The Longest Wave film review: The mind behind a champion

The documentary ‘The Longest Wave,’ is a homage to 24-time Windsurfing World Champion and pioneer of all things watersport related – Robert ‘Robby’ Naish.

Robby Naish sitting on a paddle board with clouds and a volcano in the bacdrop.
Robby Naish is the equivalent of a modern day Poseidon. Pic – Franck Berthuot / Red Bull Content Pool

In the film, director Joe Berlinger has branched out of his usual true-crime portfolio to explore what it is like to be Naish – who for his whole life has strived for perfection while out on the water.

Naish became the face of windsurfing when he won his first championship at just 13-years-old. This then catapulted him into a whole world of other water-sports, including kite boarding, SUPing and foil surfing.

The film starts out by following Naish on his quest to catch the longest wave in the world (on a stand-up paddle board). But the narrative takes an unexpected turn when Naish, who would have been in mid-50s at the time of filming, becomes injured and has to press pause on his quest.

The film instead begins to delve into Naish’s psyche: how does someone who has reached success at such a young age, sustain a career and not burn out?

Although Naish no longer competes in the World Windsurfing circuit, he still spends a lot of his time out on the road- whether that be for business, promotional work or trying new pursuits with his friends (like foil-surfing). Naish is non-stop.

Compared to other sporting champions who are often rudderless once they retire from competition, Naish is somewhat lucky because he was the ‘face’ of windsurfing when it first blew up in the 1970s – ensuring that he is never short of opportunities.

But maybe his introverted nature has played a role in the longevity of his career too.

Of course, his non-stop life-style comes with its down side – it has taken a toll on his personal life (Naish has just gone through a divorce) and mental health.

All these different elements of Naish’s personality are explored in the film, and by the end the longest wave becomes a metaphor for Naish’s career and life. At one point Naish says, “One wave down and hopefully a few to go,” and I don’t think it’s just the wave that he’s talking about.

It’s such a shame that we’re unable to see this film on a big screen. The cinematography puts the world’s stunning shorelines on display, and the drone footage of Naish catching these never-ending waves is phenomenal.

I’d highly recommend this film, it’s a great insight into the mind behind one of the world’s sporting legends.

To watch The Longest Wave, see:

By Greta Quealy