The Best Surfing Documentaries


Surfing has captured the hearts and souls of people all around the world. From the moment an individual catches their first wave and experiences the rush of adrenaline, they often become hooked, craving for that feeling time and time again. Over the years, surfing documentaries have depicted the sport in a variety of ways – from a recreational pastime to a competitive and lucrative industry. In this article, we explore the best surfing documentaries that have impacted the sport and its culture.

A Brief History of Surfing Documentaries

Surfing documentaries have been around since the 1960s when Bruce Brown’s “The Endless Summer” film captured the fascination of the entire world. The film showcased two young surfers traveling around the world searching for the ultimate wave while giving viewers a glimpse into the surf culture, inspiring many to start surfing themselves.

Since then, surfing documentaries have evolved to showcase not just the sport itself but also its impact on the environment and wider society. These documentaries have become a powerful tool for raising awareness about the need to protect our oceans and the creatures that call it home.

Surfing documentaries have also become a platform for surfers to share their personal stories and struggles. Many of these films showcase the beauty and power of the ocean and how it has the ability to heal and transform people’s lives.

The Evolution of Surfing Films

Over the years, surfing documentaries have developed from simple travelogues to films that inspire change and showcase social and environmental issues. The evolution of the genre has given rise to some of the most profound and visually stunning films ever made.

One of the most notable examples of this is the documentary “Chasing Coral” which highlights the devastating effects of climate change on coral reefs around the world. The film features breathtaking underwater footage and interviews with scientists and activists who are working to save our oceans.

Another example is “The Wave I Ride” which tells the story of big wave surfer Paige Alms and her journey to become one of the best female surfers in the world. The film explores themes of gender equality and the challenges faced by women in the male-dominated world of big wave surfing.

Pioneers of the Genre

Stacy Peralta is one of the most notable pioneers of the genre. His films “Dogtown and Z-Boys” and “Riding Giants” chronicle the history of surf culture and the evolution of wave riding techniques. These films are a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of surfing.

Taylor Steele is another legend in the world of surf filmmaking. He is famous for making a series of short films called the “Momentum” series which showcased some of the best surfers in the world at the time. These films were groundbreaking in their use of music and editing techniques, and they helped to elevate surfing to a new level of popularity.

Surfing documentaries continue to inspire and educate people around the world. They are a testament to the power of the ocean and the beauty of the sport of surfing. Whether you are a surfer or just someone who appreciates great filmmaking, there is a surfing documentary out there for you.

The Top 10 Surfing Documentaries

Surfing is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life. The thrill of riding a wave is something that can’t be described in words. It’s an experience that needs to be felt to be understood. For those who can’t be out on the water, surfing documentaries are the next best thing. Here are the top 10 surfing documentaries that every surfer and ocean lover should watch:

The Endless Summer (1966)

The original “The Endless Summer” film is a timeless classic that has inspired generations of surfers worldwide. The film follows two surfers on their journey around the world searching for the perfect wave. From the beaches of California to the shores of Africa, these surfers explore the beauty of the ocean and the cultures that surround it. This documentary is a must-see for anyone who loves the ocean and the surfing culture.

Riding Giants (2004)

Another classic from Stacy Peralta, Riding Giants, explores the evolution and history of big wave surfing. This documentary features stunning footage and interviews with some of the biggest names in the sport. From the massive waves of Hawaii to the cold waters of Mavericks, this film takes viewers on a journey through the history of big wave surfing.

Step Into Liquid (2003)

This film by Dana Brown, son of Bruce Brown, explores the different ways people around the world ride waves. The documentary features breathtaking shots of surfers from all over the world, including the famous Cortes Bank, and continues to inspire surfers to this day. From tow-in surfing to stand-up paddleboarding, this film showcases the diversity of the surfing community.

The Search for Freedom (2015)

This surfing documentary covers the story of how surfing spread across the globe, showcasing it as a symbol of freedom and adventure. The film features some of the biggest names in surfing and includes stunning shots of locations from Hawaii to Africa. It also explores the connection between surfing and other extreme sports, such as snowboarding and skateboarding.

Momentum Generation (2018)

This documentary follows the story of a group of young surfers in the 1990s who revolutionized the sport through their innovative techniques and style. The film features interviews with the surfers themselves and includes stunning footage of their wave riding skills. From Kelly Slater to Rob Machado, this film showcases the talents of some of the greatest surfers of all time.

