Making a surf movie is a bit like making a Christmas single, if you get it right it will be played forever by each new generation. Unlike other sports surfing is lifestyle, an excuse to travel and a chance to meet new cultures. It enrols you in an endless quest – finding the perfect wave. As 11 time word champion Kelly Slater famously said: “Once you’re a surfer, you’re done. You’re in. It’s like the mob or something. You’re not getting out.”
Out today in UK cinemas, Chasing Mavericks is based on a true story, and is a classic example of the sport’s underlining ethos. Gerard Butler (The Bounty Hunter, How to Train your Dragon) plays Frosty Hesson, an expert big wave surfer who teaches 16-year-old Jay Moriarity how to take on one of the heaviest waves in the ocean – Mavericks, California.
Waves at this particular spot can be 80 feet high and weigh 1,000 tons – Butler nearly died when he was caught by a monster wave shooting in the same spot. “It was like a tsunami coming in,” explained Butler in interview with Good Morning America. “Somebody recently described Mavericks as ‘liquid hell’”.
Despite the dangers involved, the thrill of riding waves, no matter the size, is captured in the best surf movies, as is life-risking filmography, adventure and the spirit of the activity. Follow our top five surfing movies to get you started, and then we’ll see you in the water…
1. Endless Summer
Filmed in: Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa
This cult classic 1966 surfing movie sees two longboarders following summer across the globe, back when surfing was just taking off. The Beach Boys era pastel, grainy shots and mellow peeling waves represent a time in the sport before big brands, commercial competitions and the now multi-billion dollar fashion industry.
Starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, this surfing detective movie is probably the most famous in its genre. Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) has to try and catch a bunch of bank-robbing surfers, in Southern California, who steal so they can afford to ride waves all year round. In order to get in with the gang, Utah needs to learn how to surf. During the case Utah trades his corporate quarter back existence for a cleansing, spiritual surfer philosophy. Despite the a few cheesy lines, and a predictable plot, the footage is spot on.
Filmed in: Mexico, France, California, Spain, Hawaii
The locations and waves in this documentary movie will blow your mind. Watch as big wave surfers travel the world looking for the ultimate rush and biggest rides on the planet. They find 70-foot beasts, and even lose people along the way.
Loosely based on a true story, a bunch of Californian guys try to dodge the Vietnam War draft in 1965 by pretending they have medical issues, claiming mental insanity and even outing themselves as homosexual – all so they can keep surfing. The flick bombed on release, but over the years has become staple in surf bars and shops around the globe.
Die-hard surfers often turn their nose up at this surfer-chick movie, starring Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez. Truthfully, the acting is terrible. However, we commend director John Stockwell for casting real-life female surfers, who rarely get recognition in the surfing world. Pro surfer Keala Kennelly rips in the final scene and Hawaiian local Sanoe Lake shows us her moves throughout the film. Meanwhile, tube rider Rochelle Ballard doubles for Bosworth’s character on waves and world Champion runner-up Megan Abubo doubles for Rodriguez’s character in the water. Despite the predictable American-dream format (how will she fare in the Pipeline Masters competition? Hmm I wonder), the Hawaiian scenery, perfect waves and killer soundtrack make this a movie you’ll watch over and over again, whether you admit it or not.
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