The real magic of surfing comes down to the locations, the waves being surfed, and the ocean environment that is constantly in motion. For the times when you aren’t able to get out into the water, surfing movies can help to transport you to amazing destinations. These movies allow you to really absorb the sport and appreciate all of the details involved in surfing.
Surf films vary greatly – from big-budget productions to a couple of friends recording their sessions. Some surf movies follow a storyline, some just deliver exciting action-clips of wave riding, and some explore remote destinations that most of us can only dream of.
If you are looking for surfing inspiration, then movies are possibly the best place to look. Here are some of the best surf movies ever made – from a range of eras, budgets, locations, and styles.
Our List of the 10 Best Surf Films
Want to transport your mind to some of the most incredible waves, destinations, and surf manoeuvres ever recorded? Well, here’s our list of the 10 best surfing documentaries and movies to help you do just that. As there are so many great movies out there, narrowing the list down to 10 was no easy feat. This list is in no particular order.
1. The Endless Summer (1966)
Widely regarded as the greatest surf movie of all time, The Endless Summer continues to inspire wave seekers today. This film by Bruce Brown follows two surfers Mark Hynson and Robert August as they take a trip around the world in search of the perfect waves. Destinations include Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti, South Africa, Ghana, and Senegal.
The Endless Summer is often thought of as the film that really defined this genre. It is a truly timeless film that all surfers should watch at some stage in their lives.
2. The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (1970)
This surf movie cemented its place in history by offering the world’s first video clip of a surfers perspective from inside the barrel. Until The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun was released, this view was reserved only for surfers that found their way into a barrel.
Directed by George Greenough, this film features Bob McTavish, Ted Spencer, Gary Keys, Chris Brock, Baddy Treloar, Russel Hughes, and more. This film offered a revolutionary insight into shortboard surfing, as it explored some mind-blowing waves in California and New South Wales.
3. Five Summer Stories (1972)
Directed by Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray, Five Summer Stories has reached a kind of cult status amongst surfers. This 1972 classic featured David Nuuhiwa, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, and Sam Hawk.
This is regarded as one of the best surf movies as it captures a pivotal time in history. The surfing lifestyle of California and Hawaii was perfectly represented in this high-budget production. The soundtrack is also a classic.
4. Morning of the Earth (1971)
Morning of the Earth is an iconic film that explores the important relationship and connection that surfing holds with nature. A highlight of this movie was its depiction of the perfect Uluwatu lefts – something that helped to put Bali on the surf map.
Morning of the Earth explores an important period in Australian surf culture. The movie covers locations in Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia.
5. Big Wednesday (1978)
This coming of age film follows three surfing friends as they venture into adulthood. Big Wednesday covers topics like the Vietnam War, marriage, and the beach lifestyle of the 1970s.
The film then centres around “The Great Swell of 1974” – offering some breathtaking surf footage. Big Wednesday was directed by John Milius and was inspired by the writer’s experiences growing up in Malibu.
6. Beyond Blazing Boards (1985)
Beyond Blazing Boards depicts thrilling free surfing by some of the world’s top surfers of the 80s. The movie was filmed in Bali, Australia, Mexico, and California. The starring surfers include Tom Curren, Simon Law, Glen Winton, Mark Occhilupo, Ronnie Burns, and Kong Elkerton.
The movie represented a new era in surfing and was directed by Chris Bystrom. Fun fact – this is Kelly Slater’s favourite surfing movie.
7. Surfing Hollow Days (1961)
This is another timeless classic directed by Bruce Brown. Surfing Hollow Days is one of the best surf movies ever made thanks to its pivotal capturing of the Banzai Pipeline. The film depicts Phil Edwards riding a legendary wave at Pipeline – something that opened up the door for many surfers to follow.
The movie is shot in Mexico, California, Florida, Australia, and Hawaii. Surfing Hollow Days features surfing by Robert August, Mike Haley, and Kemo Aaberg.
8. Kelly Slater in Black and White (1991)
We all know Kelly Slater as the record-holding 11-time world champ he is today. However, there was a time when he was just a young, up and coming surfing sensation. Kelly Slater in Black and White was made by Quicksilver – showing off the young surfers’ new sponsorship with them.
This surfing documentary changed surfing history, offering a platform for one of the most exciting surfers in the world. This movie unlocked a whole new world of surfing potential in the early ’90s.
9. The Seedling (1999)
There are loads of surf movies highlighting exciting and progressive shortboard riding. The Seedling, however, focuses on the sheer beauty of log riding. This documentary features a group of Californian longboarders and is shot entirely on 16mm.
The film was shot in Mexico, France, Hawaii, California, and the Canary Islands. The Seedling, directed by Thomas Campbell, offered something unique to surf films at the time. This was done by showcasing just how exciting logging can be while the surfing world was mostly fixated on the culture and performance of shortboards.
10. View From a Blue Moon (2015)
The most recent surf movie on this list, View From a Blue Moon follows John John Florence and his friends to some of the most exciting surf destinations around the world. This is the first surf film to be shot entirely in 4K – offering a new perspective on modern surfing.
John John Florence is regarded as one of the most dynamic surfers out there, and this movie really expresses that. It also manages to capture some of the most awe-inspiring waves that the planet has to offer.
Surf movies are an essential part of the culture and inspiration behind this sport. Over the last couple of decades, hundreds of surf films have been made. These offer all kinds of different insights into surf locations, styles, riders, and the lifestyle behind riding waves.
Coming up with a definitive list of the best surf movies ever made is no easy task as it is very much based on opinion. We think that the choices above offer a good spread of the most timeless, innovative, inspirational, and beautiful surf movies of all time. Whether you agree or not, they will all certainly inspire you to wax up your board and get in the water!