Surfing has always had a special place in Hollywood. As a lifestyle surfing exudes freedom, sunshine and rebellion. For most people, this is an exotic pastime that exists in faraway places where bronzed people develop sculpted bodies and defy the laws of nature by riding along walls of water.
From Gidget to Point Break and then to Surfer Dude – the portrayal of surfers is art reflecting culture in a feedback loop that draws people to the beach and creates new subcultures along the way.
Here is a list of surfing Hollywood movies for your viewing pleasure. Have we missed one of your favourite films? Let us know in the comments.
Table of Contents
Diminutive teenager Francie Lawrence (Sandra Dee) has a bunch of boy-crazy friends, but she could care less about boys. That is, until she goes to the beach one day and meets surfer Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews (James Darren) and his friends, including Burt “The Big Kahuna” Vail (Cliff Robertson). Now, Francie, whom the boys call “Gidget” — short for girl midget — wants to learn how to surf, so she buys a used board and dives into the sunny world of Southern California surfing fever.
Initial release: 10 April 1959
Director: Paul Wendkos
Big Wednesday (1978)
Three California beach buddies begin to realise there is more to life than waxing down their surfboards as they ditch their alcoholic and unruly ways to go fight in the Vietnam War.
Initial release: May 1978
Director: John Milius
North Shore (1987)
After learning how to surf by using the local wave tanks, Arizona resident Rick (Matt Adler) uses his winnings from a recent contest to fly to Hawaii and try to make a living for himself as a professional wave rider. He gets off to a rough start, as he finds riding the ocean a lot different than thesimulated waves back home, but he soon finds a mentor in the aging surf guru Chandler (Gregory Harrison) and a friend in local girl Kiani (Nia Peeples).
Initial release: 14 August 1987
Director: W. W. Phelps
Point Break (1991)
After a string of bizarre bank robberies in Southern California, with the crooks donning masks of various former presidents, a federal agent, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), infiltrates the suspected gang. But this is no ordinary group of robbers. They’re surfers — led by the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) — who are addicted to the rush of thievery. But when Utah falls in love with a female surfer, Tyler (Lori Petty), who is close to the gang, it complicates his sense of duty.
Initial release: 12 July 1991
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Blue Crush (2002)
Nothing gets between Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) and her board. Living in a beach shack with three roommates including her rebellious younger sister, she is up before dawn every morning to conquer the waves and count the days until the Rip Masters surf competition. Anne Marie finds all she needs in the adrenaline-charged surf scene … until pro quarterback Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis) comes along. Like it or not, Anne Marie starts losing her balance – and finding it – as she falls for Matt.
Initial release: 8 August 2002
Director: John Stockwell
Liquid Bridge (2003)
Liquid Bridge is a 2003 Australian film starring Ryan Kwanten. The film concerns aspiring pro surfer Nick McCallum (Kwanten), who is held back from achieving fame by his disabled father. However, after being framed for smuggling drugs and jailed, he fights to prove his innocence.
Lords of Dogtown (2005)
A drought in 1970s Southern California has an unexpected side effect: as people empty their swimming pools, a group of teen surfers from the Dogtown area of Venice Beach move in with skateboards, and a new sport is born. Based on a true story, this film follows “Z-Boys” skate team members Stacy Peralta (John Robinson), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), plus manager Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger), as their fearless “pool surfing” leads to fame, fortune — and misfortune.
Initial release: 3 June 2005
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
A surfer (Trevor Wright) finds comfort from his problems in the arms of his best friend’s older brother (Brad Rowe).
Initial release: 21 March 2008
Director: Jonah Markowitz
Surfer, Dude (2008)
Steve Addington (Matthew McConaughey) is a professional surfer and beach bum who lives to ride the waves. Content simply to live in the moment, he has a dilemma when his finances dry up and businessman Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nordling) offers to hire him for a virtual reality game. Since there are suddenly no good waves in the ocean, Addington must reconsider Zarno’s offer and ponder his place in the world. Struggling with the choice, Addington seeks advice from his friends.
Initial release: 5 September 2008
Director: S.R. Bindler
Soul Surfer (2011)
A natural talent in the sport of surfing, teenager Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) loses an arm in a shark attack. Bolstered by the love of her parents (Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid) and refusing to give up, she plans to return to competition, although questions about her future continue to trouble her. Upon seeing the devastation in Thailand caused by the 2004 tsunami, Bethany discovers a greater purpose: to make a difference in the lives of others.
Release date: 9 June 2011
Director: Sean McNamara
Blue Crush 2 (2011)
A surfer (Sasha Jackson) from California travels to the coast of South Africa to fulfill her mother’s dreams of riding the waves in a legendary bay.
Initial release: 7 June 2011
Director: Mike Elliott
Beautiful Wave (2011)
A New York teen (Aimee Teegarden) discovers a family secret while spending the summer in California with her estranged grandmother (Patricia Richardson).
Initial release: 2011
Director: David Mueller
Chasing Mavericks (2012)
When 15-year-old surfing phenomenon Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, actually exists near his California home, he becomes determined to conquer it. Jay enlists the aid of local surfing legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to train him to ride the Mavericks and live to tell about it. As Jay and Frosty carry on their quest to achieve the impossible, they develop a unique friendship that transforms both their lives.
Initial release: 25 October 2012
Directors: Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted
Point Break (2015)
A young FBI agent infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists. Deep undercover, and with his life in danger, he strives to prove these athletes are the architects of the mind-boggling crimes that are devastating the world’s financial markets.
Release Date: 25 December 2015
Director: Ericson Core
The Shallows (2016)
Still reeling from the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) travels to a secluded beach for some much-needed solace. Despite the danger of surfing alone, Nancy decides to soak up the sun and hit the waves. Suddenly, a great white shark attacks, forcing her to swim to a giant rock for safety. Left injured and stranded 200 yards from shore, the frightened young woman must fight for her life as the deadly predator circles her in its feeding ground.
In the 1970s, in a remote corner of the Western Australian coast, two teenage boys, Pikelet and Loonie, are hungry for discovery. The pair form an unlikely friendship with Sando, a mysterious older surfer and adventurer who pushes the boys to take risks that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives.