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25 Greatest Surf Movies of all Time

Posted on 29 March 2008 by admin

Have you ever seen a movie that, for some reason or another, just sticks with you? Below you'll find what SURFING Magazine considers the Top 25 surf movies of all time. They polled dozens of surfers and filmmakers using a points system to create the list.

25. Second Thoughts (Timmy Turner, 2004)

second thoughts surf movie

The dawn of film-yourself filmmaking, as Turner and friends maroon themselves near Indonesian perfection and slowly go mental.

Highlight: Killing the goat, and the epic score at "The Right."

Available: The Surf Network

Movie Trailer

24. What's Really Going On (Mike Reola, 1995)

The yang Momentum's yin. It was raw, it was crude, but WRGO - along with its increasingly scandalous sequel - became the inspiration for everything from Jackass to reality TV to airshows. It also launched the careers of icons Chris Ward and Cory Lopez.

Highlight: Fourteen-year-old Chris Ward looking like a young Curren. The formal introduction of Randall.

Available: Ally Video

23. Big Wednesday (John Milius, 1978)

big wednesday

Apocalypse Now director Milius manages Hollywood's sole representation in SURFER Magazine's Top 25 with his loose retelling of surfer Denny Aaberg's Malibu days.

Highlight: What else? Big Wednesday. Plus, The Masochist flexing.

Available: Amazon

Movie Trailer

22. Wave Warriors III (Herbie Fletcher, 1998)

wave warriors

Fletcher's straight-and-to-the-point approach and total involvement made his Wave Warriors series a precursor to the Momentum-style push of the '90s. Christian and Archy's sections to speed metal launched the next generation of aerialists.

Highlight: Christian Fletcher getting really weird in and out of the water.

Available: Amazon

21. Riding Giants (Stacy Peralta, 2004)

riding giants

The last word in big-wave documentaries, taking us from the pioneer days to Maverick's to the front lines at Jaws. Gripping testimonials are enough to make manly men cry.

Highlight: Greg Noll's one-liners and Laird's domination at Jaws.

Available: Riding Giants

Movie Trailer

20. Pump! (Billabong, 1990)

billabong pump

This gritty Billabong promo vid could be the single most romantic ode to Mark Occhilupo on celluloid. Made us all want to pack up, cut the legs off our fullsuits and move to France.

Highlight: Oc and Ronnie at J-Bay; Oc on the Basque Coast to the Slaves' "Poverty of Love."

Available: ob surf shop

19. Montaj (Matt Gye, 2002)


A hyperdrive sequence of technical airs and tuberiding so futuristic, it feels post-apocalyptic. Taj Burrow's follow-up to his first signature film, Sabotaj, Montaj is still ahead of its time five years later.

Highlight: Taj impossibly drained and impossibly contorted above the lip in his own backyard.

Available: Amazon

18. Sipping Jetstreams (Taylor Steele and Dustin Humphrey, 2006)

sipping jetstreams

Gorgeously filmed ode to the out-of-the-way surf destinations (Egypt, Cuba, Hong Kong); marks a new era for Taylor Steele assisted by photographic visionary Dustin Humphery.

Highlight: Slater's "best day ever" in Barbados.

Available: Studio411

Movie Trailer

17. Magnaplasm (Richard Woolcott and Troy Eckert, 1998)


A rich and textured journey to Hawaii's outer islands and beyond with a budding Bruce Irons and Team Volcom. Made claymationcool again.

Highlight: The frying egg, the fish and Bruce to Ween's "Buenos Tardes Amigo."

Available: Volcom

16. Kelly Slater in Black and White (Richard Woolcott, 1991)

kelly slater

The essential signature film of the essential surfer on the verge of greatness. "It's the morning of the final" remains one of the most quoted lines in surf-movie history.

Highlight: Kelly's reverses and his "star trunks" at Lowers.

Available: Amazon

Movie Trailer

15. Beyond Blazing Boards (Chris Bystrom, 1985)

beyond blazing boards

Captured the mid '80s performance push and our love for Curren and the Aussies, all scored to some mod Untouchables songs.

Highlight: Occy's "Wild Child" frontside air, Ronnie Burns at huge Padang

Available: Surfing Videos

Video Excerpt

14. Litmus (Andrew Kidman and Jon Frank, 1997)


Grainy, back-light and drenched in souly wanderlust, Kidman and Frank traipsed the world to rediscover the sensory beauty of wave-riding.

Highlight: Joel Fitzgerald's Irish slab assault.

Available: Amazon

13. The Seedling (Thomas Campbell, 1999)


An artistic, timely, bold statement on the logging resurgence of the late '90s. Simple, beautiful, and a nod to the classics at a time when surfers needed it most.

Highlight: Dane Peterson and Jimmy Gamboa "really wailing" at First Point.

