The best surf movies of all time
Min Read Time

50+ of the Best Surf Films of All Time, Ranked

Finding a good surf film to watch can be a hard task sometimes, so we've collected the best surf films we know of from over the years. From retro, to logging, and high performance surfing.

The surfing movie genre is unlike most other genres. While adventure, thriller, and fantasy movies have their own tropes and common characteristics, the only notable common characteristic of a lot of surfing movies is that they are mostly documentary pieces that take place in the real world and feature actual surfers.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t the occasional Hollywood productions, but they are too few and far inbetween to be considered anything even close to a staple of the genre.

We only mention this because we want you to be aware that a large portion of the movies that we’re going to be mentioning on the list are actually documentaries.

That being said, each of the movies we will go over has something unique to offer its viewers, and every single one of these films is a great choice for every fan of the sport whether they are learning how to surf or an avid surfer.

Without further ado, let’s get to the movies.

58. Let’s Be Frank (2016)

The story tackles the adventure of James Solomon. Saying exactly who James Solomon is, or giving away too much about the premise of the documentary would actually rob you of the intriguing journey that the movie takes you on.

Written and directed by Peter Hamblin, Let’s be Frank is a fascinating depiction of a few of the more hidden parts of big wave surfing, as well as the perceptions of the titular character in regards to surfing itself.

While the movie isn’t your standard surfing flick, it’s just weird enough to appeal to both those who are familiar with the sport, and those who know nothing about it.

57. The Heart and the Sea (2012)

While this is only one of the surf documentaries that independent Australian filmmaker Nathan Oldfield has put out, we believe that it’s his strongest piece of work to date. Set in different parts of Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and France, the sheer beauty of the scenery on display is quite stunning.

The film provides a very peaceful look into the beauty of surfing and the appeal of the sport that has drawn so many people to the waves. The feeling that you get when you go into this movie is a sense of community and of a shared bond, not just with your fellow surfers, but with the sea as well.

56. Lost Atlas (2011)

Kai Neville’s 2009 debut movie “Modern Collective” had a very modest cast of only 6 surfers, yet did surprisingly well for a production of such a small size and such modest financial capabilities. For his follow up, Kai has not only brought back the original cast, but has also brought in at least a dozen new faces, all of which should be recognizable from the surfing scene.

Fans of his original movie will know exactly what they’re getting with this follow up, and new watchers might be encapsulated by the simplistic yet interesting camerawork, as well as the lo-fi garage rock and esoteric international vibes that the soundtrack gives off.

55. The Wave I Ride: The Paige Alms Story (2017)

This documentary style piece, which was directed by Devyn Bisson, centres around the career of the titular Paige Alms.

Considered to be one of the best female surfers, Paige Alms was capable of standing out in the surfing scene, despite the fact that this is undeniably a much more male dominated sport. Paige proved that she had the talent to be counted among the best in the sport, and you’ll be able to see how she accomplished that by watching this piece.

The film will take you through her career and draw attention to a few notable highlights, like her performance during the 2016 Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge.

54. Manufacturing Stoke (2011)

Manufacturing stroke takes a long hard look at the waste that comes from the materials that are used to produce the gear that surfers use. The documentary takes you through some of the more environmentally harmful practices that were adopted by a lot of big companies in the surfing field.

Be warned that the film may come off as preachy to some people, but seeing as how it is an environmental awareness piece, you should be prepared to go into it with an open mind.

Ultimately, the movie doesn’t seek to shame or judge surfers, but rather wants to promote the idea that we all could stand to learn more about what kind of products we’re buying and where exactly they’re coming from.

53. Strange Rumblings in Shangri-La (2014)

Winner of the 2014 movie of the year trophy at the Surfer Poll Awards, Strange Rumblings in Shangri-La is a very interesting movie that lives up to the adjective that can be found in its title.

Directed by Joe G, and featuring the surfing of Dion Agius, Nate Tyler, and Brendon Gibbens, the film is a very interesting mix of some pretty impressive cinematography and introspective narration. These two elements are both incorporated seamlessly into the movie and they give you some interesting visuals to look at while you listen to the voice-over, and a perspective on surfing that you might not have considered before.

