If you have made surfing a part of your life and routine, whether as a spectator or a participant, you will undoubtedly be fascinated by the films and documentaries produced on this emotional and adrenaline-filled sport over the years.
Surfing documentaries recount the exploits of a few of the world’s top surfers as they journey, educate, and practice in order to provide the perfect surfing experience.
In this article, we’ve picked out the most influential surfing documentaries that every surfing enthusiast must see! Let’s dive in.
1. Bustin’ Down The Door (2008)
Bustin’ Down The Door is a fascinating documentary released in 2008 that follows the development of competitive surfing back in the 1970s.
The video chronicles a bunch of teenage surfers from Australia and South Africa, featuring Shaun Tomson, Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, Ian Cairns, Mark Richards, Michael Tomson, and Peter Townend, as they migrate to Hawaii and face challenges, turf fights, and big wipeouts all along the way.
Confrontations with residents, many of whom consider the newcomers’ swagger offensive to Hawaiian culture, finally lead to threatening messages against the film’s protagonists.
This tale may have ended very differently if it hadn’t been for the kindness of the much-loved Eddie Aikau. However, owing to him, strangers and Hawaiians ultimately unify to lay the foundation for the first version of a global surf tournament, which concludes with a giant embrace and a handshake.
This movie received a rating of 7.1 on IMDb and is available to rent on Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, this documentary isn’t available for free streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime at the moment.
2. Kissed By God (2017)
This is a documentary concerning bipolar disorder and opioid dependence seen through the eyes of Andy Irons, a world champion surfer. Andy battled the very same problems that countless individuals around the world do on a regular basis. As the “People’s Champion,” Andy was a big presence on the international scene.
He represented Hawaii’s pride and was respected all around the globe for his humble beginnings in popularity and prosperity. Many others, nevertheless, were oblivious of his internal struggles, which ultimately led to his demise.
As the opiate crisis that started becomes a major catastrophe, the unsung story of Andy’s life serves to dispel stereotypes about these two deadly diseases.
It’s a surprisingly real and honest portrait of the people’s champion, written by all those who knew him and filled with examples few expected to hear.
While some have stated that it partially exonerates the surfing press of its participation in the disaster, there’s no question that this video is and will stay the most thorough portrayal of the late and great Andy Irons, and as such, it’s a must-watch for every surf enthusiast.
This documentary movie received a rating of 8.2 on IMDb and is available to stream on Amazon Prime as it is included with Prime Membership plans.
3. Momentum Generation (2018)
Surfing in the USA was predominantly recognized in the 1960s as a Californian and Hawaii-based phenomenon connected with surfing tunes and Beach Boys tracks. It was used in movies to inject excitement or wacky antics into all-American rom coms.
Even though tools and abilities developed, the general opinion of surfing as a whimsical sport remained consistent until the 1990s, when a gang of grunge and rock-loving teenagers, often from turbulent homes and upbringings, worked their way to a residence on Oahu’s northern beaches, Hawaii, shifting their existences and the sport itself.
The Momentum Generation riders comment on the complexities of fraternity and competitiveness that have defined their common emotional experience, making these innovators equally great and ordinary.
The documentary had its international premiere at the renowned Tribeca Film Festival in New York, where it earned an Audience Award. It has also received top honors at the Aspen Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Awards.
This documentary movie received a rating of 8.2 on IMDb and it is available for streaming on HBO Now.
4. Sea Of Darkness (2008)
This documentary revolves around a select minority of Americans and Australians in the 1970s who have all made their way to the wilderness of Indo for various reasons.
Between them is the legendary Mike Boyum, who welcomes the rest of the squad, which includes commercial divers and aspiring surf executives, to his recently founded shore camp at G-Land.
The video from such days, which includes Jerry Lopez and Peter Mccabe, is simply lovely, and for a little moment, all appears to be going pretty smoothly. So when the camp is raided by the government, Boyum sets fire to it and sets out with a few others on a journey of surfing exploration, wreckage recovery, and narcotics trafficking.
What this documentary lacks in smooth production quality, it compensates for in crazy diversions and bizarre subplots, with accounts of pristine Indo reefs, educated worker ants, and an ill-conceived police pursuit through New Caledonia.
It, too, depicts a society that is practically unfamiliar to today’s touring surfers, as does Bustin’ Down The Door. Sea Of Darkness vanished from distribution after a brief but beautiful run at international film festivals, robbing the rest of the planet of what many believe to be the best surf film ever to be made.
This documentary movie received a rating of 6.4 on IMDb. However, it’s not currently available to stream on the most popular platforms due to the controversy surrounding the film.
5. Bra Boys (2007)
Set in a derelict Sydney area in the early 2000s, the film focuses on what occurs when surf society’s innate tribalism is intensified by systematic discrimination and modern social constraints.
It covers the story of the Maroubra Beach group, the Bra Boys, with a special emphasis on the Abberton clan and the huge murder investigation in which they are entangled.
Sunny Abberton, the oldest of the trio, directed the movie, which means it lacks strict objectivity. Nevertheless, as one would expect, seeing one of the key subjects double as the director allows for accessibility and familiarity not seen in many documentaries.
While the tale of the siblings’ private life is compelling enough, the unprecedented video of their pioneering large wave experiences, including early bouts at Ours and Cyclops, adds significantly to the film’s popularity.
