Lack of education aside, Doc is also revealed to have a dictator-like control over his family. His kids must do what he says. They must surf or be punished physically, which he enlists the oldest son, David, to carry out on occasions. It is revealed David chases down one of his brothers while his father encourages him to choke him until blood gushes from his nose. The kids refer to Doc as "Fidel" and the family dynamic as "the Reich" in their interviews. Doc later expresses remorse over his behavior and realizes his fault in wanting to control everyone else but himself. His wife admits earlier in the film that she doesn't remember a lot about their life in the camper, which is strange considering it was such a gigantic part of their lives. My guess is that she's repressed most of it. If an experience like that was always so good, there's no way someone would just forget it. We can only really speculate on what she may have been really feeling and how selective her memory is. Was she afraid to stand up to her husband? I don't know.
Still, I think it was a good twist, if you will, for the filmmakers to reveal that this Bohemian lifestyle wasn't such a flawless dream. There were serious issues and complications that helped to rip this family apart. For ten years they were all estranged from each other. In the end, though, the family reunion seeks to show us a happy ending. That all is forgiven and forgotten and on one hand, that is a nice thought to believe they have finally overcome this. But is this really the case? Is it really a happy ending for the Paskowitz family? I doubt it.
I wonder if Doc has ever actually apologized to his kids for any of this? If he didn't, he needed to. He admits to the camera he was wrong but what about them? Let's hope he did and that this really IS a happy ending.
I liked listening to his kids talk about their experiences and how it affected them, but I hated having to listen to Doc speak his weird views on life. Even with how I feel about Doc's choices and beliefs; I still don't think he is a horrible father. He was with his kids, and he obviously loved them. He just didn't allow them the basic freedoms most kids have. He kids called him a dictator.
Surfwise is a well-made and entertaining documentary about a "different" family and the ways it affected all of them.