52. Under An Arctic Sky (2017)

If you heard that the largest storm in 25 years was going to hit the shores of Iceland, we’re pretty sure that your first reaction wouldn’t be “I’m gonna go and surf that”. This is exactly why this movie is such a great watch.

The crux of the documentary revolves around a group of surfers that are looking to test their skills and go on a real thrilling adventure to surf the waves along the frigid fjörds of Iceland. The trip will test their limits in more ways than they considered, and it really makes you feel invested in all of their struggles and makes you want to root for them to accomplish their goal.

51. Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2018)

The story of Bethany Hamilton is a truly inspiring one. She lost her arm just below her shoulder in a shark attack. This would not only leave a lot of people unable to surf the way that they used to before, but would probably make them afraid to go anywhere near the water ever again.

The reason why the documentary revolves around Bethany Hamilton is because she defied those odds and actually got back out on the waves as soon as she possibly could. She has since gone on to become one of the most notable surfers due to her skill, perseverance, and force of character. She has also written a book about her life, on top of having her story be turned into a movie.

50. Come Hell or High Water (2011)

Bodysurfing is exactly what it sounds like - the activity of surfing without a surfboard. Now, while that just sounds like another lesser known sport called “swimming”, the difference is that bodysurfers go on the waves and simply use their bodies as surfboards.

There is more to it than just that, and the movie will explain the specifics of the activity in much more detail than we’re able to.

If you aren’t really interested, we understand. But keep in mind that we weren’t really into the movie at the beginning, but by the end we were all considering giving it a try due to how fun the film made it out to be. We’re not saying the same thing will definitely happen to you, just that you won’t know unless you give it a try.

49. Blue Horizon (2004)

Directed by a very well known name when it comes to surfing cinematography, the imagery on display while watching Blue Horizon makes you feel the sheer lengths that Jack McCoy must have had to go through to get some of these shots just right.

The film is essentially a compilation of two years worth of footage from Andy Irons and Dave "Rasta" Rastovich doing what they do best - shredding waves in some of the most beautiful looking locations on Earth.

The movie is a display of the skills that both of these surfers have, and takes you on a high octane ride from start to finish.

48. NOW (2010)

Chippa Wilson was always a very entertaining surfer to watch. His skill in handling the board was impressive in and of itself, but when you combine that with the showmanship and aerial tricks that he was known for, then you get a good reason to want to put his surfing on film.

The movie has no narration or dialog, but is rather track after track of catchy songs that play in the background while you watch Chippa do what he does best.

This means that the film knows exactly what it is - a way for you to admire some stellar moves while you also simultaneously rock out to some really groovy tunes.

47. God Went Surfing With the Devil (2010)

While the previous movie that we mentioned was mostly a surfing clipshow, our current entry takes on a much more serious tone, and tackles topics such as politics, national identity, and even the devastations of war.

In the territory of Gaza, a lot of people have taken up surfing in order to help get their mind off of the terrible state of the political situation with the Israeli government. Even this is difficult due to the strictly enforced water border that must not be crossed and is always watched by armed guards.

While surfing plays a huge part in the movie and even in the lives of some of the people featured in the movie, the sport is mostly used as a tool to tell a much larger story.

46. Thicker Than Water (1999)

These days Jack Johnson is much more famous for his voice rather than his directing ability, but the two skills are actually combined quite well in his debut film Thicker than water.

The documentary was co-directed by Chris Malloy, and Johnson actually lent his voice to the soundtrack. While the film does show quite a large range of surfing footage that was captured from places such as Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, India, and Ireland, the real focus of the piece is undoubtedly the music.

The movie contains 14 tracks, all of which are well implemented and provide good accompaniment to the visuals that are on screen.

45. Castles in the Sky (2010)

Castle in the sky is directed by Taylor Steele and stars Craig Anderson, Timmy Curran, Rob Machado, and 13 other surfers. Everything from the shot compositions to the surfing angles that are on screen make it abundantly obvious that this documentary had skilled hands working on it both behind and in front of the camera lenses.

