Surf film

Surf movies fall into three distinct genres:

  • the surfing documentary - targeting the surfing enthusiast
  • the 1960s beach party films - targeting the broader community
  • fictional feature films with a focus on the reality of surfing

Surfing documentaries

The sporting documentary film was pioneered by Bud Browne (e.g. "Hawaiian Holiday") in the 1940s and early 1950s, and later popularized by Bruce Brown (e.g. The Endless Summer) in the late 1950s and early 1960s, then later perfected by Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman (e.g. Five Summer Stories) in the 1970s and beyond (MacGillivray and Freeman later went on to film IMAX movies such as To Fly! and Speed). The genre in itself has been defined by surfers, traveling with their friends and documenting the experience on film. In the 'heyday' of Bruce Brown, Greg Noll, Bud Brown, John Severson, films were projected for rambunctious fans in music halls, civic centers and high school auditoriums.

During the 1980s, the market for surf films surged with the release of more affordable video cameras. By the 1990s, the surfing market became saturated with low and medium budget surf films, many with sound tracks that reflected the mass media driven music culture. VHS and eventually DVDs made the surf film viewing experience an "at home" affair and the 'heyday' of joining your friends or taking a girl to "surf movie night" at the local high school soon quickly vanished. Furthermore, large surf brands began making surf films under their marketing budgets to promote clothing and product sales. Titles like Sonny Miller's, "The Search" for Rip Curl redefined the genre with exotic locales, big budgets and name surfers, such as Tom Curren.

In the late 1990s to the present, there has been a revival of the "independent surf film." Artists, like The Malloys, Jack Johnson and Jason Baffa have reinvented the genre by shooting self-financed 16mm motion picture film and utilizing indy music bands like G. Love, Alexi Murdoch, Mojave 3, White Buffalo and Donavon Frankenreiter, creating what the surf media has called, "modern classics." Backed by grass roots screening tours, inspired by the surf film forefathers, stoked groms and now dads can once again see the newest flick on the big screen. Examples of surfing documentaries include:

  • Riding Giants (2004)
  • Somewhere, Anywhere, Everywhere (2004)
  • Singlefin: yellow (2004)
  • The Seedling (2004)
  • AKA Girl Surfer (2004)
  • Billabong Odyssey (2005)
  • Going With The Flow: Classic California Soul Surfing (2005)
  • Sprout (2005)
  • A Broke Down Melody (2006)
  • Free As A Dog (2006)
  • Peel: The Peru Project - A Surf Odyssey (2006)
  • The Secret Machine (2006)
  • One California Day (2007)
  • Sipping Jetstreams (2007)
  • The Forgotten Coast (2007)
  • Bustin' Down the Door (2008)
  • New Emissions of Light and Sound (2008)
  • Live: A Music & Surfing Experience (2008)
  • Water man (2008)
  • Waveriders (2008)
  • Out of Place (2009)
  • The Present (2009)
  • Fiberglass and Megapixels (2010)
  • First Love (2010)
  • God Went Surfing With The Devil (2010)
  • White Wash
  • Year Zero (2011)
  • Drift (2012)
  • Here & Now: A Day in the Life of Surfing (2012)
  • Strange Rumblings in Shangri-LA (2014)
  • Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2018)

Beach Party films

The second type of surf movie would be the campy entertainment feature, also termed "beach party films" or "surfploitation flicks" by true surfers, having little to do with the authentic sport and culture of surfing and representing movies that attempted to cash in on the growing popularity of surfing among youth in the early 1960s. Examples of Beach Party films include:

Narrative Surf Films

Surfing is occasionally portrayed more realistically within fictional storylines, or use surfing as backdrop, or side theme.

See also


  1. ^ Complete Index to World Film

Thoms, Albie (2000) Surfmovies: The History of the Surf Film in Australia ISBN 0958742030
Lisanti, Tom (2005) Hollywood Surf And Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969 ISBN 0786421045
Warshaw, Matt (2005) Surf Movie Tonite!: Surf Movie Poster Art, 1957-2004 San Francisco: Chronicle Books ISBN 9780811848732
Williams, Randy (2006) Sports Cinema 100 Movies: The Best of Hollywood's Athletic Heroes, Losers, Myths, and Misfits Limelight Editions ISBN 9780879103316 pg 134-136
Chidester, Brian; Priore, Domenic; Zuckerman, Kathy (2008) Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film, and Fashion from the Bohemian surf boom Santa Monica Press ISBN 9781595800350 Chapter 7
Ormrod & Wheaton (2009) On the edge: leisure, consumption and the representation of adventure sports Leisure Studies Association Issue 104: 17-25

External links

Bruce Brown

Bruce Alan Brown (December 1, 1937 – December 10, 2017) was an American documentary film director, known as an early pioneer of the surf film. He was the father of filmmaker Dana Brown.

