Skateboarder and filmmaker Stacy Peralta was a surfer before he ever attempted an ollie. His latest documentary -- "Riding Giants," which opens in Washington on July 16 -- chronicles the development of big-wave surfing.

The characters in your movie differentiated themselves from basketball players, football players. Why was that important to them?

You're talking about the '50s, a time of complete and total convention. These guys just said, "You know what, I don't want to do this anymore." [Greg] Noll was saying his principal just didn't understand why he wanted to drop off the football team. He goes, "I didn't care anymore about the letter to put on my sweater, I didn't want that. What I wanted to do was to hit the beach, score with as many girls as possible and go surfing."

They also said their parents couldn't come to the beach and see the score up on a scoreboard.

Exactly. You can't bring home a trophy or antlers, you can't hang something on the wall and say "I rode that wave today," because once that wave breaks if vanishes forever.

Were they competitive with each other?

Oh, hugely, hugely. I mean, that's how you got good. That's how you got better.

Kind of the same instinct that would motivate an athlete in the sports they were rejecting?

Except the thing is there was no parental supervision, there was no sanctioning body telling you how to do this, where to do it, to stay within these lines. Nobody to call a foul, no referees. And that's what they liked about it: They could create their own little moral sporting universe.

-- Dan Steinberg

PERALTA