The film takes us through a wide variety of places and shows the interactions that the cast has with all of the different customs, as well as the people who belong to these cultures.

44. Fish: A Surfboard Documentary (2016)

The documentary is written and directed by Joseph Ryan and it tells the story of the “Fish” surfboards. While initially this may not sound like the most exciting premise that you could base a documentary on, this film actually provides some very interesting insights on surfboards that a lot of people would never have known about otherwise.

The movie covers everything from how the initial design was thought up, to the impact that this type of surfboard had on surfing as a whole. It’s a very insightful film from start to finish, and it’s a great choice for anyone who wants to learn about the history of surfing.

43. Bra Boys: Blood Is Thicker Than Water (2007)

A look into the history and dealings of the infamous surf gang the “Bra Boys”, narrated by Russell Crowe. As you can imagine, we came to the documentary just so we could hear Maximus himself do the voice-over for a surfing movie, and we got exactly what we were expecting.

However, aside from the excellent narration, the movie also provides an interesting look into another side of the surfing scene. Surfers are usually depicted in films as laid back and dim, so having a look into the “Bra Boys” is a breath of fresh air, as well as an interesting piece on their community's surfing subculture.

42. Momentum Generation (2018)

Momentum Generation is a movie that’s written and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist. The film is partly a documentary on some of the most well known surfers and how they got started, and partly a tale about camaraderie between friends that have the same level of passion for the sport.

Watching this movie will really give you a sense of just how much someone can achieve if they have the motivation and rivals that are pushing them to always try and improve.

The title of the movie says everything you really need to know. It’s the story about a group of surfers that came in and just changed the surfing landscape by giving it their all.

41. Dear Suburbia (2012)

Kai Neville makes another appearance on our list, and this time for a documentary that he made a bit further along in his career. While long time fans of his might be expecting certain elements to be present in his movies by now, Neville has resisted the urge to fall into repetitive habits.

To be sure, there are similar elements to his previous works. The scenery shots, action shots and editing are all what you’d expect if you’ve seen any of his previous movies. However, he does tend to mix in a few creative angles and does manage to keep things fresh and different enough that we didn’t get this confused with his other films. 

40. OCCY: The Occumentary (1998)

The story of Mark Occhilupo and how he managed to accomplish the feats that he did. The documentary splices together scenes of Mark while he was an active surfer in competitions, and scenes of his childhood surfing adventures.

OCCY makes a good effort when it comes to actually making you believe that you’ve watched Mark grow during the course of the documentary and that you were always there with him.

In essence, the film is a celebration of the life and times of a great surfer in his prime, so if that’s something that interests you, you should give it a watch.

39. Step Into Liquid (2003)

The first solo project of Dana Brown holds up in quality with the influential “Endless Summer II” that he created alongside his father.

Speaking of his father, when you’re the son of Bruce Brown, the man who is thought to be the pioneer of the surf film, then you have some elephant sized shoes to fill in order to live up to the Brown family name.

The great news is that Dana didn’t buckle under the pressure, but rather he managed to create a surfing movie that lives up to the same standard that his father's films set years ago.

38. Chasing Mavericks (2012)

Hollywood depictions of “real stories” are almost always overly dramatic, far-fetched reimaginings of the true story that have very little basis in reality or in the way that the events actually played out.

Surprisingly though, this movie has a pretty true to life retelling of the events of the life and career of Jay Moriarity. It was so realistic, in fact, that lead actor Gerard Butler famously nearly drowned during filming.

The film naturally takes liberties with the truth here and there, but all-in-all it’s pretty accurate when it comes to how Jay got tutelage from surfer Frosty Hesson and how he manages to teach him how to surf.

37. Bustin’ Down the Door (2008)

There was a time when surfing was considered to be nothing more than a hobby. This may sound like a shock to a lot of people, but surfing wasn’t actually considered a sport from it’s inception. A few remarkable individuals saw the potential that surfing had and raised a ruckus until people had no choice but to listen to them.