Durban International Film Festival

The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is an annual film festival that takes place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Founded in 1979 by Teddy Sarkin and Ros Sarkin, it is the oldest and largest film festival in Africa and presents over 200 screenings celebrating the best in South African, African and international cinema. Most of the screenings are either African or South African premieres. The festival also offers filmmaker workshops, industry seminars, discussion forums, and outreach activities that include screenings in township areas where cinemas are non-existent, and much more including Talent Campus Durban and a Durban FilmMart co-production market.

The festival offers many competition sections and some of the prizes have cash attached. Since 2006, Amnesty International via the Durban Amnesty group, has also sponsored a cash prize called the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award.

Since 2005 DIFF serves as the South African launch for the Wavescape Surf Film Festival.

Talent Campus Durban, in cooperation with the Berlinale Talent Campus, was a new initiative in 2008. and ran its fifth edition in 2012.

Durban FilmMart, a co-production finance forum, launched in 2010. It is run in partnership with the City of Durban's Durban Film Office.

Fading West (film)

Fading West is a documentary film, shot during Switchfoot's 2012 World Tour, directed by Matt Katsolis of Interpret Studios. It follows the band to locations around the world, including the U.S., South Africa, Bali, Australia and New Zealand. In the official press release, it was described as "part rock documentary, part surf film, and part travelogue."In January 2013, Switchfoot released a teaser for Fading West. A new, extended trailer for the film was released onto YouTube on June 24, 2013. The film was released digitally on December 10, 2013.

Five Summer Stories

Five Summer Stories is a 1972 surf film by Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray, starring David Nuuhiwa, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, and Sam Hawk. Its VHS re-release was in 1994, followed by a DVD release. The Original Sound Track from Five Summer Stories was composed and recorded by the Southern California native band, Honk. The soundtrack was released on LP in 1972 and re-released on CD in 1992.The film features original animation by John Lamb, who was among the first to animate surfing and skateboarding, and went on to win an Academy Award (1980) for invention of the Lyon Lamb Video Animation System.

Gone with the Wave

Gone with the Wave is a soundtrack album to the surf film of the same name by Argentine composer, pianist and conductor Lalo Schifrin recorded in 1964 and released on the Colpix label.

Liquid Time

Liquid Time is a 2002 avant-garde surf film that focuses solely on the fluid forms of tubing waves. Brothers Monty Webber and Greg Webber revived a childhood passion for perfectly formed tiny waves by filming the wake of their runabout as it pealed along the edge of a river sandbank. The 20-minute film received the Cinematography Award at the Saint Jean de Luz Surf Film Festival (2004 Edition).

Massimo Vigliar

Massimo Vigliar (born February 9, 1949 in Rome, Italy) is an Italian film producer.

Mika Boorem

Mika Sue Boorem (born August 18, 1987) is an American actress and director. She began her career as a child actor, appearing on television in small guest roles on Touched by an Angel and Ally McBeal, before earning critical acclaim for her performance in The Education of Little Tree (1997). After being cast in supporting roles in Jack Frost and Mighty Joe Young (both 1998), Boorem had a lead role in the drama Hearts in Atlantis (2001), opposite Anton Yelchin and Anthony Hopkins, which garnered her further critical acclaim.

Boorem subsequently had supporting roles in the war drama The Patriot (2000) and the thriller Along Came a Spider (2000). She went on to star in numerous teen films in the early-to-mid 2000s, including the surf film Blue Crush (2002), the comedy Sleepover (2004), and the drama Augusta, Gone (2006). She was also a recurring guest star on the network series Dawson's Creek between 2002 and 2003. She had a central role in John Carpenter's horror film The Ward (2010), followed by roles in several independent films.

In 2018, Boorem made her feature directorial debut with Hollywood.Con, starring Tom Arnold and Brian Krause.

Momentum (2001 film)

Momentum Under the Influence is a surf movie distributed by Steelhouse Distribution and produced by Poor Specimen. It features all the best surfers in the world under 23 that surf places like Mentawai Islands, Australia, South Africa, France, Timor Island, Indonesia, Mexico, Hawaii and California. Surfers include CJ Hobgood, Damien Hobgood, Paul Roach Dan Malloy, David Rastovich, Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson, Ben Bourgois, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, and Dean Morrison.

Morning of the Earth

Morning of the Earth is a 1971 classic surf film by Alby Falzon and David Elfick.

