Surf movies are a mesmerising genre of film which celebrates surf culture, history and the legendary lives of surfers. Sitting down to watch a surf film is a captivating experience that will no doubt make you want to get in the water as soon as you can!
For some of us not fortunate to live by the beach, we have a lot of time on our hands, so here at Wetsuit Centre, we have devised this list to help you feel motivated during the lockdown.
There are so many incredible and thought-provoking surf films that narrowing down our list to a few is an incredibly challenging task. We have picked some of our favourites, but this does not mean they are all on this list! Our list provides a mix of fictional, documentary and true-life stories.
After reading this list, you are guaranteed to feel inspired and pack your surfboard bag, ready to head to the beach as soon as you can!
Top 5 Classic Surf Films
Below is our ultimate list of classic surf films; if you haven’t seen these yet, we would thoroughly recommend you start with them. Each one is timeless and dedicates itself to a pivotal point in surf history, starting from the 60s and 70s, all the way to the late 00s.
• The Endless Summer, 1966
• Morning of the Earth, 1972
• Free Ride,1975
• Big Wednesday, 1978
• Pointbreak, 1991
Chasing Mavericks, 2012
Chasing Mavericks is based on the true-life story of the legendary surfer Jay Moriarity.
Growing up in California, the film depicts Jay’s early life living with his mum, who is struggling with alcohol dependency. With little comfort at home, he finds his peace in the ocean and spends his teenage years investing in surfing.
Curious for a more significant challenge, Jay follows his neighbour, an experienced and fearless surfer named Rusty, to the now-famous surf location, Mavericks. Determined to become a big wave surfer, Jay begs Rusty to train him to become a Mavericks surfer.
With many epic and memorable lines, this film is not only eye-opening but educational. You can expect to shed a few tears because of Jay’s positive and happy-go-lucky attitude in times of hardship, and his outlook on life will motivate you to change your perspective for the better.
Lords of Dogtown, 2005
Lords of Dogtown is based on the real-life events surrounding the Zephyr skate crew in Santa Monica, California during the 70s. The film follows the action of a young club of skateboarders who changed the style of skateboarding forever when using skating as a substitute during flat surf and eventually found their way to fame and fortune.
The outstanding acting talents of Heath Ledger who depicts the character of Skip Engblom, who was the manager of the Zephyr skate group and shop, bares an exceptional resemblance to the man himself, which you can see in our next film on the list!
Another interesting fact about the film is the writer, Stacy Peralta. Stacy Peralta was one of the skaters in the Zephyr crew and is one of the main characters included in the movie. He is also responsible for directing the documentary Dogtown and Z Boys released three years before this film, as well as Riding Giants. See below for more information.
Dogtown and Z Boys, 2001
After watching Lords of Dogtown, you will no doubt be intrigued to know more about the background and lifestyle of the skaters in the film.
This film interviews all the key Zephyr skateboarders and explains where they came from to where they are today, as well as providing in-depth coverage on the reality of growing up in California during the 70s, including original footage!
Kissed By God, 2018
Kissed By God is an incredible documentary that looks at the life of the three-time World Champion surfer, Andy Irons. Not only is this film a perfect insight into the world of professional surfing, but it also shows the pressures that come with it and explores the critical topic of mental health.
It offers a perfectly-balanced depiction of Andy Irons, with the presence of an untouchable God-like figure of surfing as well as showcasing his vulnerability as a human being. You will not leave this film feeling the same about the power of surfing.
Momentum Generation, 2018
A turning point in the history of surf films, Momentum Generation is a documentary covering the story of one of surfing’s most legendary group of competitors. The film pulls together:
• Rob Machado,
• Shane Dorian,
• Kelly Slater,
• Benji Weatherley,
• Kalani Robb,
• Taylor Knox,
• Ross Williams,
• Taylor Steele,
• and Pat O'Connell.
It shares their experiences of leaving California in their early teens to live in Hawaii and pursue the surfing dream.
The documentary is not shy to discuss controversial surf topics, including that famous 1995 high-five between Kelly Slater and Rob Machado during the Pipe Masters! Was it a way to bait Machado so Slater could win? You decide!
This film is both exciting and emotional, and a central aspect of the film explores how the tragic death of the group’s anchor, Todd Chesser, affected the group for years after.
Momentum Generation will leave you feeling inspired and question ‘why wasn’t I living at Benji’s house during the 90s?’ (If you know, you know!)
So, there we have our top five must-see surf films! There are so many more for you to check out after, including:
• Riding Giants, 2004
• Pipeline Masters, 2006
• Busting Down the Door, 2008
• View From a Blue Moon, 2015
• Unstoppable, 2018
What would you include in your top choice of surf films? We would love to know; why not share your favourites on our social media channels?