The movie tells the story of the struggles that these individuals were faced with before they managed to achieve their goal. And yet, despite all of the mocking derision and naysayers that were against them, they actually managed to pull it off.

Surfing in its current form exists today thanks to the efforts of these men, and watching this movie will really give you an appreciation for all of their efforts and hard work.

36. Billabong: Filthy Habits (1988)

Filthy habits has some incredible surfing footage of Occy, Sunny, Ronnie Burns, and Richie Collins. The chance to see these great surfers do what they do best is reason enough to watch this documentary, but the amazing songs by the likes of TSOL, Dream Syndicate, The Johnnys, Social Distortion, The Vandals, and Bill Lincoln, make this a great movie to pop in and enjoy at anytime.

Many people stated that this movie changed the way that surfing films were made, mostly due to the raw and uncut style of the footage. While we can’t say for sure if this film was solely responsible, it is true that it did have a big effect on the medium.

35. Scratching the Surface (2010)

Julian Wilson was considered to be one of the most talented surfers of his generation. The surfer has been on a board practically since he could walk, and the documentary does a great job of depicting his love affair and borderline obsession with the sport that has spanned his entire life.

While the film credits are pretty sparse and you won’t be able to find all that much information on the production online, you really don’t need to know all that much about this movie before jumping into it.

All you really need to know is that it tells the story of a megastar in surfing and that it serves as a great introduction to his life and career in a sport that he loves.

34. 12 Miles North (2012)

The documentary tells the story of Nick Gabaldon, who is believed to be the first African American surfer in history. The beginning of his career was all the way back in the 1940s, which was a time in which there was a lot of racism and social segregation when it came to a lot of activities and practices, surfing being one of them.

The name of the movie comes from the 12 miles that Nick had to paddle every day in order to get to Malibu and be able to surf the waves there. This act alone is enough to prove just how much of a passion he had for the sport, but the film goes beyond that and shows us the hoops he had to jump through in order to pursue the thing he loved in such an incredibly hostile environment.

33. The Bruce Movie (2005)

Andy Irons is one of the most recognizable names in the sport. During the course of his career he won three world titles, three Quiksilver Pro France titles, two Rip Curl Pro Search titles, and 20 elite tour victories. With such credentials, it’s no wonder that people considered Bruce Irons to have been in his brother's shadow ever since they were both scouted for a surfboard brand.

The documentary tells the story of the different ways that the careers of both siblings turned out, and how Bruce managed to find his own style and establish his own reputation as a great surfer.

In short, this movie depicts a good old fashioned sibling rivalry between two of the most famous rippers that ever stepped on a board.

32. One California Day (2007)

The documentary takes place in California (shocking, we know) and shows the different subtleties when it comes to surfing in 7 very different coastal regions. 

Shot as a sort of love letter to the diversity of the surfing scene in California, the movie follows Joe Curren, Jimmy Gamboa, Tyler Hatzikian, Devon Howard, Alex Knost, Dane Perlee, and Joel Tudor.

The film is meant to display just how much of a unique experience surfing can provide for each individual, even if it’s all happening in roughly the same region.

The parallel storytelling and the skill displayed by the 7 surfers are the main two reasons as to why this movie makes it onto our list.

31. Proximity (2017)

Taylor Steele makes another appearance on our list with a fairly recent work of his. The film not only displays the same quality and care that all of his other works did, but also more breathtaking scene compositions and visual storytelling elements.

The documentary centres around eight surfers. Four of the surfers belong to an older generation, while the others belong to a younger one. The themes of the differences that come with age and the similarities that both generations see and experience in surfing are explored, and more.

This newest offering of Taylor Steele shows that he has not slowed down, but is only getting better with age, and it makes us want to look forward to his future works with a lot of optimism. 

30. The Endless Summer II (1994)

While we mentioned this movie briefly in a different entry on our list, we couldn’t leave out this seminal classic from a rundown of the best surfing movies of all time. The father son duo of Bruce and Dana Brown created something that has withstood the test of time nearly as well as the original Endless Summer movie.