Bra Boys was a great public phenomenon following its initial debut, and a short Google search shows that the tale has been ongoing since 2007. Jai apparently embraced Islam shortly after the filming finished, and he ran afoul of the police last year as well, receiving allegations of aggravated robbery, which landed him back in jail.
In the ensuing years, Koby has generally kept his head down, chasing huge waves and traveling with his family in Bali.
This documentary movie received a rating of 6.2 on IMDb and is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video. Unfortunately, it is not included in their Prime plans.
6. One California Day (2007)
This documentary focuses on 6 different California coastal areas and the extensive ancestry of fashionable and creative personalities who come from each.
Despite the fact that it is just 12 years old, the movie has indeed taken on a timeless tone. It is, and besides, it is set at a period when Joel Tudor was renowned for his exquisite surfing rather than his forthrightness on Instagram, and the Malloys always had time for canoeing excursions throughout Baja.
When watching this movie over a decade has passed since its initial release, it’s also evident that most of those showcased paying homage to their previous leaders an Alex Knost and a virtually unknown Tyler Warren—have themselves created a major impact on modern surf lifestyle, lending the movie historical importance notwithstanding its youth.
There are still no particularly shocking or difficult narratives, OCD accomplishes precisely just what sought out to do: serve as a respectful appreciation of the nuances of the surfing lifestyle.
This movie received a rating of 8.7 on IMDb, which is pretty impressive. You can find this movie available to rent on Amazon Prime Video. However, it’s important to note that this movie is not included with Prime Video membership, so it will need to be purchased separately.
7. Let’s Be Frank (2016)
Frank James Solomon is one of the surfing celebrities. He might have been a recreational surfer rather than a competition surfer, however, that doesn’t indicate he can’t compete at the top level.
From an early age, the guy was eager to be a pro surfer and didn’t let anything stand in his way. Let’s Be Frank assembles a cast of legendary surfers, notably John John Florence, Jamie O’Brien, and Pat O’Connell, to create one of the most distinctive surfing films available.
To be honest, it’s one-of-a-kind. This genre-bending, multi-layered drama of massive waves and brawls is interesting because it’s not typical.
With an interesting tale, filmmaker Peter Hamblin slaps gorgeous imagery from the coastlines of South Africa, Mexico, Hawaii, and Ireland. Experience the lifestyle with one of the most well-known big wave riders. This isn’t your typical surf flick, as the poster implies.
This documentary movie received a rating of 7.5 on IMDb and is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
8. Gaza Surf Club (2016)
Gaza Surf Club delves into the lifestyle of a team of surfers living in occupied Palestinian territory and their attempts to flee the isolation via wave surfing.
The video focuses on the lives of Ibrahim Arafat, who aspires to visit Hawaii and 15-year-old Sabah Abu Ghanem, the nation’s sole female surfer. It’s a terribly distressing and utterly gratifying depiction of a surfing existence that’s about as far apart from our own as we can conceive, full of poignant quotes and exhibits of extraordinary resilience.
The waves and surfing level highlighted aren’t as impressive as some other movies on this list, but focusing on that would be missing the purpose totally.
Gaza Surf Club is more than just a typical surf documentary; it provides viewers with an altogether new prism through which to perceive and connect to Israel’s extremely complicated and apparently never-ending Palestine struggle.
However, as this list shows, films about surfing’s cultural ties, innovative individuals, and competitive rivalry in Hawaii have overshadowed the last 2 decades. Films like these suggest that the top picks for the coming decade will instead contain unique stories found from throughout the world.
This movie received a rating of 7.2 on IMDb and is available to watch on YouTube.
9. Fish (2016)
This movie provides great insight into what events unfold when a brilliant San Diego surfer decides to create a surfboard with a completely unique conception, and the entire surfing community jumps on board for a game-changing adventure.
Any surfer, new or existing, will concur that the fish documentary has had a massive effect on surf society. Some people wish it would be less performance-oriented, whereas others like the polar opposite; whichever way, your arsenal isn’t complete without this one.
In this 80-minute documentary, you’ll go back in time to discover the roots of the surfboard’s revolutionary performance and style-focused construction.
While receiving your fill of surfing heritage, innovators like Steve Lis and Skip Frye, 2 men who actually “molded” surfing with their designs, give their perspective and views.
Who thought that a knee surfer (Steve Lis) would have had such a major influence on surf society? Fish is a fairly amazing ride that features 2 of the surfing world’s best surfers, Rob Machado and Dave Rastovich.
This documentary movie received a rating of 8.2 on IMDb and is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
10. Riss (2019)
Director Peter Hamblin, the brains of ‘Let’s Be Frank,’ follows famous Hawaiian surfer Carissa Moore during the 2019 WSL Championship Tour campaign, as she tackles peaks and valleys in her pursuit of an unattainable fourth championship match. Investigate the sport and learn what it takes to be a champion.
The documentary is an entertaining and informative look at one of surfing’s greatest and accomplished competitors.
Aside from one of the most vicious backhand flicks in the sport, the documentary has some obvious depth, delving into who Moore is as a personality while also delving into what fuels her competitive fire. Moore is a great surfing inspirational leader, and you can’t get much more Moore in biography than this.