Available: Studio411

Movie Trailer

12. The Big Surf (Bud Browne, 1957)

the big surf

Bud Browne was the firstest and the bestest. He pioneered commercial surf movies and did it with flicks like this one, entertaining, hardcore, and with no agenda other than stoke and recording the sport as it passed in front of his lens.

Highlight: Surf and the surfing life at Makaha in the early '50s, shot like a well-made home movie.

Available: n/a

11. September Sessions (Chris Malloy and Jack Johnson, 2000)

september sessions

Like a bonus track to their previously released Thicker Than Water, September Sessions follows Slater, Machado, and Dorian on a single, epic Indo boat trip score. Totally simple, and equally epic.

Highlight: The whole movie feels like a single, all-time session.

Available: Studio411

Movie Trailer

10. First Chapter (Jason Muir and Dane Reynolds, 2006)

first chapter

The gold standard in high-performance surfing thanks to America's next great hope, Dane Reynolds, combined with a good dose of postmodern, anti-corporate cynicism. Is, and will likely remain, the most studied video of the decade.

Highlight: Dane surfing at home and his interview about his dog.

Available: Amazon

Movie Trailer

9. Five Summer Stories (Macgillivray/Freeman, 1972)

5 summer stories

A slick, ambitious surf film that defined the Lopez era and the North Shore as ground zero.

Highlight: Gerry Lopez at Pipe to Honk's "Tunnel of Love" and BK at Honolua to Honk's "Love You Baby."


Video Excerpt

8. Green Iguana (Jack McCoy, 1992)

McCoy at his best, mixing magical realism with cutting-edge cinematography in some mind-boggling West Oz desert slabs. With his Bunyip/Iguana series, he proves surf movies can be trippy, fun and hardcore all at the same time.

Highlight: Occy and Margo in the West Oz desert. Munga pulling into huge right pits.

Available: n/a

7. Searching for Tom Curren (Sonny Miller and Derek Hynd, 1996)


The crowning achievement of Miller and Rip Curl's Search series - Tom Curren's grooviest and most superhuman moments captured in 16mm.

Highlight: Tom's "first" wave at J-Bay and his fireball fish sessions in Indo.

Available: Amazon

6. Free Ride (Bill Delaney, 1977)


The next level in cinematography and performance thanks to cameraman Dan Merkel and "Free Riders" Shaun Tomson, Rabbit, PT and Mark Richards. Shaun Tomson slow-mo at backdoor remains as dramatic as Surf Theater gets.

Highlight: Water footage from Backdoor/Off the Wall, Rabbit's see-saw cross-steps, MR at Honolua

Available: n/a

Video Excerpt

5. Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (George Greenough, 1969)


Unwittingly documents the advent of the Shortboard Revolution, culminating in Greenough's groundbreaking, POV tube-footage shot with shoulder-mounted cameras from his surf mat.

Highlight: Hypnotic inside-the-tube footage.


Movie Intro

4. Thicker Than Water (Chris Malloy, Emmett Malloy and Jack Johnson, 1999)


Combining vivid 16mm film, matured "Momentum Generation" surfers like Dorian, Slater and Machado, prime waves from Indo to Ireland, and a Jack Johnson-influenced soundtrack destined to become a stand-alone album, this film staked claim on a whole new era in surf filmmaking; one of the most re-watchable shred flicks out there.

Highlight: The Green Board; Conan Hayes and Noah Johnson's Tahitian dream session.

Available: Woodshed Films

Movie Trailer

3. Momentum (Taylor Steele, 1992)


High action, no frills, punk rock, breakthrough film for both Taylor Steele and the entire "Momentum Generation" of Slater, Machado, Dorian and crew; inspired a generation of surfing and a flood of videos to come.

Highlight: Slater's backside air in Puerto, Dorian's second reefer, Chesser at Off the Wall.

Available: Koastal Media

Movie Trailer

2. Morning of the Earth (Alby Falzon, 1972)


Groove-driven ode to the "country soul" nature trip, follows pioneering Aussies like Michael Peterson and Nat Young in their search for surfing's Garden of Eden - which, featuring surfers Steve Cooney and Rusty Miller, they eventually find the Bali.

Highlight: The first-ever footage from Uluwatu.

Available: Morning of the Earth

Movie Intro

1. The Endless Summer (Bruce Brown, 1966)


The immaculate connection. With one slide down the sand dune and a first look at "Bruce's Beauties," no surf movie enchanted more people - surfers and non-surfers alike - than the true original. And it continues to have the same effect today.

Highlight: Mike Hynson and Robert August worshipping Cape St. Francis; the reverse Patrice Lumumba in West Africa.

