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Originally published Friday, July 19, 2013 at 5:59 AM

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‘Storm Surfers 3D’: Catch the thrill of thunderous waves

A movie review of “Storm Surfers 3D,” an Australian documentary that follows two surfing veterans, Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones, during a big-wave season.

San Francisco Chronicle

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Storm Surfers 3D,’ a documentary directed by Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius. 95 minutes. Not rated. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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The development of the GoPro camera has revolutionized extreme-sports photography. But even so, the 3D images of extreme surfing in “Storm Surfers 3D” feels groundbreaking. Or is that wavebreaking?

Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius’ Australian documentary follows two surfing veterans during a big-wave season, mostly near Australia. The monster waves they crave are not near shore, but out in the open sea, and the result of violent weather systems.

Two pro surfers who became stars in the 1980s, Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones, employ meteorologist and surf forecaster Ben Matson to pinpoint where the big waves are likely to be, helicopter or boat out to the patch of sea (say, 100 miles or so from shore) and use Jet Skis to position themselves when the big waves break.

Cameras are attached to surfboards, Jet Skis, surfers, boats and helicopters to give the viewer an adrenaline rush of eye-popping images. That Carroll and Clarke-Jones are likable mates helps, too.

The force of waves can be life-threatening. At one point, Carroll is underwater for 45 seconds, unable to surface. Soon to turn 50 (and with three daughters), he calls it his closest near-death experience.

Whereas Carroll is a family man, Clarke-Jones, 45, is the free-spirited party dude. He’s been caught under­water, too. What’s he do?

“I imagine myself in a nightclub. I see all the pretty girls. After I’ve done some dancing and romancing, and looked at all the posters on the wall, it’s time to come up.”

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