Our first priority is generally to be at the beach. The sunshine, the waves, the feel of the sand―it all just feels right. But, sometimes, that’s not always in the cards. Whether we’re landlocked, nursing an injury, or weather has gotten in the way of our perfect beach day, sometimes we have to stay inside.
However, those days can still include surfing through movie (and TV!) magic. We’re sharing a few of our favorites to add to your queue or search for online.
The seminal documentary on surfing by filmmaker Bruce Brown, The Endless Summer follows surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave; its title refers to the extensive travel required to surf year-round. Beautifully photographed and intimate in its feel, you’ll love the spirit of this film, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Three years after his heartfelt and energetic documentary on skateboarding, Dogtown and Z-Boys, director Stacy Peralta turned his eye and camera toward a different board sport: surfing. Riding Giants shares current testimony on the sport, with footage and interviews about its history. Peralta is a painstaking filmmaker, and you will learn a staggering amount about the sport as a result. This one will have you itching to catch waves once it’s done.
Admittedly, this 50s-era Sandra Dee vehicle (which later inspired a Sally Field-starring TV show) has a different tone from the films already listed. However, it can be fun to look at the image surfing had in earlier days―one of rebellion and slight danger―and what effects that image had on naive young teenagers. This pick is definitely a sillier one, but still worth a watch at least once.
In the early nineties, it would appear that surfing still had a reputation for rebellion. Point Break capitalized on that assumption with its story about an undercover FBI agent who works his way into a surfer gang, hoping to connect them to a string of bank robberies. Among the best of Patrick Swayze’s movies, it also stars Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, and Lori Petty. A remake was released in 2015 ... but you can go ahead and skip that one.
Although Gidget does surf in her movies, relatively few movies focus on female surfers. In 2002, Blue Crush provided a change to the formula. Starring Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, and Matthew Davis, it tells the story of a talented surfer preparing for the Pipe Masters competition with a distraction on her mind―quarterback Matt Tollman. Although the film has its stereotypical teen film moments, it also features skilled action sequences of surfers, and is worth watching for those moments, too.
The surfers in Surf’s Up are also preparing for a major competition―the Penguin World Surfing competition. Released during the height of a “penguin craze” in the U.S., this animated “mockumentary” features the voice talents of Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, and real-life human surfers Kelly Slater and Rob Machado. This is another silly way to spend a rainy afternoon, and may be particularly entertaining for younger kids still building enthusiasm to take on the waves for themselves.
If you’re looking for a short story about the history of surfing ... told by someone who vaguely knows what they’re saying, check out Comedy Central’s Drunk History. A season 2 episode focusing on stories in Hawaii details the brief feud that took place between surfers in Hawaii and ones from Australia. Surfer Eddie Aikau is shown brokering a “peace treaty” of sorts between the two factions over a mutual respect for the sport. There’s some explicit language on this one, so we don’t recommend watching it with kids or at work.
We’re always wishing for the next beach day, and for conditions that favor time among the waves. In the meantime, we hope these picks will keep you entertained and inspired until the next surf outing arrives.