Bustin’ Down the Door (2008)

Bustin’ Down the Door is a documentary that explores how a group of young, brash Australian and South African surfers shook up the surfing world in Hawaii in the 1970s. The film covers the cultural and societal changes in the sport, including a move toward professionalism. It also highlights the challenges that these surfers faced as they tried to break into a sport that was dominated by Americans.

A Deeper Shade of Blue (2011)

This documentary challenges viewers to think beyond the sport’s surface level, delving into its origins and impact on society. The film explores the connection between humans and the ocean, the spiritual aspect of surfing, and includes breathtaking footage of riders such as Tom Curren and Dave Rastovich. It also showcases the environmental issues that threaten our oceans and the efforts being made to protect them.

The Drifter (2009)

This documentary follows the life of Rob Machado, one of the world’s most respected surfers. The film showcases Machado’s adventures as he travels the world in search of the perfect wave. From the warm waters of Indonesia to the cold waves of Scotland, this film takes viewers on a journey through some of the most beautiful surf spots in the world. The documentary is a must-see for anyone who loves surfing and adventure.

The Fisherman’s Son (2015)

This documentary is about the life and career of Puerto Rican surfer Ramon Navarro. The film tells Navarro’s story as he battles environmental issues off the coast of Chile and helps protect the local coastline against ecological threats. The Fisherman’s Son is a tale of perseverance and the bravery it takes to fight for what you love. It also highlights the importance of preserving our oceans for future generations.

The Ultimate Wave Tahiti (2010)

This documentary is not just about surfing Tahiti’s famous waves. It is also about the culture and history of the Tahitian people. The film features stunning footage of the island and its locals, and shows the connection between surfing and the island’s culture. From the traditional Tahitian dance to the ancient Polynesian voyaging canoes, this film showcases the beauty and richness of Tahitian culture.

These surfing documentaries are not just for surfers, but for anyone who loves the ocean and the beauty that surrounds it. They showcase the diversity of the surfing community and highlight the importance of preserving our oceans for future generations. So grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the ride!

The Impact of Surfing Documentaries on the Sport

Inspiring New Generations of Surfers

The impact of surfing documentaries on the sport is immeasurable. Many surfers today credit surfing documentaries as the reason why they took up the sport. Surfing has become a global phenomenon, and this is in no small part thanks to the exposure and inspiration the films have provided.

For many people, surfing documentaries offer a glimpse into a world that they may never have experienced otherwise. These films showcase the beauty and power of the ocean, as well as the skill and athleticism required to ride its waves. They inspire viewers to take up the sport themselves, to experience the thrill of catching a wave and the sense of freedom that comes with it.

Surfing documentaries also provide a window into the surfing lifestyle. They showcase the camaraderie and community that exists among surfers, and the deep connection that they have with nature. For many viewers, these films are not just about the sport of surfing, but about a way of life.

Raising Awareness of Environmental Issues

Surfing documentaries have played a critical role in raising awareness about environmental issues. Many of these films showcase the direct effect that climate change and pollution have on our oceans and marine wildlife. As a result, surfing documentaries are helping to educate the public on these issues, inspiring action and change.

One example of this is the documentary “Chasing Coral,” which highlights the devastating impact that coral bleaching is having on our oceans. The film has helped to raise awareness about this issue and has inspired many people to take action to protect our oceans and marine life.

Surfing documentaries also showcase the importance of preserving our beaches and coastlines. They highlight the impact that development and pollution can have on these areas, and the need to protect them for future generations.

Showcasing Surfing as a Global Phenomenon

The popularity of surfing has also helped to create a sense of community among surfers from all over the world. Surfing documentaries celebrate the global culture of surfing, showcasing the diversity and passion of the surfing community. These films have played a significant role in turning surfing into a worldwide phenomenon.

Surfing documentaries also highlight the unique qualities of different surf spots around the world. They showcase the beauty and power of waves in places like Hawaii, Indonesia, and Australia, and inspire surfers to explore new destinations and experience new waves.

Overall, the impact of surfing documentaries on the sport cannot be overstated. These films have helped to inspire new generations of surfers, raise awareness about environmental issues, and showcase surfing as a global phenomenon. They are a testament to the power of film to inspire and educate, and to the enduring appeal of surfing as a sport and way of life.


Surfing documentaries have had a profound impact on the sport and its culture. These films have inspired generations of surfers and helped turn surfing into a global phenomenon. As the sport continues to evolve, we can expect to see more powerful and visually stunning surf documentaries that will inspire future generations of surfers.

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