The water isn’t the only thing that’s weighty in “Heavy Water,” a heavily anecdotal surfing documentary focusing on Nathan Fletcher, a third-generation board enthusiast whose boundary-pushing contribution to the family legacy involves plunging from a helicopter into a ferocious Oahu wave.
Leading up to the exploit, dubbed the “Acid Drop,” the film, by Michael Oblowitz, works overtime to convey a tight-knit wave-riding community perched reverently on the shoulders of those who preceded them.
In the case of Fletcher (who bears a resemblance to actor James Marsden), that would date back to the ’40s and his grandfather pioneering big wave surfer Walter Hoffman, who would pass the family side business on to his father, tow-surfing pioneer Herbie Fletcher, and subsequently, his aerial-surfing big brother Christian.
Outside of the Fletcher fold, the South African-born Oblowitz profiles the likes of influential skateboarders Christian Hosoi and the late Jay Adams, who brought a surfing edge and a punk sensibility to the skate park, while striking a more somber note when paying tribute to several Fletcher contemporaries who died doing what they loved.
But by the time the film finally gets to Fletcher’s dark and stormy, death-defying stunt, its greater liability is a talking heads-intensive structure aimed squarely at aficionados while certain to leave the uninitiated a little surf-bored.
Running Time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Playing: Starts Jan. 31, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood