Surfing Movies: 18 Surfing Cinema Masterpieces

by Oliver Boyers
Published: Last Updated on

Surfing movies are some of the best types of films out there. They can be watched by anyone, but they’re especially enjoyed by surfers around the world. The only problem is that it’s hard to find a good list of surfing movies on the internet. That’s why I created this post – so you don’t have to spend hours searching for new ones!

Here are 18 surfing movies that will keep you entertained and inspired when you need them most.

I have also added 2 lists at the end which contain the best Surfing Movies on Netflix, and the best surfing documentaries.

1. Chasing Mavericks (2012)

In this adventure based on the incredible tale of surfer Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a young surfing prodigy seeks the help of an old pro to ride a truly huge wave. Moriarty, a Santa Cruz kid with a natural ability for surfing, is drawn to Mavericks, California’s most dangerous surf break.

Moriarty recognizes how little experience he has with such a huge objective, so in order to be well-prepared, he seeks the counsel of veteran surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). Meanwhile, as Moriarty learns how to balance and focus under pressure from Hesson, the two surfers form a strong friendship that allows them to face the massive challenge before them.

2. Point Break (1991)

Point Break is a surfing movie about a young FBI agent that must go undercover to catch a surfing criminal. Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is an eager new FBI recruit who gets put on the fast track thanks to some well-placed connections. His first assignment: join and get close to a gang of surfers who call themselves The Ex-Presidents. Utah is convinced they’re just a bunch of good-time, pot-smoking beach bums with no connection to serious crime–until they start stealing high-stakes bank vaults in Southern California’s coastal cities.

As he moves deeper into their world, and under cover of his new name Johnny Utah, Johnny learns how this tight-knit band of brothers lives both on and off the waves. This is an awesome piece of surf cinema.

3. the Endless Summer (1966)

In this documentary, director Bruce Brown explores the surfing culture and lifestyle that has been popularized in America by surfers like himself. He also goes into detail about the development of surfboard-making technology and the commercialization of the sport. This movie has a very classic surf visual aesthetic.

After all these years, the endless summer is still with us. The movie follows surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel around the world trying to find that perfect wave. Their journey takes them from California to Morocco — but it’s not just about surfing; “the search” becomes a metaphor for life. This is classic piece of surf cinema.

The movie is a must-watch film in surfing culture and an important relic of 1960s drug counterculture, with all the perfect music to go along with it. It’s also one of the most successful surf movies ever made, capturing not only great surfing footage but creating a style that would be mimicked by other surf films.

4. Riding Giants (2004)

Riding Giants is a 2004 documentary film that explores the history of big-wave surfing on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The film is narrated by Peter Townend, an Australian big wave surfer who rode many of the waves featured in the movie. Riding Giants documents 20 years of big-wave surfing between 1968 and 1987, focusing on the surfers Fred Hemmings, Greg Noll, Jeff Clark; and their impact on Hawaiian surfing culture. This is one of the best surf movies of recent times.

Through interviews with surfers, historians and scientists Riding Giants attempts to answer several questions: What is the relationship between man and nature in big-wave surfing? What are the limits of human endurance when it comes to conquering Mother Nature’s most powerful forces? And what will be the future of these “extreme” sports like surfing. This is one of the most entertaining and theatrical surfing movies we have watched.

5. Surfwise (2007)

This surfing documentary follows legendary surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, who left a lucrative medical practice to withdraw from the lifestyle of conventional America. Paskowitz took his wife and nine kids along for the journey, all of them crammed into a 24-foot surfing camper van. The family spent their days following Doc’s very strict guidelines on health, fitness, sex, and above all surfing.

Fish People is a surfing movie on Netflix.

6. North of the Sun (2012)

In the winter of 2018, in an isolated and uninhabitable bay on a remote Arctic island by the coast of Northern Norway’s coastline, they spent nine months in the cold Norwegian winter.

In this surfing documentary, two young men lived off the land, hunting for animals and fishing on a beach that was inaccessible to automobiles.

They constructed a home out of driftwood and other cast-off materials that washed up on the shore, and they ate expired food that stores would have thrown away. This piece of surf cinema is unlike any surf documentary that we have watched before.

The boys brought their most important possessions with them: Their surfboards. The whole reason that they undertook this arctic adventure was to experience the untouched waves that this hidden bay kept secret until now. This is one of the most original surfing movies that have come out in recent years.

7. Five Summer Stories (1972)

In this surfing documentary, a group of surfers gets together for a reunion. They dive into the personal memories that shaped their lives during the 1960s and 1970s.

The film is about a group of surfers from different backgrounds who have been friends since they were kids. As the years go by, they reconnect to reminisce about a time in their lives when all they did was surf and hang out on the beach.

The story is fictional but it’s filmed using real footage from this time period to give it a sense of authenticity befitting the surfing culture. It’s an earnest portrayal of six young men who share such wonderful moments in their lives where they had everything and nothing at once.

8. Soul Surfer (2011)

In Soul Surfer, a young champion surfer named Bethany Hamilton who is on her way to surf in a surfing event is attacked by a shark. She loses her left arm as a result of the attack and decides not to let this incident stop her from fulfilling her dream of being a professional surfer.

The film stars Anna Sophia Robb as Hamilton. It also features Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt in supporting roles, with Carrie Underwood performing the movie’s theme song “There is a Reason”. This is one of the most inspiring surfing movies that remind you to never give up on your dreams.

9. Lords of Dogtown (2005)

On the outskirts of 1970s Los Angeles, skateboarding is a way of life. When one group meets another from across town, they are naturally at odds. But as these two groups start hanging out, the differences in culture seem to dissolve. The kids come up with a name for themselves: Lords of Dogtown.

