Weekend Warm-Up: Liquid Lines, Entrancing Tunes, Mesmerizing Moments in ‘MALIA’

Surfing is an ancient sport — but I’m glad we’ve got contemporary equipment to document it.

MALIA, which documents Hawaiian surf badass Malia Manuel’s connection to the sport, forced that perspective on me right away.

The first few minutes are primal and deep, and they scared me as much as they entranced me. I actually gasped — yes, I really did — at some shots, and how cameras depicted Manuel interacting with her home coastline.

a woman swimming with a surfboard underwater

Photo: Screenshot


There’s the mesmeric, thrumming beat. (Sound very much “on” for this one.) Dark purples and roiling seas under heavy storms. Then Manuel, barreling perfect curler after perfect curler.

Each time a surf scene interjected, it bucked me a little. I’d gotten so homed in on an odd, connective sensation that measurable human activity seemed like an overlay — a blip.

a woman in silhouette beneath palms

Photo: screenshot


Then I’d get totally reeled in by Manuel, motionless on the board, as captured by steady-handed camera work.

a woman surfing in a barrel wave

Photo: Screenshot


“I carry within me four generations of love and connection to this island,” Manuel says in voiceover.

Ok, now that we’re done with the first three minutes, what about the other 12?

All I’m going to say is: see for yourself.

a woman swimming with whales

Photo: Screenshot


Researchers think some 400-year-old Hawaiian petroglyphs depict surfers. The engraved figures, which are up to five feet long, surface every several decades from receding sand on Oahu’s Waianae Coast. When they do, it becomes clear how close they are to well-known breaks.

If there’s a 2023 video equivalent to a surf petroglyph from half a millennium ago, this is it.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.