The documentary follows Pat O'Connell and Robert "Wingnut" Weaver as they move from location to location and show the audience just how much the surfing scene has grown since Bruce Brown directed the original movie back in 1966.

Featuring footage from some of the greatest surfers of all time, fantastic surfing locations from Alaska to France, and even a cameo by Steve Irwin, the movie is a must see for any surfing enthusiast.

29. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

There was a time when skateboarding was thought of as nothing more than surfing on land that was done exclusively by surfers as a hobby or a way to pass the time. The notions that were established during that particular zeitgeist have long since been erased and today skateboarding is seen as a proper sport in its own right.

The documentary not only shows the evolution of skateboarding from nothing more than a trivial pastime into a full-fledged sport, but it also displays the influence that surfing had on it as a whole, and vise-versa.

It’s a pretty interesting look into the similarities and differences of the two most popular board sports in the world.

28. Shimmer (2006)

Shimmer is an entirely female led movie starring some of the most famous women in surfing.

Megan Abubo, Chelsea Georgeson, and Sofia Mulanovich travel through the coasts of Indonesia, Fidji, Australia, and Hawaii.

Lee-Ann Curren, Alizé Aranud, Rosie Hodge, Carly Smith, and Veronica Kay take on waves at home and abroad.

Kassia Meador, Kula Barbieto, and Crystal Dzigas display their skill on a longboard everywhere from Waikiki to the Mentawais.

Four time legend of the sport Lisa Andersen and then up and coming surfer Carissa Moore display the differences and strengths of their respective generations.

27. Andy Irons: Kissed by God (2018)

No one can deny how big of an impact Andy Irons had on surfing as a whole, and no one can deny how big of an impact his early passing had on his friends and fellow surfers.

The documentary dives into the early life and career of Andy and how he came into the sport with his brother and then went on to win multiple world championships and countless other awards.

In truth, the movie is much less about the feats that Andy managed to achieve and much more about the effect that he had on the surfers around him.

During the course of the movie, you get the sense of just how much of a force of nature this guy was and how everyone held him in such high regard.

This movie is a tribute to a great surfer and a man who inspired a new generation to get out on the waves.

26. Christian Fletcher: Supernatural (1990)

Christian Fletcher had a surfing style that was very heavily inspired by a lot of skateboarding tricks and maneuvers. This means that he was particularly good at aerial surfing and was pretty popular due to the skill that he displayed while performing these surfing stunts.

Fletcher himself is a bit of a controversial figure in the sport. While his skill on the waves couldn’t be denied, his abrasive personality sometimes proved to be too much for some people to handle.

The movie follows his efforts to improve his skills, all the while pissing off everyone that he felt deserved it.

25. Singlefin: Yellow (2003)

Filmmaker Jason Baffa brings us a tale of the extraordinary trip around the world that was undertaken by a single banana yellow single fin surfboard. The board travels from California to Hawaii, Australia, Mexico, and Japan, and it changes hands no less than 6 times.

Each of the six surfers that temporarily took possession of the surfboard went on to use it in the best way that they knew how and by using their own preferred style of surfing.

The movie handles themes of adventure and exploration and takes the time to introduce us to each of the surfers that the board comes to, as well as their stories and the reasons behind their love of surfing.

24. Gidget (1959)

Gidget is credited for starting the surfing boom in America during the sixties and having seen the movie, we can see why. The movie isn’t without its cliches, the 30 year old actors trying to pose as teenagers being the primary one that comes to mind, but it’s an enjoyable flick nonetheless.

Gidget revolves around the main character that carries the same nickname and is about the romantic struggles that the character goes through when she falls in love with a surfer named Moondoggie, played by James Darren.

Predictably, the movie has quite a few scenes that haven’t aged so well, but is all around a good movie that’s definitely still worth a watch.

23. Surf’s Up (2007)

A semi-mockumentary style animated movie about penguins in which the main character is played by Shia LaBeouf. Just the premise of the movie is interesting enough for most people to want to sit down and watch it as soon as they hear about it.

