16 Hollywood Surfer Movies

Surfer movies have 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 Hollywood surfer movies for your viewing pleasure. Have we missed one of your favourite films? Let us know in the comments.

Gidget (1959)

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)

Are there any more iconic surfer movies than Big Wednesday? 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.

Director: Phillip Avalon

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

Shelter (2007)

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)

Chasing Mavericks has to be one of the most significant surfer movies in recent years. 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 HansonMichael 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.

Initial release: 21 June 2016

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Read Movie Review here.

Breath (2018)

Breath is one of the more recent surfer movies. 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.

Initial release: 3 May 2018

Director: Simon Baker