28 Jan 2011

The Top 10 Surf Movies of all Time!

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Ah, the old definitive list. Subjective opinion dressed up as fact and the cause celebre of arguments amongst friends around the camp fire.

Endless Summer Boys

Well who am I to stand in the way of another round of shadow boxing? So here is my list of the top 10 surf films (or top 10 surf movies for my American friends) of all time both “real” and Hollywood fiction combined. Let the arguments commence… you douchebags!

1. Endless Summer, 1966 (Bruce Brown)

This iconic and timeless masterpiece follows Robert August and Mike Hynson around the World on their quest to surf new environments from West Africa to Australia, New Zealand to Hawaii en route to achieving surfing nirvana. The combination of exotic travel, humorous narrative and stunning imagery make this a culturally historic piece of cinema that set the high water mark for all other surf movies to aim for. To date it remains unsurpassed and a must watch for all budding surfers. Number 1 on the top 10 surf films/movies of all time no questions asked.

Recommended for: Everyone!

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

This film exposes viewers to the wonder of Australia’s north-east coast, Bali and Hawaii focusing on a group of surfers who live in harmony with their own environments at home as well as on their travels for the perfect waves. A truly beautiful and spiritual piece that captures an innocence and adventure that is frozen in time.

Recommended for: Those of a spiritual disposition, people with zest and just about everyone else who cohabits this Earth.

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

The film chronicles the birth of the short board revolution and the innovations that changed surfing thereafter. Beautifully shot pieces from remote Australian and Californian breaks feature the likes of Ted Spencer, Chris Brock, Baddy Treolar, Mac T and many more of the best underground surfers of the time.

Recommended for: Those who like to watch history in the making.

4. Thicker Than Water, 2000 (Chris Malloy, Emmet Malloy and Jack Johnson)

Essentially one long music surf video that sees Jack Johnson piecing together an acoustic soundtrack for some beautifully shot film sequences that take in Australia, India, Hawaii, Indonesia and Ireland. The only grumble is its only 45 minutes long… and features Jack Johnson.

Recommended for: Those who love Jack Johnson and beach fires.

5. Momentum, 1992 (Taylor Steele)

Great sound track meets great footage from the likes of the Mentawai Islands, South Africa, France, Timor Island, Mexico, California and Hawaii. The film covers the World’s best surfers in the under 23 age category as they combine great rides to the likes of At The Drive-In, No Knife, Refused, CKY and many more balls out classics.

Recommended for: Those who like their volume to 11.

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

This feature documentary centres on the exceptional Tom Curren who’s smooth and rhythmic style combined with raw power and blinding speed so endeared him to the World of surfing in his 1980′s and 90′s heyday. Well worth a watch if only for the magic with which he works the waves.

Recommended for: Those who love graceful surfing the Tom Curren way.

7. Free Ride, 1977 (Bill Delaney)

Classic 70′s surf footage meets the kind of disco funk and lead guitar cheek chewing that can only be dreamt of now. Turn on, tune in, and Google the word 8 track.

Recommended for: Those who believe civilisation peaked the year Star Wars was released.

8. Green Iguana, 1992 (Jack McCoy)

Jack McCoy went back to basics as he shot the likes of Occy, Luke Egan and ‘Munga’ Barry in unrestrained free surfing magic in some of the best waves on the planet. The superb 16mm film footage captured the beauty of giant tubes from Australia to Hawaii and Indonesia.

Recommended for: Those who like their surf free from narrow judgement.

9. In God’s Hands, 1998 (Zalman King)

This film could just as easily have been called ‘God awful – The Return of ham acting’ given the lameduck storyline and performance of surf great Shane Dorian. It plods along following the internal struggles of the successful Dorian who wants to be a big wave soul surfer.

That said Director Zalman King serves up the kind of incredible surf footage that makes you want to run from the cinema straight to the sea.

Recommended for: Those with a few beers in the fridge, a reefer and a mute button.

10. Point Break, 1991 (Kathryn Bigelow)

OK so officially it probably shouldn’t make it as high as number 10 but I felt there should be at least one more Hollywood flick in there and if you’re going to pick one then it needs to be the one that features Reeves, Swazey, Busey and that bloke what sings for the Chilli Peppers.

So basically a bunch of big wave surfers need travel money to continue living the dream so take to robbing banks dressed as ex-Presidents of the US. So far so good. Throw in FBI agents Busey and Reeves on their tail and you’ve got a high octane, action packed flick that does a fair enough job of encapsulating surf philosophy whilst also serving to the masses.

Recommended for: Those who want to learn how to rob banks dressed as ex-Presidents in order to fund a lifestyle of big wave surfing around the World.

So there we have it, the top 10 surf movies of all time. Do you agree with the list? Have we omitted one of your favorites or am I just plain wrong?

Please leave your comments and feedback below to really get the debate started. I’ll check back regularly to answer all and any comments.

Writer: Josh Aggars www.facebook.com/josh.aggars

Connect with me on Google+


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  2. Peter Falco says:

    I agree with most of the above although I do reckon intentio surf may need to go in this list soon. Love that film

    1. flipflopscity says:

      Fair enough Peter. Where would you put that in the list? It is a great film but is it worthy of a place in the top ten surf movies of all time?

      Me drums me fingers on me chin whilst me thinks on that one.

  3. Van Davis says:

    Should have Big Wednesday its way better than point break but you still get the busey

  4. flipflopscity says:

    True Van but then you miss out on the 'balls, your balls are this big' fire side chat of point break, the cooler than thou gang performance and Anthony what's his face from the Chilli Peppers getting his foot blown off. That said Big Wednesday did have the draft enrollment which remains an all time classic scene.

    But then that's the nature of top 10 lists. Let the debate continue!

  5. Michelle says:

    Great exhaustive list of surf movies, but I would love to see Heart of the Sea up there as well. An excellent documentary on one of my all time favorite soul surfers Rell Sunn! She was not just an inspiration to the surfing community on a global level, but also to her beloved community of Makaha.

    1. flipflopscity says:

      Hi Michelle,

      Fair point as it is an excellent documentary. Maybe we'll have to update the list in the new years and make it a top 20 based on readers feedback. Could be an interesting poll.