While the animated style of the movie won’t win any accuracy points among surfers, there are quite a few scenes where the best points of surfing are listed. If the comments on a lot of YouTube videos are to be believed, this movie was also a big reason why a lot of kids took up surfing back in the late 2000’s.

22. Blue Crush (2002)

Blue Crush is directed by John Stockwell, who is probably best known for playing the role of Cougar in Top Gun, and stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, and Matthew Davis as the main roles.

The movie is very reminiscent of Gidget, down to the surfer love interest, but where it differs from the 1959 film is the surfing competition that the main character needs to win due to “insert generic movie motivation here”.

Cliched though it may be, the movie never feels like it’s taking itself too seriously and doesn’t drag on for too long. Grab a tub of popcorn and enjoy this film for what it is - an hour and a half of goofy fun.

21. Trilogy (2007)

The movie follows Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, and Taj Burrow, three surfers with pretty different backgrounds, whoshare the same love for the sport and the same enthusiasm for exhilarating people with their surfing skills.

Seeing as how the movie was directed by Taylor Steele, you’re going to get the same level of competent filmmaking that you got from all of his other works.

The skills of the director perfectly complement the skills of the surfers who are on display on screen, and those two elements combine to give the movie a unique feel.

20. Big Wednesday (1978)

Written and directed by John Milius and starring Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, and Gary Busey in the main roles, this coming of age story follows three friends as they indulge in their love of surfing, as well as try and dodge the Vietnam war draft.

The film has a lot of elements that you would associate with a story about maturing and taking your first steps into adulthood.

While the movie is fun and has quite a few scenes of the various ways that the characters manage to cheat the draft, it also has its quiet and somber moments. Be prepared to have your expectations subverted when you go into this movie.

19. Stephanie in the Water (2014)

Stephanie Gilmore was a four time world champion in the sport and on a sure track to win her fifth consecutive title in a row. Tragedy struck when she was assaulted one her way back home one night, and the metal bat she was attacked with left her both mentaly and physically scarred and unable to attend the competition that year.

The documentary tells her tale, starting from the highlights of her career and then going into the trauma that she faced and the adversities that she had to overcome in order to make her comeback in surfing.

The movie is a touching look at the life of a great surfer that had to go through a lot, but ultimately managed to bounce back.

18. Letting Go (2006)

Kelly Slater holds an unimaginable 11 world surfing championships, making him one of the most prolific surfers in the history of the sport. However, there was a time when he was believed to have been washed up and that the better part of his career was long since over.

The documentary takes place in the years following his sixth world championship win, when he was seemingly struggling to earn his seventh. He would later on prove triumphant and actually go on to win even more than just seven, but the movie still provides an interesting look into a time when he was believed to have been through, only to come back better and stronger.

17. Riding Giants (2004)

As you can probably tell by the title, the movie centres around the goal of surfers to push their limits and go after the biggest waves that they could find in order to see just how far their skills can take them.

Written and directed by Stacy Peralta, the movie stars Laird Hamilton, Darrick Doerner, and Dave Kalama, and it dives into the thrill of big wave surfing, the history of the venture, and the reasons why each man was drawn into it.

Taking place in Hawaii, the movie has some incredible visual backdrops and the beauty of the shores that are present in that part of the world are on full display.

16. North Shore (1987)

A professional surfer wannabe takes part and wins a wave pool competition in his town. After this, he decides that his next move towards going pro is going to be to go and surf the pipeline in Hawaii. Once he gets there, he finds out that he knows little to nothing about the culture or the sport itself, so he gains an older guru of the sport  to teach him all of the tips and tricks that he needs to achieve his dream.

While this is your standard sort of fish out of water movie (no pun intended), it’s still quite enjoyable to watch due to the good chemistry between the main characters and the well shot surfing scenes.

15. The Seedling (1999)

The movie features Devon Howard, Joel Tudor, Seitaro Nakamura, Erik Sommer, Kassia Meador, Dane Peterson, Josh Farberow, Jimmy Gamboa, plus sliders Skip Frye and Donald Takayama.

