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'North Shore' (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 14, 1987

Ifyou don't know a kahlua from a kahuna, don't go near "North Shore," a sports drama set on surfin' turf in awesome Oahu, Hawaii. Only cognoscenti of things wet and wild could conceivably enjoy this B movie about an Arizona wave pool champion who comes of age by riding on water.

Matt Adler stars as 18-year-old mainlander Rick Kane, who spends his summer, which seems endless by the way, perfecting his surfing style. Gregory Harrison, Dr. Gonzo on TV's "Trapper John, M.D.," plays his mentor Chandler, a '60s "soul surfer" who abhors the '80s "shredders," hot-doggers who ski the sea. "A pure surfer goes with the wave," he says to his disciple, who must ultimately decide between surfer zen and surfer macho.

A balanced sort, he blends both styles as a contestant in the 15th annual Pipeline Classic, the surfer's Indy 500. Though disdained as a "bathtub surfer" by the locals and abandoned by his mentor ("Go ahead, go shred."), Rick gains support from a winsome wahine Kiani (Nia Peeples). Kiani and Rick become an item, angering her cranky, racist cousins, members of a native Hawaiian surfing club called the Hui (pronounced hooey, which also happens to be a perfect description for this movie).

Rickchallenges his nemesis, the surfing snot Lance Burkhart (Laird Hamilton), and many other big swells in the Pipeline, aboard an old-fashioned board shaped by Chandler. And is he ever "aggro" (aggressive) with those gigantic curls. It's all caught by the cameras, thousands of feet of fancy footwork featuring such real shredders as Australians Mark Occhilupo and Robbie Page, noted for "the sheer radicalness of their maneuvers." The pair also have speaking parts, but it is virtually impossible to understand them as they speak Australian. The same goes for the Hui pidgin.

It's not words but action that counts in this story cowritten by producer Randal Kleiser of "Grandview U.S.A." fame and director William Phelps, who made "Wave Warriors," the most popular surfing video of 1986. They probably should have shredded the script as well as the waves, but one actor, John Philbin, does overcome it with an endearing comic performance as a surfboard sander named Turtle, who befriends Rick and teaches him the island ways, especially the Hawaiian hand signal for hang loose. Nobody says "surf's up" anymore.

"North Shore" is rated PG-13 for the bikinis.

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