One day, one of the guys finds out about the first skateboard competition ever put on by professional skateboarder Tony Alva. They all work together using their creativity and skills to make their own boards and take on the pros in this historic event.” This is one of the most classic surfing movies.

10. Step into liquid

Step into Liquid is a documentary about surfing culture. The film follows the life of Gerry Lopez, Don King, and Tom Curren, three professional surfers with very different backgrounds.

The movie revolves around their individual stories and how they impacted one another’s life. It also shares the challenges that they faced both in and out of the water.

11. In God’s Hands (2004)

In the film, a teenage surfer’s life is turned upside by a tragic surfing accident. When Jordan (14-year-old) and his friend (also 14) we’re out surfing; they notice that there was a large wave coming their way and they knew that it would be too difficult for them to paddle in time. They decided to go down to the bottom of the shore and wait for it to break and then paddle back in.

When they were both riding the wave, Jordan took off on his surfboard but he wasn’t able to get back on top of the board before the wave dumped him into an underwater rock formation called Turkey Rocks.

Jordan then had two bad breaks in his back that put him in the hospital.

The film stars Ian Ziering as Jordan and he is joined by Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Sorbo, Michael Swan, James DeBello, David Keith and Kelly Slater in supporting roles.

12. Bra Boys (2007)

The Bra Boys is the first officially permitted documentary about Maroubra’s notorious surf gang and about the surf localism that they enforced. It explores their reputation for hard-partying and harsh justice, as well as their running fight with authorities and reliance on one another to fit into and survive in a society where they are alienated.

The film explores the history of Maroubra, a seaside suburb on Sydney’s northern beaches, and how it became associated with Australia’s rebellious surfing culture. This is one of the most intense surfing movies we have ever watched.

13. Big Wednesday (1978)

In Big Wednesday, three surf buddies from Malibu return to their hometown for a surfing contest. They meet up with the friends they left behind and get caught up in family, surfing, and love.

Big Wednesday was released on June 27th, 1978. The film stars Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Gary Busey, and Lee Purcell.

14. Bustin Down the Door (2008)

The surfing world was rocked to its core in 1975 in Hawaii. A band of young surfers from Australia and South Africa sacrificed everything for the creation of a sport, culture, and industry that are now worth billions of dollars and have captured the attention of the globe.

With a unique approach and a gutsy colonial attitude, these surfers rushed headlong into a society that was not expecting this revolution. Surfing will never be the same again.

15. North Shore (1987)

Rick, a resident of Arizona, is seeking to make a living for himself as a professional wave rider after learning how to surf in the local wave tanks.

Rick Kane wanted to surf the big wave season on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, after winning a surfing contest in an Arizona wave pool. He discovers that he has no knowledge of local traditions, customs, or pecking order when he arrives in Hawaii and immediately encounters issues due to his lack of experience.

Rick is a third-generation Californian who grew up in Malibu and San Onofre, California. He was robbed by the local surf gang when he was fourteen years old after getting into a fight with two locals at their preferred surfing spot. After having dinner and talking about his experiences, Rick has a chance meeting with famous surfboard shaper Chandler, who offers him refuge for the night and food. Chandler instructs him on how to “read” the big waves and the difference between “soul surfers” and those who surf for fame or money.

He also manages to attract the attention of a stunning young Hawaiian woman, which adds to the “locals”‘ outrage but ultimately gives him the confidence and will to ride the huge waves as he’d always imagined he could.

16. FishPeople

This is a surf documentary that tells the stories of a fascinating group of individuals who have devoted their lives to the sea are told in The Adventures of Fishpeople.

Featuring Dave Rastovich, Kimi Werner, Matahi Drollet, and more.

Fish People is a surfing movie on Netflix.

17. Surf’s Up (2007)

The surfing movie, Surf’s Up, is an animated film. The story is about a penguin named Cody Maverick who tries to impress his dad by winning an upcoming surfing competition against fellow surfers Shredder and Big Z.

Surf’s Up stars Shia LaBeouf as the voice of Cody Maverick and Jeff Bridges as Gregarious (the armless guru). Other voices include James Woods as Tank Evans, Zooey Deschanel as Lani Aliikai, Alexie Gilmore as Dana Satterwhite, Diedrich Bader as Eddie Wallowski/Olu Makuena, John DiMaggio as Chicken Joe/Lance Murdock “Mr. Funny Man”, Brian Posehn as Chick Gizzard.

Fish People is a surfing movie on Netflix.

18. Proximity (2017)

Kelly Slater and Rob Machado alongside 3 other surfer legends and 5 rising stars seek new waves and a deeper understanding of waves in new, exotic locations.

Proximity will examine the delicate connection between people, time, and place through the lens of surfing heroes from different eras.

Surfing movies on Netflix

Here is a great list of surfing movie options that are available on Netflix:

  1. Resurface
  2. FishPeople
  3. Under an Arctic Sky
  4. Given
  5. Surfwise
  6. Surf’s Up
  7. Blue Crush
  8. Rip Tide
  9. Magnetic
  10. Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

The best surfing documentaries

If you are looking for a list of the best surf docos, then you’ve come to the right place.

Here is a list of some great surfing documentaries that you may not have heard about:

  1. Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2016)
  2. The Life and Times of Jay Moriarity
  3. Andy Irons: Kissed By God
  4. Sea Of Darkness
  5. Bra Boys
  6. One California Day
  7. Code Red
  8. Gaza Surf Club
  9. Dogtown and Z-Boys

Conclusion

These surfing movies are all about the surfers and their journeys. They show how exciting it is to be a surfer, as well as the struggles they face. The films chosen for this post are either highly enjoyed by surfers or related to surfing (like skating movies). This list has all types of surfing movies for everyone.

Check out our guides on the best places to surf in the world:

Guide on the best places to surf in the world

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