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Ultimate Wave Tahiti: A Giant Screen View into the Universe of Waves


Written by: K2 Communications
Date: December 16, 2009

An inside look into the Large Format film ULTIMATE WAVE TAHITI featuring nine-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater.


Category: Stories

All who enjoy or rely upon the ocean ecosystem and understand its majesty should also know of its overall contribution to the planet's health. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other science advisors know this to be true and have joined with the Stephen Low Company and K2 Communications in the development of the newest giant screen film production -- The Ultimate Wave Tahiti. This is a film first and a pivotal effort when communicating the importance of wave science to a public generally unaware of the underlying benefits that every wave delivers to coastline ecosystems and people.

An ocean wave is liquid energy that can be touched, ridden upon and is of critical value to the global environment. The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is the first Giant Screen production to use extreme surfing and the best-known international watermen to explain the science of waves in a language that is visually compelling and undeniably instructive.

In The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, director Stephen Low and surfing legend Kelly Slater use the Giant Screen and an engaging story to shape an educational look into, under and through the hydrodynamic energy that constitutes every wave.

Dynamic camera perspectives and innovative use of SANDDE computer animation introduce the viewing audience to a gallery of frightening, beautiful and animated waves. Using NOAA's technical expertise and Slater's human experience, Low and Company have created an ocean-centric environmental education platform that excites and entertains with all the energy of a crushing swell colliding with a Tahitian reef … tinged by the beauty of a Polynesian sunset.

SANDDE animation sequences visually dissect and technically explain how waves form, how they function and eventually influence human existence. Physical wave characteristics, modeled to NOAA standards, are depicted in a way that all audiences will appreciate and understand; even the most experienced surfer or sailor will learn something from this film's perspective. Tahiti -- a magical place known as the birthplace of surfing and for intuitive maritime developments that helped populate the Pacific zone before modern history -- now lends its reefs and waves to the Giant Screen and Low's artistry.

From the motion of wave particles to explanations of interference, refraction and reflection -- the physical characteristics of every wave -- the secret universe of wave science is explained through the surfers and the scientists who speak the language of water in its most dynamic form. From the Coriolis effect and resulting storm systems that combine to create wind-driven seas…to their birth as wind-borne ocean chop that matures over distance and become the ocean swells that carry nutrients and weather patterns to distant shores, waves are a physical dynamic force of nature.

No two waves are the same. Yet all waves share fundamentals that are for the first time explained in a format worthy of the film's true stars, the ocean's massive waves. The story is personalized by Tahitian waterman, Raimana Von Bastolear and his world-renowned companion, nine-time ASP world champion Kelly Slater. Together they explain in the most human way how the cosmic sources of energy -- earth rotation, solar generation, gravitational tidal pull -- resolve as the physical manifestation of energy we know as waves.

As different as Slater, a native of coastal Florida where benign knee-high breakers are the norm, is to Van Bastolaer; the treacherous surf break at Tahiti's notorious Teahupo'o reef is the antithesis of what might be called a normal wave.

Yet, this killer wave -- delivering thousands of tons of furious water onto a shallow reef shelf that is at times only a few feet deep -- is the progeny of the same natural process that sees ripples come ashore the world over, inviting barefoot steps from sand to sea. What makes Teahupo'o unique is critical to understanding the science message of The Ultimate Wave Tahiti.

By using extreme wave environments as their classroom, the surfers and scientists illustrate and explain where waves come from, their hydrodynamics, and the ecological benefits to the reef, ocean population and human communities nearby and far away.

All of the film's core scientific information will be translated to actual classroom environments though an accompanying teachers' guide that will allow educators to meld the excitement of the big screen's action with the challenges of real-time learning. NOAA's scientific support is a key ingredient to delivering the messages that will create a new appreciation amongst students for the birth and power of waves that have, for the most part, been taken for granted.

NOAA is also actively involved in various facets of the film's promotion. The organization is working with K2 Communications to help reach out to the nation's television weathercasters, offering unique information and graphics that provide the on-camera talent an exciting way to communicate how the oceans affect our weather.

NOAA's presence at the upcoming annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in March will also serve as a shared platform with The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, as film representatives will disseminate educational guide materials to the country's largest gathering of science instructors. The guide will address subjects such as the origin and characteristics of ocean waves; the Tahitian Islands and their volcanic origins; properties of coral reefs; and the ancient Tahitian mariners' navigation techniques.

The Maryland-based organization, which has rallied film support from all areas of its varied service groups, is also going to release a newly-produced public service announcement early in the year that was shot on location in Tahiti with Kelly Slater. Supporting NOAA's "Please Care" initiative, the PSA speaks to the need for everyone to be concerned about water cleanliness.

But, that's not the only educational outreach effort. K2 arranged for an editor from Scholastic Publications to attend the final shooting sessions in Tahiti, and the publishing group is developing editorial for four of its magazines which are widely distributed throughout the U.S. public schools systems. These magazines from the widely respected organization will begin filtering into the classroom environment at approximately the same time as the film's premiere.

Together, these and other communications efforts will drive home the multiple messages envisioned by the film's creators and will shine a light on the many "lives" found in Tahiti's waters.

In and around the Teahupo'o reef system, fish and mammals thrive in pristine Tahitian waters. Life on the reef is dependent on wave action as wave turbulence dissolves oxygen and transports nutrients to the complex, living reef ecosystem. Breaking waves also shape the geology and geography of any land mass they encounter; sometimes creating islands along the way -- or sculpting hot lava outpourings into archipelagos ready for animal and human habitation. On the Teahupo'o outer reef, storm-caused swells that have traveled thousands of miles collide with a limestone barrier, creating waves that erupt to the size of buildings; their impact constantly changes and erodes the reef itself and beyond it, the shoreline.

Using SANNDE animation the pulse of a breaker in motion is explained as the wave crests and bottoms -- its onrushing energy displaced as chaotic surf. Liquid chaos that Slater and Raimana capture and tame as only few humans can.

Filmed for release in 3D and 2D Giant Screen and digital theatres, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is more than a culturally rich science tableau. It is a demonstration of how people around the world can understand and appreciate the majesty of the ocean environment and the critical role waves play in our complicated and threatened ecosystem.

With world premieres in Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia this coming February, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is the latest collaboration between the Stephen Low Company and executive producer, K2 Communications. Once more, this creative partnership has resulted in a giant screen production as thrilling as their earlier work, Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag -- already screened in over 100 Giant Screen Theaters.

In the end, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is an enthralling adventure into the study of waves -- their complexity, fluid mechanics and the joy of becoming one with a wave. In Tahiti's pristine ocean waters or any nearby shoreline, the experience may be different but the science and natural phenomena are the same.

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