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Besom Productions

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Genre: Feature Documentary
Director: Joel Conroy (Inís Films Ltd.) [please note there is a fada over Inís]
Producer: Margo Harkin (Besom Productions Ltd)
Director of Photography: Daniel Trapp
Writers: Lauren Davies & Joel Conroy
Surfer Cast: Richard Fitzgerald, Gabe Davies, Kevin Naughton, Chris, Keith & Dan Malloy, Kelly Slater, Rabbit Kekai
Co Production: Besom Productions and Inís Films Ltd.
World Premiere: 22 Feb 2008 at 8.30pm at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Cineworld, Parnell St. Dublin. Screened at Galway Film Fleadh 11 July 2008
NI /UK Premiere: 19 April 2008 at 4.30pm at 8th Jameson Belfast Film Festival, Storm Cinemas, Odyssey Arena
US Premiere: 28 January 2009 at 7.30pm in Arlington Theatre Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Irish & UK Cinema Release: 3 April 2009 – Element Pictures Distribution, selected national cinemas including The Lighthouse, Dublin
Australia Premiere: St Kilda Open-Air Cinema on 25 February 2010 and at Bondi Beach Open-Air on Wednesday 4 March.
First TV Transmission: BBCNI screened a 1 hour N Ireland oriented version on 10 May 2010
Financiers: The film was financed by Bord Scannán na hÉireann/ The Irish Film Board, Northern Ireland Screen, the European Union through the Interreg IIIA Programme managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the ICBAN Partnership, BBC Northern Ireland and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

`Waveriders' is the extraordinary, unknown story of Ireland's connection to surfing from its reinvention in Hawaii in the early 20th century to the rapid growth of big wave surfing in Ireland today.


`Waveriders' - the first feature documentary by Director Joel Conroy, won the Audience Award at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival following its première to a rapt audience on 22 February 2008. In a pre-screening introduction Festival Director Ghrainne Humphries informed film goers that she could have sold out the event many times over – such was in the interest in this spectacular film about surfing on the north-west coast of Ireland. It went on to win several other prestigious awards including the inaugural `George Morrison Feature Documentary Award' at the Irish Film & Television Awards, February 2009.

Featuring renowned Irish, British and American surfers – Richie Fitzgerald, Gabe Davies, Kelly Slater and the Malloy brothers, the film is the realisation of a long term ambition by Dublin based Joel who teamed up Derry Producer Margo Harkin to make a cross border production on the spectacular nature of surfing in Ireland.

The story unfolds through the inspirational and ultimately tragic history of Irish/Hawaiian legendary waterman, George Freeth, the son of an Irishman, who was responsible for the rebirth of this sport of Hawaiian kings in the early twentieth century. The epic journey travels full-circle from Hawaii to California and back to Irish shores following Freeth's wave of influence. The film reaches a spectacular climax when today's pioneers of big wave surfing conquer monster waves over fifty feet in the biggest swell ever to have been ridden off the Irish Atlantic coast; heralding the country's emergence as one of the world's top surf destinations.

Surfer Achievements as a result of the Big Wave filmed in `Waveriders'

For the final sequence in `Waveriders' UK Champion Gabriel Davies rode the biggest wave ever surfed in Ireland and the photograph of this event was nominated for the international Billabong XXL Big Wave of the Year Award (2008). For the same feat Gabe won the H3O UK Surfstock Award for catching the biggest wave of the year (2008).

Gabe Davies, Richie Fitzgerald, Duncan Scott and Al Mennie were nominated for the `Heavy Water' (Big Wave) category of the prestigious 37 Annual Surf Poll Awards for their achievement captured in the final sequence of `Waveriders'. These awards are regarded as acme of achievement among the world wide surfing fraternity.


Upon première at Jameson International Dublin Film Festival Feb 2009

The Irish Times (Ireland)
"The best Irish documentary on show - and possibly the best new Irish feature - was, however, Joel Conroy's cracking `Waveriders'. The surfing doc is now a genre in itself, and Conroy's overpowering picture deserves to take its place alongside earlier classics such as `Riding Giants' and `The Endless Summer'.` Waveriders' was a deserved winner of the festival's audience award." Review by Donald Clarke
February 2008


Empire Magazine (U.K.) Rating****
"Initially, Waveriders looks like surf porn, but quickly reveals itself to be the story of the sport's unlikely genesis, spurred on by an Irish/Hawaiian waterman called George Freeth, who made beautiful shapes on the water using what were basically giant coffin lids. He, like the rest of the remarkable cast in this equally remarkable documentary, is a cool exercise in grace under pressure". Review, May 2009.

Total Film (U.K.) Rating****
"This raw, heartfelt love-letter claims Ireland is the unlikely spiritual motherland of wave-riding… In 2007, a colossal storm churned up the biggest swell ever to hit Ireland –the footage of the tiny figures riding these ferocious 50ft monsters goes past awe-inspiring into something almost indefinable". Review by Jonathan Crocker April 2009

Sight & Sound (U.K.)
"A montage of freeze frames captures the 50-foot waves at their full, horrendous height. One can only breathe in and will them forward, faster, away from the hurtling mountain of water … It's a sensation most of us will never share, but we can thank the cast and crew of Waveriders for taking us as close as is comfortable". Review by Catherine Wheatley, April 2009.

