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The greatest surf movies

best surf movies

There is a certain magic to surfing that stems from the location, the waves and the constantly changing ocean environment. On those occasions when you don't have the opportunity to go surfing, surf movies can help transport you to exotic locations. By watching these movies, you can get a deeper understanding of the sport and appreciate the details involved. 

There are many different types of surf films, from huge productions to small videos made by friends. Some surf movies follow a storyline, some feature action clips of wave riding, and some explore exotic destinations that most of us can only dream about. 

You may find the best surfing inspiration from movies, especially if you are a beginner. We’ve looked at many surf movies out there, from documentary style through to raw surf action and compiled a list of what we consider to be the 9 best.

The 9 greatest surf movies

With the plethora of surf movies we have to choose from these days, refining a list down to only 9 movies can be somewhat of a challenge. Without further ado here are our top picks.

1. The Endless Summer (1966)

One of the greatest surf movies of all time, The Endless Summer continues  to inspire wave seekers today. Surfers Mark Hynson and Robert August take a trip around the world in search of the perfect wave in this movie by Bruce Brown.

Among the epic destinations are Costa Rica, Australia, Hawaii, Tahiti, Ghana, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria. The Endless Summer is often considered to be a film that really defined a genre. It is a timeless movie that all surfers should see at least once in their lives. 

2. Big Wednesday (1978)

Following three surf friends entering adulthood, this film explores their coming of age. The movie discusses topics such as the Vietnam War, marriage, and the beach lifestyle of  the 1970s. The film then turns to "The Great Swell of 1974" which offers some breathtaking surf footage. John Milius directed Big Wednesday, which was inspired by the writer's own Malibu experiences.

big wednesday

3. Kelly Slater in Black and White (1991)

Kelly Slater is best known as an 11-time world champion. At one point in time, he was just an up-and-coming surf sensation. Kelly Slater in Black and White was created by Quicksilver to celebrate the young surfer's new sponsorship deal with them. This movie modernized surfing history by giving the world's best surfers a platform and unlocked a whole new world of surfing potential in the early ’90s.

4. View From a Blue Moon (2015)

In View From a Blue Moon, John John Florence and his friends explore some of the world's most exciting surf destinations. This is the first surf movie ever to be shot in 4K presenting a new perspective on modern surfing.

The movie really captures the spirit of one of the most dynamic surfers out there, John John Florence. They travel to some pretty remote surf spots in places like Western Australia and South Africa.

view from a blue moon

5. The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (1970)

As the first video clip to show a surfer's perspective on the barrel, this surf movie cemented its place in history. Until The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun was released, this view was only available to surfers actually riding a barrel. 

Bob McTavish, Ted Spencer, Gary Keys, Chris Brock, Baddy Treloar, Russell Hughes, and more appear in this film directed by George Greenough. As it explored some sensational waves in California and New South Wales, this film offered a revolutionary look at shortboard surfing.

6. Five Summer Stories (1972)

The movie Five Summer Stories, directed by Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray, has achieved cult status among surfers. This 1972 classic featured Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, David Nuuhiwa and Sam Hawk.

There are few movies that capture a period of history as pivotal as this one does. This high-budget production aptly captured the surfing lifestyle of California and Hawaii. The soundtrack is also top quality. 

7. Morning of the Earth (1971)

A movie like Morning of the Earth illustrates how surfing has such a close relationship with nature. In this movie, one of the highlights was its depiction of Uluwatu lefts - something that helped put Bali on the surf mapMorning of the Earth also explores an epochal moment in Australian surf culture. The movie covers locations in Indonesia, Hawaii and Australia.

8. Beyond Blazing Boards (1985)

This is Kelly Slater’s favourite movie. Within Blazing Boards, you can view some of the world's best surfers of the 1980s displaying some thrilling free surfing. Several locations were used in the production of the movie, including Bali, Australia, Mexico,  and California. The starring surfers include Glen Winton, Ronnie Burns, Tom Curren, Simon Law and Mark Occhilupo. The film was directed by Chris Bystrom and showcased the beginning of a new era of surfing.

9. Surfing Hollow Days (1961)

Surfing Hollow Days is one of the best surf movies ever made solely because of how the Banzai Pipeline was covered in this film. Phil Edwards' ride at Pipeline was a legendary wave that opened the door for many surfers to follow. Filming took place in Mexico, California, Florida, Australia, and Hawaii. In Surfing Hollow Days, you'll see Robert August, Mike Haley, and Kemo Aaberg surfing.

surfing hollow days

Conclusion

Surf movies are an integral part of the culture and inspiration behind this sport. There have been hundreds of surf films made in the last three decades. They provide a variety of insights into surf locations, styles, riders, and the lifestyle surrounding riding  waves. 

The task of compiling a definitive list of the best surf movies has never been easy. Above are our picks of the most timeless, innovative, inspiring, and beautiful surf movies of all time. Whatever you think of them, we hope that at least one of them will inspire you to wax up your board and get into the ocean for some wave riding.