Imagine growing up every day of your life on summer vacation; never going to school, never taking a test, but instead spending your days traveling across the country and surfing each day. Now imagine doing this with your mom, dad and eight other siblings all packed into a 24-foot camper. This was the life of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, his wife Juliette and their nine children as chronicled in the feature documentary Surfwise.

“It’s a movie about family,” says director Doug Pray. “It’s a movie about kids, about fatherhood and motherhood. It’s about home schooling. It’s about sex and religion, and all these other things that are contained in this little family surf movie.”

Doc and his family were by no means bohemians or rebel hippies. Paskowitz kept a tight ship and led a very strict life consisting of surfing, reading and most important, healthy eating.

“No day of my life has ever gone by where I haven’t watched everything I put in my mouth,” he explains, “to see if I threw it in the ground would it grow, or if I threw it in the ground would it rot. If it would rot, I don’t touch it. That’s my own Bible; that’s what I live by.”

Discussing the importance of surfing to his family, Doc uses an analogy from the Bible: “As Israel has kept the Sabbath, so the Sabbath has kept Israel. In our family, as the Paskowitzs have kept surfing, so surfing has kept the Paskowitzs. That’s the best I can explain to you the significance of surfing in my life.”

Doc’s children are now living throughout the country, each pursuing their own dreams in family life, music and the film industry.

“The proof of how powerful the film is, is how well it has helped us to gain perspective on our lives and actually come back together in a large extent from the process of making the film,” Doc’s son Joshua says. “For myself, I definitely mended a lot of different relationships and old issues and put all that aside to give up that memory for this new memory which we have so beautifully portrayed for us.”

Doc’s sons reflect on their strict upbringing, especially their eating habits. Son Abraham reveals how the kids would occasionally find chances to rebel in their strict universe.

“We had no sugar, no honey, no sweets, nothing. But every once in a while we’d steal a quarter and go to one of those machines and get some M&M’s and we’d taste them and they were so good. One time Jonathan made it into a store and came out with a five-pound bag of M&M’s, and we hid it in the floorboards like it was cocaine or something.

“We all care very much about eating healthy today,” he adds. “We see the genius of it now.”

Once they left Doc’s side, the children had trouble adjusting to the modern world, getting their GED, trying to get into colleges and universities and dealing with people who were not as honest or trustworthy as themselves.

“Being surfwise is the opposite of streetwise,” brother Jonathan explains. “We had no savvy about the modern world.”

Joshua sums up their feelings about growing up in their world versus the traditional world.

“From an outside perspective, our society needs more influence like Dorian’s: taking less and giving more, eating less and growing more. That’s all very current stuff, and he was doing all that in the ’50s. We love our dad and feel strongly about his philosophies, and we’re very proud to be a part of this project.”

Surfwise releases in select theaters May 23.