Check out our rundown of top surf movies, films and surfing documentaries for when you can’t get in the water.

Whether you’re land-locked in Luton or beachside in Bournemouth, when you can’t hit the surf what do you do to scratch the itch? Even the most dedicated ocean-goers need to take a break during stormy weather and global pandemics. So ride out the storm with us and chill with a surf movie or documentary!

What would your number one be? We couldn’t decide as the net is so wide. Well, actually we had a long discussion about it in the office and everyone had their own favourite – and how can you possibly pit a documentary like The Endless Summer against a classic (it is nearly 30 years old!) like Point Break? Then, if cheese is your thing, Blue Juice would be up there!

There are three types of surf films: movies that showcase surfing (we’ve marked these as ‘SS’); surf films that document people, things and surfing (‘SD’), and; surfing movies that have some surfing in them (‘SM’).

Endless Summer Surf Movie

The Endless Summer (1966) | SD | 96 mins

Surf Documentary by the iconic Bruce Brown. Follows Mike Hynson and Robert August from their home in California, as they embark on a surf trip ‘following summer’ around the world and arguably giving birth to Surf Travel culture and the desire to follow the waves. 

The iconic soundtrack was by The Sandals and is still a must for any surf trip some 50-plus years later.

2021 update: Some of the narration belongs in the 60s – don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Big Wednesday (1978) | SM | 120 mins – Another classic

Arguably another contender for number one, this surf film is big for all the right reasons. It is 60s nostalgia, surfing Narnia and a dream of a film. Ultimately, this is a film about friendship and three surfers as they grow up. The three surfing friends are slowly brought back into the reality of day-to-day life and then the Vietnam War. Three top Californian surfers – rule breaker Matt (Vincent), kindly Jack (Katt) and off-the-wall Leroy (Busey).

Packed full of stunning surfing images and evocative of its time, it truly deserves its place as a classic surf film.

Expect all the trials and tribulations of such a time; girls, fights, war and, of course, surfing. But it is much more than that – it’s a story crafted to grab your emotions, help you connect with the characters and the story of that time, and leave you truly touched. This is one anyone will like – surfer or not.

Big Wednesday Surf Film
Point Break Surf Movie

Point Break (1991) | SM | 123 mins  – Cheese!

1991 American action-crime film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by W. Peter Iliff. It stars Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Surfer or not, if you’re a 90s child then you’ll have seen this moody surf-meets-action/crime-meets-romance. It is fun, sexy and (let’s admit it) a teeny bit corny at the same time.

Dark Side Of The Lens (2010) | SD | 6 mins – Free

Filmed and edited by Cornishman (and now accomplished musician) Mickey Smith. A short and beautiful, artistic video giving an insight into being a young Cornish cameraman exploring a new world of cold, powerful waves in Ireland. Beautiful piece of short film.

Blue Juice (1995) | SM | 90 mins – Cheese, but a wonderful and rare Cornish classic

Catherine Zeta-Jones & Sean Pertwee star in this British-made film, set in Cornwall. There seems to be a trend in surf films; coming of age and deciding if you want to grow up and leave the freedom of the waves or settle down. This is true in this romantic comedy – JC (Pertwee) has to choose between settling down with Chloe (Zeta-Jones) and running a coffee shop, or following the surf around the world. Look out for Ewan McGregor as JC’s struggling ex-drug dealing mate.

Castles In The Sky (2010) | SS | 54 mins

Watch on Amazon or also available on iTunes – Taylor Steel Movie – Arguably one of the best surf filmmakers in the business, and this is possibly his best film. Transport yourself to stunning locations across the globe from Iceland to Peru and India to Vietnam. This surfing showcase takes you on a voyage of discovery, surfing waves in places never surfed before. Sorry to the epic surfers featured in this film, but they are the supporting actors – the award goes to the locations and the waves.

The September Sessions (2002) | SS | 40 mins

There has to be a film with Kelly Slater, right?! He is, after all, crowned as the greatest surfer of all time. Set in 2002, September Sessions was created by songwriter Jack Johnson. Its full title is: The September Sessions: The Tomorrowland Story Brought To Life In Brilliant 16mm Film. And, yep, you guessed it, this documentary is shot on 16mm giving it a grainy, intimate feel. Perfect for a film charting Slater’s first retirement and realisation that he has been sucked into the corporate world of sponsorship commitments, signings and celebrity, as he rediscovers his love for surfing.

Cynevin | SS | 18 mins – Stunning film out of West Cornwall

Here, Mike Lay dances across a diverse set of local breaks in the deep west of Cornwall, with a quiver of watercraft as nuanced as the wave variety. The result is a stunning homage to cruising and shredding at home, cut by Seth Hughes. If you want pure log-style (longboard), skip to the 14-minute mark. But hang around for some mid-length action, twin fin… Mike’s not fussy. Watch it on Vimeo.


Riding Giants (2004) | SD | 105 mins – An epic in big wave surfing

Still one of the best documentaries of big wave surfing. This documentary is all about the art of the big wave. Produced by Agi Orsi and narrated by Stacy Peralta, it has a soundtrack that is a must for any playlist – featuring Basement Jaxx, David Bowie, Linkin Park, Soundgarden and The Water Boys. 

The documentary opens with the history of the big wave surf. Charting the pull of the daredevil and dangerous big wave surfer, it features Jeff Clark, Laird Hamilton and Greg Noll, alongside surfing greats like Mickey Munoz.

In our opinion, some of these movies should be ticked off the ‘things-a-surfer-has-to-do’ list and are a rite of passage for any Grom.

Tag us in your favourite #FreewaveSurfMovieFavourite, as we would LOVE to know which is your top one, pop pickers (especially if your favourite didn’t make our list)!

* Film stills and artwork with thanks to the movie messiahs at IMDb via Pinterest.