Available: Amazon

Movie Trailer


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  • Kidcansurf
    Modern Collective, 3 degrees, young guns, campaign..
  • frankie
    Dumbest list ever. Not even close.
  • Free bingo
    I didin't know that there were a lot of movies about surf. I haven't watch any of those so I have a lot of movies to see.
  • Michael Freze
    about no 23- Big Wednesday... there is an typo error here. John Milius is not the director of Apocalypse Now. Come on now. Standard typos are acceptable, but you really should know that Francis directed that flick. In fact, many agree this was Coppola's greatest achievement. Milius wrote the screenplay, but should never be credited as the director of this immortal classic.
    And where is Surfwise on your list?? How can you make a top 25 and give no mention to the most famous surfing family of all time?
    Get your list together guys!
  • Greg from Cocoa Beach
    I 2 loved the Endless Summer series. I really dig the newer one that hasn't been out done as of yet. "Step into Liquid". I would love to see another video done like this. Its amazing with the jet ski tows and oh, man, I shudder when I saw old boy riding a 36' freaking awesome! Plus, they say your hooked after your 1st wave. But for me, it was my first barrel. I was soooo stoked!
  • MD
    One California Day should be on this list!
  • Bastian Matzen
    I expected "Surfnazis must die!" on the fiirst rank. Strangely enough I could'tn find it there! What's wrong with you?
    This one:
  • JK
    How about The Performers (1984)? The intro alone was good enough for it to be top 25. It was impossible to watch that first 4 minutes and NOT want to go surfing.
  • Michael Freze
    This top 25 list should include Surfwise. Surfwise is really in the top 5 all time, no question.
  • kristen
    if anyone can help me would be greatly appreciated. looking for a 80s surf movie 'all down the line' finding it very difficult to track down. someone flogged mine!
  • Lukas
    ...:::Brice de Nice:::...

    :-) Well, maybe not.
  • seanschiemann
    So what's better than surfing?
    NOTHING!!! Thanks for the great list. Those are all "HOT" movies.
  • dude
    pipeline posse project 1
  • martina
    I like surfing too much.But the movies are not thrilling as the surf.The list is good.The no 1. rank movie is the best and my favourite surf movie.

  • j.j.moondoggie
    looking for the performers by quiksilver early 80s,chappy jennings huge pipeline tubes,richard crams cutbacks,tom carrols backside tubes(no railgrabing),marvin foster,wes laine,and gary "kong" elkerton.cant find it anywhere.
  • sex_toys
    Surfing is one of the most manly thing is sport ever existed! And this list is awesome. I just wanted to add here "Stranger Than Fiction" (2008). I think this film has the best surfers of today and many tricks! Recommend!
  • placeusernamehere

    Whatever happend to Endless summer II?
  • nintendo
    Hi friends, Anyone collect Hard to find vintage surf film and interested in knowing what rare films actually exist? Here is a big list of films collection.
  • scottysurf
    Here is a list i put together of Rare Vintage Surfing known to exist on film....
  • scottysurf
  • Kite board
    For me "Riding Giants" and "Thicker than water" are my two personal favorites out of these 25 movies. I have watched these two movies at least 5 times, I can still watch these on any given day!

  • Neil
    Henrique, I've been looking for albums by The Slaves, as featured on Billabong's Pump!, for years now as well, but to no avail. I just can't understand why I can't find so much as a shred of evidence of their existence. I'd love to hear from anyone in the know about this band.
  • bento cuervo
    I have the album.
    They were from LA. Lead singer Rick L. Rick was a famous punk fixture from the late 70's
  • Surfs Up
  • T!
    you can find the image for 24. What's Really Goin' On at:

    check out
  • Henrique Martins
    I've been looking for since 90's decade the CD from "The Slaves" band from the movie billabong "pump".
    i was wondering.....I think is outdated. Sold out.
    In a huge search worldwide, i feel unable to get it.
    Even in amazon, etc.....
    Could you give a help how to get it?
    I haven't got a clue of "the Slaves" band come from.

  • bento cuervo
    o velho,eu tenho o cd.ja tive original mas agora tenho uma copia.tenho no i tunes,nao sei como posso te mandar isso.mas nao tem aquela musica looking for an angel da parte da indonesia,do ronnie burns,munga e cantrell outras todas tem.pega meu email ai, correio nao rola te mandar pois vivo em california abraco brother .
  • Diarmid
    What? No Point Break?
  • Juxhin
    point break is the best surfing film!
  • Google Yahoo Merger
    hey great list, thanks for posting
  • Johnny Kapahala
    Where is SPROUT???
  • Rick Cane
    Are you crazy? How can you make this list and not have North Shore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! North Shore should be #1. There is absolutely no validity to it whatsoever.
  • Chandler
    I agree with you Rick, although Lance and I had a major disagreement, Vince says he's not sure !
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