The film's soundtrack was produced by G. Wayne Thomas and included music and songs by noted Australian music acts Tamam Shud, John J. Francis, Brian Cadd, Mike Rudd and G. Wayne Thomas. The record became the first Australian Gold soundtrack album. In October 2010, the soundtrack for Morning of the Earth (1971) was listed in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.The film portrays surfers living in spiritual harmony with nature, making their own boards (and homes) as they travelled in search of the perfect wave across Australia’s north-east coast, Bali and Hawaii. The movie is regarded as one of the finest of its genre and noted as recording the first surfers to ride the waves at Uluwatu on the very southern tip of Bali and so bringing Bali to the attention of surfers around the world and so the beginnings of Bali as a major tourist destination.

Murph the Surf (film)

Murph the Surf, also known as Live a Little, Steal a Lot, is a 1975 film based on a jewel burglary involving the surfer Jack Roland Murphy, who had the nickname "Murph the Surf". Starring Robert Conrad and Don Stroud, it was directed by Marvin J. Chomsky.


Founded in 2007, the New York Surf Film Festival held its inaugural event September 26–28, 2008 at Tribeca Cinemas with 25 films screened from all over the world, including a special 30th Anniversary screening of Warner Brothers' Big Wednesday directed by John Milius & co-written with Denny Aaberg.

North Shore (1987 film)

North Shore is a 1987 American action drama surf film about Rick Kane (Matt Adler), a young surfer from a wave tank in Arizona, who heads to surf the season on the North Shore of Oʻahu to see if he has the skills to cut it as a pro surfer. As he progresses on his journey, he learns the qualities he possesses are not going to pull him through alone.

San Diego Surf (film)

San Diego Surf is a 1968 feature film directed by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, and filmed in La Jolla, California in May 1968. On June 3, 1968, Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas, bringing work on the film to a halt. In 1996, the Andy Warhol Foundation commissioned Morrissey to "finish editing the film based on Warhol's notes".The film stars Viva, Taylor Mead, Joe Dallesandro, Ingrid Superstar, Tom Hompertz, Eric Emerson, Nawana Davis, Michael Boosin, and Louis Waldon. The film was a follow-up to Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys (released December 1967) with much of the same cast.

Surf Crazy

Surf Crazy is a 1959 film directed by Bruce Brown. His second surf film, it follows surfers to Mexico, Hawaii and California. Among the locations filmed was Velzyland in Hawaii, named for Brown's employer, surfboard manufacturer Dale Velzy.

The September Sessions

The September Sessions: The Tomorrowland Story Brought To Life In Brilliant 16mm Film is a 2002 documentary surf film directed by singer/songwriter Jack Johnson. Often called September Sessions, it is the second of The Moonshine Conspiracy film series. It was filmed in 16 mm.

Following the release of Thicker Than Water, Kelly Slater asked Jack Johnson to accompany Kelly for a trip to Indonesia. With the cast living on a retired Japanese coastguard cutter, Neptune 1, Jack films Kelly and several other surfers including Rob Machado and Shane Dorian as they surfed flawless waves off the coast of Sumatra in the Mentawais of Indonesia. The film captures Kelly Slater during a major change of his life following his first retirement from the ASP circuit. Kelly had fallen into the trap of endless trade shows, store openings, and poster signings that became his life during his first retirement. By escaping both the trade shows and his former life of ASP competitions, Kelly sought to gain new levels in his spirit as he and his friends pulled into the keyhole at Hollow Trees in September, 1999. On the first morning, they awoke and stared at perfectly flawless waves. During the next several days, when Jack wasn't surfing, Jack captured on film the rebirth of Kelly. Jack wrote several songs along the way including "F-Stop Blues". However, unbeknownst to Jack, this film captures Johnson before his own rise to international stardom both as a filmmaker and as a musician.The September Sessions was the result of this historically important piece of surfing, filmmaking, and music.

Thicker than Water (2000 film)

Thicker Than Water is a 2000 documentary surf film directed by singer/songwriter Jack Johnson and his film school friend Chris Malloy. It shows surfing footage from different locations like Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, India, and Ireland in combination with a wide range of styles of guitar music. Surfers in the film include Kelly Slater and Shane Dorian.

Thomas Campbell (visual artist)

Thomas Campbell (born c. 1969) is a California-based visual artist, filmmaker, sculptor and photographer whose work has appeared on the Ugly Casanova album Sharpen Your Teeth and in Juxtapoz Magazine's September 2006 issue.

Thomas grew up surfing and skating in southern California before moving to New York in the 1980s. In that setting he came to know and be associated with the artists that would go on to make up San Francisco's Mission School painters and the generation that would be at least loosely defined by the Beautiful Losers exhibition in 2004.

His first feature length surf film, The Seedling came out in 1999, his second release was a film called Sprout in 2004 and his third surf film is called The Present released in 2009.Campbell is represented by the Roberts & Tilton Gallery in Los Angeles, California.

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