Eye for The Film (U.K.) Rating ****
"…its contemplative indie styling … sets it apart from glossier American stablemates like `Riding Giants' and `Step Into Liquid'. The action scenes are visceral and heart-thumping; you can't help but be awestruck at the audaciousness and confidence of the surfers. The cinematography achieves some incredible feats, showing us the inside of monstrous barrel waves and breathtaking survey of Irish land and seascapes If anything could tempt you to a life immersed in saltwater, it's this film." Review by Emma Slawinski, 8th April 2009.

Hot Press Magazine: (Ireland|) Rating ****
"All the best Irish movies are documentaries… Waveriders is a stirring, brilliant look at the thriving surfing scene off the northwest coast. Within the confines of this meticulously researched work, this burgeoning sub-culture around Bundoran marks a sort of homecoming… Lesser mortals can stand back and marvel at Mr. Conroy's ability to find a strange uniquely grey poetry in the coldest, cloudiest skies". Review, Movies. April 2009.
And also from Hotpress `Best of the Fortnight' culture section: `One to See' Do not miss `Waveriders' a stirring, brilliant look at the thriving surfing scene off the northwest coast."

The Irish Times Rating ***
`Waveriders', dexterously photographed by Daniel Trapp, captures scenes of striking grace and beauty from shots of a dedicated trio entering the water before sunrise to the breathtaking final sequence in which four men ride the biggest swell ever surfed in Ireland. Review by Michael Dwyer 3 April 2009-07-14

The Sunday Tribune (Ireland) Rating ****
"…a superb and seamless Irish documentary about extreme surfing … The film is packed with poetry... Conroy, in a stupendous final reel, achieves something unexpected and transcendental: His images of surfers riding waves in the maw of a monstrous angry ocean will linger long in your mind. " Review by Paul Lynch, 5 February 2008

The Sunday Business Post (Ireland) Rating ****
"Waveriders, which won the IFTA award for best documentary earlier this year, is an impressive, visceral film which stands proudly with classics of the genre, such as Riding Giants and Big Tuesday. The spectacular attraction is brilliantly captured by Daniel Trapp, making the film one that deserves to be seen on the big screen". Review by John Maguire, 5th April 2009.

The Newsletter (Northern Ireland) Rating ****
"Waveriders has no business being as good as it actually is. Yet this film manages to be both informative and breathtaking in equal measure". Review by Phil Crossey, 3rd April 2009.

The Irish News (Northern Ireland) Rating ***
"Waveriders is a remarkable film….How the story of Freeth hasn't been told before is beyond me but to couple it with such great footage of big waves is something else." Review by AP Maginness 3 April 2009

The Sunday Mirror (U.K) Rating ***
"Exhilarating Irish surf documentary…impressively shot." Review by Mark Adams, Your Movies 29 March 2009

The Balcony weblog (Northern Ireland)
"A remarkable movie about surfing and the Irish American who popularised it George Freeth… The photography is truly stunning if not miraculous. It will, no doubt, do for surfing what Saturday Night Fever did for disco". Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Review from `A Publisher's Blog'. 20th April 2008.

"Waveriders deservedly picked up the audience award (at the Jameson Dublin Int. Film Festival), which comes as no surprise as this is one of the finest documentaries - or feature films - to come out of Ireland in recent memory…This has a better chance of finding a global audience than anything else to come out of this country in a long time. DVD release review by Mike Sheridan, August 2009

State Magazine (web review – Ireland)
"It's not difficult to see why Joel Conroy's … surfing documentary has won so many fans in the last year…a magnificently shot, brilliantly edited documentary." DVD release review by John Joe Worrell 4th September 2009

The Observer Newspaper (UK)
"There's a (similar) sense of natural awe … in Waveriders (2008, PG, Element) which reminds us that surfing is indeed the world's most cinematic sport." DVD review by Mark Kermode, film critic The Observer 30 August 2009

The Sun (Australia) ****
Awe-inspiring shots of swells around the Emerald Isle feature against a soundtrack of U2, The Undertones, Rory Gallagher and more. The film culminates with a team conquering a break that had never been surfed off County Clare. Watching them dwarfed by 50ft walls of water is nail-biting stuff. DVD review by David Lowe 11 September 2009


Sunday Herald Sun weblog (Northern Ireland)
"…surfing fans will be Impressed….This one is action packed, the highlight being the 60 foot swells the surfers had to face while in the Atlantic Ocean…"

Film Ink (Australia) ****
"Smartly made and visually stunning… Waveriders celebrates the role that the Emerald Isle has played in the sport's evolution." April 2010


Winner: Audience Award', Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2008

Winner: The Irish Film & Television George Morrison Feature Documentary Award' 14 Feb. 2009

Winner: `Best Documentary' Beloit International Film Festival 20 February 2009

Winner: : `Best Sports Documentary', Celtic Media Festival, Caernarvon 2009

Winner: `Outstanding Achievement in Action Sports Filmmaking' Newport Beach Film Festival, April 2009

Winner: Silver Sierra 'Award, Yosemite Film Festival, September 2009

Winner: `Best Documentary' 37th Annual Surfer Poll Awards, LA 15 September 2009

Shortlisted: `Grierson Awards' 2008

Nomination: Irish Film & Television Awards 2009 for `Best Sound'

Nomination: 37th Annual Surfer Poll Awards 2009 Heavy Water (Big Wave)

Waveriders The Film Link to ICBAN Article Inis Films

Domestic viewing copies available on DVD for £17 (inclusive of VAT) plus postage and packing. For Institutional rates and/or other teaching purposes, please contact Margo at