One line from Tom Carroll shows how much the surfing film has evolved. In Storm Surfers 3D, the former two-time world champion admits that approaching his 50th birthday, he is not so confident about riding dangerous waves any more.
''If I was 22, 21, high levels of testosterone, that's the sort of wave I would have been going for,'' he says. ''I'm sort of on the backside of my testosterone levels, you know, and I'm looking at life a lot differently.''
No longer is the surf documentary just about riding waves in exotic locations, complete with radical moves, gratuitous bikini shots and a cruisy soundtrack. Bra Boys (2007) was about the culture of Maroubra's surf gang, Fighting Fear (2011) was about overcoming adversity and now Storm Surfers shows Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones, the famous big-wave rider, dealing with a reality far more certain than the surf conditions - ageing.
Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius's film throws the long-time friends into some of the world's most dangerous waves during winter storms, including the freezing Shipsterns Bluff in Tasmania and the previously never-surfed Turtle Dove Shoal 75 kilometres off the West Australian coast.
The surfing looks spectacular in 3D, especially with Clarke-Jones holding a camera behind him in the barrel of a giant wave while another films from the nose of his board. Not to mention when Carroll gets smashed by a brute of a wave then gets held under for 45 seconds.
''When I hit the water on that wipe-out, it basically emptied my lungs of any air,'' he says. And as he was pushed down deep, ''the level of violence was really alarming for me, the way it tore me around and ripped me apart.''
Inspired by such sports-related documentaries as Touching the Void and Senna, the filmmakers realised the potential of making a different kind of surfing doco - one that appealed to a wider audience - when they saw that Carroll had become more wary about waves that Clarke-Jones was just as gung-ho as ever about. ''We started to go, 'OK, you're actually a little bit on the back foot now, you're a bit scared. Let's go and challenge that,''' McMillan says. ''Let's go to a location that I know you don't want to go and let's just see what happens.''
Nelius adds: ''They come from a world which is a lot about bravado and image and being a world titleholder. You very rarely see that level of vulnerability.''
For Carroll, now 50 and father to three daughters, injuries are part of it. He admits to being accident prone even while on the pro circuit. ''I still get whacked,'' he says.
''A guy's board hit me in the arse - again - I've got internal stitches. And I broke my ankle and tore my foot off the bottom of my leg a couple of years ago at Waimea Bay.
''Things like that have got to humble me … I was noticing that I started to have a bit more of a gap between 'go' and 'maybe I should be a bit more life-preserving here'.
''That engaging testosterone drive to compete, to conquer, to really fight, is not so prominent any more.''
Clarke-Jones says his friend worries him. ''I remember us being the same - fearless - through our 20s and 30s. I'm five years younger than him. I'm watching his progression and almost hoping it doesn't happen to me.''
The third Storm Surfers film - the first aimed at cinema release - is getting an old-fashioned one-night-only cinema tour along the coast. But, in another sign of the genre's evolution, it has a classically inspired score by Michael Yerserski and Richard Tognetti along the lines of the Australian Chamber Orchestra's recent The Reef. That partly comes from the filmmakers' hatred of traditional surf films.
''We struggle to watch them,'' McMillan says. ''A lot of it has to do with the repetitive nature of wave after wave, rocking music track, zero story, locations that are pretty inaccessible to most people, and moves that are aspirational but pretty much inaccessible. We wanted to flip that on its head.''
Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones will tour Storm Surfers 3D from August 14 to September 20. See stormsurfers.com.au.