The movie was shot in Mexico, France, California, Hawaii, New York, and the Canary Islands, and it follows a group of surfers from California as they make their way around the world with their boards.

The movie is a pretty leisurely watch since you can just sit back and enjoy the chilled out tunes that play in the background of the surfing footage that you see on screen.

14. Point Break (1991)

A lot of people consider Point Break to be the third quintessential Keanu Reeves movie, just behind the Matrix and Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure. For our money, we consider this to actually be the best movie that Keanu has ever starred in.

The movie is best encapsulated by the line - “You’re trying to tell me that the FBI is going to pay me to learn to surf?”. The story centres around an up-and-coming agent that needs to learn how to surf in order to infiltrate a gang of bank-robbing adrenaline junkies led by Patric Swayze.

The sheer 90s feeling that the movie exudes from every pore makes it a cliched, but incredibly fun ride from the title to when the ending credits start to roll.

13. Modern Collective (2009)

Directed by Kai Nevile, whom you might recognize from his earlier appearance on our list, Modern Collective is a movie about six surfers and their quest to redefine what it means to be a surfer in the modern day iteration of the sport.

The movie stars Dane Reynolds, Dion Agius, Yadin Nicol, Mitch Coleborn, Dusty Payne, and Jordy Smith, and it follows their lives on and off the waves.

The movie does a good job of making you feel like you’ve taken a peek behind the curtain and seen what the life of some of the world's best surfers is really like.

12. Raw Irons (1999)

The movie delivers on exactly what it promises, raw uncut footage of Andy Irons at the prime of his power doing what he does best - ripping waves. There aren’t any interviews or introspective narration, and there isn’t even any music that plays in the background most of the time.

All that the movie really offers is 30 minutes of a great surfer on his board, and that’s all it really needs to put on the table in order to get surfing fans interested in watching it.

As we covered before, Andy was one of the greats in the sport, and the chance to watch him out on the waves is always welcome.

11. Slippery When Wet (1958)

The first full-length movie by surf filmmaking legend Bruce Brown. The beginnings are always a bit strange and this movie is no different, with Bruce dabbling with filmmaking techniques that he would go on to develop as the years went on and he got a lot more experience under his belt and more confidence as a director.

Despite the fact that it might not be as good as some of his later works, this movie is still a great watch and is a recommended pick for any Bruce fans who want to see how a legend in the field got his start.

10. Kelly Slater in Black and White (1991)

One of the descriptions that we found under a YouTube video about this movie simply read “Dopeness”. We’re not entirely sure about the context or what exactly the original author might have meant with that, but after seeing the movie we can say that we agree with them.

The movie, which was originally intended to announce Kelly Slater's contract with Quiksilver, has gone on to become a cult classic in the surfing community.

This is mostly due to the dated but shrill and very incredibly shot footage of Kelly on the waves, as well as the background music in the scenes which in itself screams “dopeness”.

9. View From a Blue Moon (2015)

2015 gave us the first ever surf movie to be shot in 4K and the results are so breathtaking that you can almost see your own reflection in the crystal clear water on screen. The surfboarding feats that are shown on screen along with the crisp image of the movie, thanks to the resolution that it was shot in, make it a real treat for the eyes.

Impressive presentation aside, the movie also offers an insight into the life of surfer John Florence and his closest friends as they travel from place to place and surf some of the most famous shores on the planet.

8. Searching for Tom Curren (1996)

To call Tom Curren something of a recluse would be an understatement. The three time surfing world champion became somewhat disenchanted with the sport that he used to love and chose to leave the professional scene behind him at the height of his career.

We’ll just spoil the answer to the question that the title poses and tell you right now that the filmmakers did indeed find Tom Curren. They then went on to explore his career and the reasons behind him taking a break from surfing.

While you might not get the answers that you were hoping for, the film does provide a different outlook on the sport from the perspective of a former world champion.

