Saturday, May 31, 2008


Today I saw Surfwise, a documentary about the eccentric Dorian Paskowitz and his large, dysfunctional family.

The film chronicles the lives of Dorian and Juliette, a couple madly in love who married and raised their children as beach gypsies, offering them no education or permanent home.

They usually made their life on the beach—Dorian was a passionate surfer who passed along his love for the sport to all of his children. Aside from this, the children were exposed to music, books and endless travel. They slept "like puppies" according to Dorian, piled in next to one another in the camper, and ate nothing impure (mainly living on a gruel made up of berries, nuts, twigs, etc.). Exercise was important, as was a positive attitude and much rest.

Some may say that Dorian had it right to restrict social norms and create a utopian society for his family, but after seeing this, I can't help but be in the opposing camp.

The adult children, all of whom participate in the film, speak of being cheated out of an education (yet Dad was a Stanford-educated doctor before he married Mom) and forced unnecessarily to live in poverty throughout childhood. Most admit that once they were exposed to creature comforts most of us would take for granted, they begged for a sense of normalcy, which they never got. They also spoke repeatedly about being "scarred" sexually because their parents openly and freely made love in front of them on a nightly basis.

Instead of giving it all up for his children, the interviews with Dorian point to the fact he was doing it all for himself and acted as somewhat of a dictator in the household. There wasn't a lack of structure in their world, it was just one imposed by him rather than outside influences.

If Dorian and Juliette had not produced children, and chosen to live a gypsy lifestyle throughout their adult years, I would say power to them and perhaps even be a bit envious, but to bring children into this lifestyle was nothing short of irresponsible.

Thank goodness their love was enough to produce kind, thoughtful children who grew up to be adults that seem to understand they were "wronged," despite the fact they had some undeniably happy times growing up.


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