Michael Wilmington's review of North Shore ran in the August 14, 1987 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

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Off the sandy coast of Oahu, a gigantic wall of water comes barreling toward shore. Curled under the wave’s cap, crouching riders glide through a tunnel of whipping spume. That’s one of the main images of "North Shore" (citywide)—a rite-of-passage teen movie set in the Hawaiian surf mecca.

However trivial you might find the whole pop media surfing culture—from “Gidget” through the Beach Boys’ endless summer to “Surf Nazis Must Die"—there’s something likable about this picture. If you take it on its own terms—as a summer teen exploitation film locked into an adolescent vision of life, with no particular ambitions to step out of its class—it's a movie that works just fine.

John Milius’ underrated 1978 “Big Wednesday” was a surfer’s elegy, a requiem for the beach culture that died: this is a kind of hang 10 “Karate Kid” with lots of surface detail. It’s a movie about an amateur from Arizona who travels to Oahu’s North Shore; superficially, it seems to give you the typical mix. There's the worried mother who tries to dissuade his dream; surly locals who rough him up; an adorable island girl who falls for him on sight; a smug snotty surf star who ridicules him; a humorous buddy and a great semi-Zen master of the surfboard who befriends him, teaches him the mantra of the waves and turns him into a champ.

But as familiar as all that seems, there’s an easy, amiable feel and low-key skill to “North Shore.” It’s only the overall scheme of the plot and the underlying psychological structure that are clichéd and stale. The surface details—the surf argot, the backgrounds, the elaborate preparations and rituals—have an amusing depth and density.

What makes “North Shore” better than you’d expect is the affection the filmmakers seem to have for their subject—especially writer-director William Phelps, cinematographer Peter Smokier, and actor/second-unit director Gregory Harrison. The silly story is often redeemed by the bits of local color they work in, the immediacy and tension in the surfing scenes and, most of all, the enthusiasm for both sport and culture that shines through.

The actors tend to do their own stunts—and in some cases, they're actual surfers-turned-actors: Laird Hamilton as the villain; Mark Occhilupo and Robbie Page as a pair of Aussie pros, and Gerry Lopez— the storied Banzai Pipeline master—as the local beach kingpin. The lead couple, Matt Adler and Nia Peeples, are fresh and spontaneous; Harrison, as the great teacher—who, refreshingly, hates competition—has a gruff charisma; and John Philbin—as the board sander, Turtle, uses an extravagant surfer’s pidgin dialect full of “brahs,” skewed rhythms and shorthand leaps, to create one of those off-key eccentrics who usually steal a movie—if not a wave.