When you see a surfer in a movie, you know he'll do three things: say ''dude'' a lot, smear zinc oxide on his nose, and get stoned. Documentarian Stacy Peralta (''Dogtown and Z-Boys'') was determined to disprove this generalization with his comprehensive, adrenaline-stoked history of surfing. ''Most films have portrayed surfers as goofy comic-book archetypes,'' says Peralta, a lifelong surfer. ''In my opinion, these guys are iconoclasts, and they've been bitten by something so strong that they've decided to center their lives around it. I wanted to show what that draw is.''
To begin his time line, Peralta tracked down the original California hangers of 10 who ventured to Hawaii in the '50s, discovering waves far bigger than their boards had ever known, and who eventually spawned America's surfing craze. Fortunately for Peralta, these tide-blazing pioneers battling Hawaii's liquid landslides had obsessively filmed their own adventures, and he uses these kicky clips in ''Giants.'' ''They weren't filming themselves because they were aware of the significance of what they were doing,'' says the director. ''They were just doing it so they could show people at home, 'Look what's going on over here, you gotta join us!''' Quiksilver surfwear, which cofinanced ''Giants,'' undoubtedly hopes this 50-year-old footage will help send the same hypnotic message to young potential surfers.
THE GOOD NEWS With ''Dogtown,'' Peralta proved he can make extreme sports interesting to even the lumpiest of couch potatoes.
THE BAD NEWS The image of Jeff Spicoli may be too enduring to convince many that the idea of surfer as riveting iconoclast isn't totally bogus.