Usually, one would not expect a surfing documentary to explore emotions in depth. However, it seems that Savage Waters was not the initial intention of director Mikey Corker. The film follows the story of Matt Knight, a sailor and surfer in his 50s, who is intrigued by a book written by Victorian adventurer EF Knight (no relation). The book details a voyage in the 1890s to search for Spanish gold rumored to be hidden in the rocks of the Savage Islands, a small archipelago in the North Atlantic. What captures Knight’s attention is his namesake’s description of the incredible waves off the islands, eloquently narrated by Charles Dance with a voice so deep and alluring that it could lead one to danger.
Knight plans an expedition to the islands to search for surfed waves instead of treasure. He is accompanied by Andrew Cotton, a former plumber turned big wave surfer, and his family, including his wife Suzanne and their four adult children who take turns joining them. However, the adventure does not unfold as expected.
The film shifts its focus and becomes a heartfelt portrayal of the Knights, a family who appear to be very happy. Knight and Suzanne have raised their children to embrace adventure, although it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, according to Suzanne. When the kids were young, their attitudes towards taking risks weren’t always in sync. There’s a scene where Matt is reversing a campervan onto a rickety structure in a remote location, with Suzanne looking worried and one of the kids off camera begging him not to do it. However, their approach paid off as the children have grown into bold and inquisitive individuals. As a family, their enthusiasm for living life is heartwarming to witness. While Corker may not have intended to make a film about the Knights, he stumbled upon a gem.