into bite-sized chapters, but the hypnotic footage of surfers young and old, as ever, transfixes.