Whether you’re a professional surfer who can climb a wave like it’s a staircase, an amateur who likes to hit the beach for a wipe-out session once a year, or if you’ve never touched a surfboard in your life but enjoy thrill-packed movies, awesome visuals and epic soundtracks, surf movies bring something to the table for everyone.
The history of surfing is long and powerful, with modern surfing as we’re familiar with being thought to have originated in Hawaii. However, it’s also considered by many surf enthusiasts that the riding of waves has been around since humans started to swim in the ocean.
The first evidence of surfing as a recreational practice came from Polynesian cave paintings which depicted people riding on waves. From the ancient cultures of Peru to the world-class surfers of California, people have been searching for big waves to board since before we can remember.
There are many movies out there that provide the big thrills and gorgeous cinematography that we need from a surfing movie, and these types of movies are widely regarded as some of the most picturesque, action-filled big-screen experiences you can have.
But if you feel like watching some of the world’s best surfing pros barrelling some crazy waves from home and you’re not sure where to start, our guide below of the 10 best surfing movies might just help you out, dude.
1. The Endless Summer (1966)
Directed, produced, narrated, and edited by Bruce Brown, The Endless Summer is an American archetypal surf documentary that follows two young, Californian, competition-level surfers, Michael Hyson and Robert August as they travel the world on a surfing adventure.
The surfers visit Hawaii, Australia, South Africa, and some other surfing spots in search of “The Perfect Wave. ” Featuring a cool narration, hypnotic views, non-stop action, and powerful waves, this movie is an incredible time-capsule filled with great surfing shots and true passion for the sport.
2. Riding Giants (2004)
Stacy Peralta is a famous skater/surfer whose documentary, Riding Giants, is a surfing masterpiece that tells the story of courageous surfers who tackled the largest waves in the world.
Showcasing the advancement of surfing from the 1950s to modern times, Riding Giants demonstrates how sports history and thrilling cinematography can be expertly rolled into one movie.
The movie also portrays the lives of contemporary surfers such as Laird Hamilton and Jeff Clark, a must-watch for surfing fanatics. It’s highly immersive, demonstrates the romantic pull of extreme surfing and a sustained thrill throughout.
3. Blue Horizon (2004)
Famous surf movie director Jack McCoy, follows two of the world’s most famous surfers: Andy Irons and Dave “Rasta” Rastovich, for two years to create an innovative movie documentary that was filmed in exotic surfing locations all around the world across 12 months.
Stunning visuals and epic soundtrack work in tandem to deliver an exceptional homage to the surfing sport. This movie really highlights the greatest milestones in the sport and provides its viewers with a colorful and dynamic journey into the world of extreme surfing.
4. Blue Crush (2002)
Blue Crush is a Romance/Drama directed by John Stockwell. It tells the story of Anne Marie (played by Kate Bosworth) is a young, competitive surfer girl, whose entire life revolves around surfing.
She’s preparing for a huge competition in Hawaii with the help of her two best friends Lena (played by Sanoe Lake), Eden (played by Michelle Rodriguez), and sister Penny (played by Mika Boorem).
However, she becomes distracted by love interest Matt Tollman, a handsome football player. Stepping, or surfing away from the action-packed documentaries that make up a large portion of surfing movies, Blue Crush puts an exciting twist on the sport and showcases it from a new angle.
5. View From A Blue Moon (2015)
View From A Blue Moon is a documentary directed by Blake Vincent Kueny which follows world-famous surfer John Florence and friends from his base in Oahu to his top surfing spots around the world, all the way from the South Pacific to Africa.
View From a Blue Moon was the first surf documentary to be shot in 4k, which revitalized the beauty of the sport for the big screen. With magnificent helicopter shots of coastlines, waters, and hills, a theatre-like audio experience, and passionate narration, this movie stands out as a new-age surfing masterpiece.
6. Under An Arctic Sky (2017)
In this impressive movie directed by Chris Burkard, a surf team of six travel to a frozen and desolate corner of Iceland in the depths of winter to find big waves.
However, the worst storm in twenty-five years arrives and their trip turns into a survival situation. Under An Arctic Sky captures the beauty and danger of mother nature with captivating cinematography and outstanding narration.
You’ll be rooting for the surf team as they struggle along through blizzards and chilling cold, surfing across endless icy waters beneath the bewitching glare of the Northern Lights.
7. Surf’s Up (2007)
Produced by Sony Pictures Animation and directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, this animated mockumentary comedy movie follows Cody Maverick, a 17-year-old northern rockhopper penguin who dreams of being a professional surfer.
A film crew follows him as he travels from his home in Antarctica to Pen Gu Island hoping to win the Big Z Memorial Surf Off. Surf’s Up expertly takes the surf film genre and turns it into a brilliant cartoon parody that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Fantastically realistic CGI and a witty sense of humor come together perfectly in this movie to create a tsunami of laughs from its audience.
8. Big Wednesday (1978)
Big Wednesday is an American coming-of-age movie directed by John Milius. The movie follows three passionate surfer friends, Matt Johnson (played by Jan-Michael Vincent), Jack Barlow (played by William Katt), and Leroy Smith (Gary Busey).
The three friends try to navigate the path to adulthood with surfing trips, parties, and marriage, all while trying to avoid the 1965 Vietnam War draft. Their innocence comes to an end when one of their friends is killed in the war, and they reunite years later after Jack fought in Vietnam.
Captivating ocean shots and central themes of growing up, friendship, and loyalty demonstrate a classic surfing film that tugs on the heartstrings of viewers and gives valuable insight into the pure joy of the sport itself.
9. Chasing Mavericks (2012)
The touching American biographical drama film, Chasing Mavericks, was directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted and tells the story of the real-life young surfing prodigy Jay Moriarity (played by Jonny Weston.)
After being saved from drowning at the age of eight by local surfing legend Frosty Hesson (played by Gerard Butler), Jay develops a passion for surfing.
Jay enlists Frosty to teach him how to surf one of the biggest waves in the world, Mavericks.
This movie focuses on the skill required to be a professional surfer and delivers a beautiful, inspirational, and emotional homage to a dedicated young surfer and the nurturing relationship between him and his wise instructor, Frosty Hesson.
10. North Of The Sun (2012)
Directed by Jørn Nyseth Ranum and Inge Wegge, this Norweigan documentary movie tells the two directors’ story of spending nine months on a freezing, remote arctic island in Northern Norway during a long, harsh winter.
They had to build their own cabin and eat expired foods for months to survive, but of course, they brought with them their most important possessions; their surfboards, so that they could surf some of the world’s most perfect waves.
An enduring tale about two young men who brave the elements to achieve their dreams, this fascinating movie delivers an exceptional cinematic experience and dives into the environmental aspects of extreme surfing.
Whichever movie you decide to pick first, everything on this list gives an excellent viewing experience with outstanding actors, first-class cinematography, and unique action-packed surfing adventures.
Hear from the most passionate and talented surfing professionals in the world, watch some of the most beautiful landscapes and oceans roll across your TV screen, and enjoy the thrill of watching legendary surfers expertly ride some of the greatest waves on the planet.
These movies offer a fantastic insight into the surfing world for anyone who may have a real passion for it, or even if you’re just interested in learning more about this exhilarating sport.