7. Momentum (1992)

Yet another offering by Taylor Steele, Momentum tells the story of surfing powerhouses Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, Benji Weatherly, and Kalani Robb.

The film takes place before all of them really hit their stride and were still considered to be relatively unknown surfers in the sport, at least relatively speaking in comparison to the fame that they would all go on to receive later on in their lives.

The surfing stunts and aerial maneuvers that are shown on screen are not only really pleasing to watch, but they also go a long way in showing that all of these surfers had the skill to make it big since before they even reached the public eye. 

6. Locked In! (1964)

Locked in is directed by Bud Browne and features Phil Edwards, Dewey Weber, Buzzy Trent, Peter Cole, Mike Doyle, Mickey Munoz and many more.

The film is 83 minutes of pure surfing fun, and it features some of the most notorious moments from the history of the sport, like Greg Noll famously wiping out on a 25-foot wall at Outside Pipeline.

The film is quite an old entry to the genre and is famously illusive to track down, but if you do manage to find a copy, we recommend that you take the time to watch it.

5. Five Summer Stories (1972)

Written and directed by Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman, the movie centres around  David Nuuhiwa, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, and Sam Hawk as they go on to prove the title of the documentary to be true and tell us five different stories about their surfing experiences.

The movie uniquely features original animated sections that were created by John Lamb, and even a soundtrack that contains works from the band Honk.

While it originally wasn’t a huge commercial success, the film has seen a resurgence in recent years and many have seen fit to grant it the title of “cult classic” and a must see for enthusiasts of the genre.

4. Surfing Hollow Days (1961)

Bruce Brown goes on a trip to Mexico, California, Florida, Australia, and Hawaii, and films Phil Edwards as he makes history and becomes the first man to even surf the Banzai Pipeline. Since his initial feat, Edwards has been copied countless times and the pipeline has become the way that surfers can make a name for themselves.

As a legendary filmmaker in the field, Bruce manages to capture the historic moment perfectly and immortalizes it on film for future generations like us to witness and play on repeat as many times as we would like.

3. The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (1970)

The first thing that anyone thinks of when they imagine surfing for the first time is the tube ride, and for good reason. The view from the inside of the cascading wave is incredible and a lot of people take up surfing just to be able to see it for themselves.

In the 1970s, George Greenough went on a personal quest to capture that very same view on film so that everyone who watches his footage can experience it for themselves.

The footage of his process and his explanation of the types of lenses and angles that he used is fascinating to watch on its own and it depicts the lengths that he went through in order to give people a view from the inside of the tube.

2. Morning of the Earth (1972)

The documentary depicts the attempt of a handful of surfers trying to live in harmony with nature. Taking place in Australia, Bali, and Hawaii, the film shows the beauty of the shores that all of these destinations have to offer, and it even shows the shores of Uluwatu, which were captured on camera for the very first time during the filming of this movie.

The surfers that the movie centres around make their own boards and have the goal to find and surf the perfect waves with these very same boards.

The spiritual and literal journey that these individuals go through is unlike any other that has even been recorded to date and it makes this movie a true classic among surf films.

1. The Endless Summer (1966)

No surprise here. Not only is this seminal work of surf film given legendary cult status by pretty much every surfer to ever stand on a board, but just the fact that it’s considered to be Bruce Brown’s magnum opus gives it a pedigree that makes putting it on any other spot on our list akin to sacrilege.

As we’ve gone over multiple times by now, Brown created some of the most beloved films in the surf genre, so putting this above the rest says a lot about it’s quality.

We won’t bother giving a description or naming the surfers that appear in the movie, all we’ll say is that you’ll definitely not want to skip it.


Taste in movies is subjective. Everyone’s tastes are more than likely going to be different, and people are going to personally enjoy or dislike certain movies and movie elements based on their own preconceptions and standards.

What we mean to say is that you’re more than likely not going to like a lot of the movies that we put on this list, or you’re going to disagree with our ranking. However, please keep in mind that we aren’t trying to get you to see our point of view when it comes to these movies, or dissuade you from not favouring certain picks due to your own reasons.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching