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Catch A Wave With The Best Documentaries About Surfing

Updated January 22, 2021 236 votes 45 voters 2.3k views37 items

The greatest surfing documentaries can be enjoyed by people who avoid water just as much as those who can't wait to catch their next wave. That's because they're about more than surfing. The top examples are psychological portraits of surfers and the mindset that makes them become obsessed with the sport despite its inherent risks. You can get absorbed in a good surfing documentary on that level alone. Throw in some amazing cinematography and you're completely hooked on these surf documentary movies. From Australia to California, these surfing documentaries are filmed all over the world.

Some the best documentaries about surfing include Endless Summer, Riding Giants, and Momentum Generation. You also find some Jack McCoy and Bruce Brown films on this list as well. Use the list below to see if your favorites have made it near the top of the list or use it to find the next surf doc you're going to watch.

Vote up the best surfing docs below. If you have a favorite that's not included, add it to the list of surf documentaries and then check back to see how other users are ranking it, then be sure to check out the best surf movies.

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  • 1

    Momentum Generation

    Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
    28
    2

    ActorsKelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb

    Released2018

    Momentum Generation is a 2018 American surfing documentary film directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist. A group of teenagers in Hawaii, including Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian and Kalani Robb, enter the...  more
  • 2
    15
    2

    ActorsBruce Brown, Miki Dora, Robert August, Michael Hynson, Wayne Miyata

    Released1966

    The Endless Summer is a seminal 1966 surf movie. Filmmaker/narrator Bruce Brown follows two surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August, on a surfing trip around the world. Despite the balmy climate of...  more
  • 3
    10
    0

    ActorsLaird Hamilton, Layne Beachley, Dan Malloy

    Released2003

    Step into Liquid is a documentary about surfing directed by Dana Brown, son of famed surfer and filmmaker Bruce Brown. The film includes surfing footage from the famous Pipeline, the beaches of...  more
  • 4

    Riding Giants

    Stacy Peralta
    9
    2

    ActorsGreg Noll, Laird Hamilton, Jeff Clark

    Released2004

    Riding Giants is a 2004 documentary film directed and narrated by Stacy Peralta, a famous skater/surfer. The movie traces the origins of surfing and specifically focuses on the art of big wave...  more
  • 5

    Under An Arctic Sky

    Chris Burkard
    5
    2

    ActorsChris Burkard, Sam Hammer, Steve Hawk

    Released2017

    Under an Arctic Sky is a 2017 American sports documentary film directed by Chris Burkard. Six surfers set sail along the frozen shores of Iceland as the worst storm in twenty-five years is about to...  more
  • 6

    Bustin' Down the Door

    Jeremy Gosch
    4
    1

    ActorsEdward Norton, Kelly Slater, Shaun Tomson, Ian Cairns

    Released2008

    Bustin' Down The Door is a 2008 documentary film chronicling the rise of professional surfing in the early 1970s. The film follows a group of young surfers from Australia and South Africa, including...  more
  • 7

    One California Day

    Jason Baffa, Mark Jeremias
    5
    3

    ActorsJeff Johnson, Keith Malloy, Greg Noll, Skip Frye, Tom Curren

    Released2008

    One California Day is a 2007 documentary film about surfing shot in six coastal regions in California. Directed by Mark Jeremias and Jason Baffa, the film looks at the experience of California...  more
  • 8

    ActorsKelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, Pat O'Connell, Robert Weaver

    Released1994

    The Endless Summer II is a 1994 film directed by Bruce Brown and is a sequel to his 1966 film The Endless Summer. In The Endless Summer II, surfers Pat O'Connell and Robert "Wingnut" Weaver retrace...  more
  • 9

    Gaza Surf Club

    Philip Gnadt, Mickey Yamine
    4
    2

    ActorsIbrahim N. Arafat, Mohammed Abu Jayab, Sabah Abu Ghanem

    Released2016

    Gaza Surf Club is a 2016 German sports documentary film directed by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine. In a country locked between Egypt and Israel, Gaza's youth are drawn to their beaches seeking...  more
  • 10

    Surfwise

    Doug Pray
    4
    3

    Released2007

    Surfwise is a 2007 American documentary film about the 11-member Doc Paskowitz family, which was directed by Doug Pray. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on 11 September 2007 and had...  more
  • 11

    Bra Boys

    Macario De Souza, Sunny Abberton
    3
    2

    ActorsEvan Faulks, Richie Vaculik, Kelly Slater

    Released2011

    Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe makes his feature directorial debut with this surf drama that follows rough-and-tumble wave riders Sunny, Koby, and Jai Abberton as they spark an underground...  more
  • 12

    Morning of the Earth

    David Elfick, Alby Falzon
    3
    3

    ActorsMichael Peterson, Stephen Cooney, Nat Young

    Released1972

    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...  more
  • 13

    Surf Crazy

    Bruce Brown
    2
    3

    ActorsBruce Brown, Donald Takayama

    Released1959

    Surf Crazy was the second surf movie by Bruce Brown. Filmed in 1959, it follows surfers to Mexico, Hawaii and California. Among the locations filmed was Velzyland in Hawaii, named for Brown's...  more
  • 14

    The Fantastic Plastic Machine

    Eric Blum, Lowell Blum
    2
    3

    ActorsSteve Bigler, Alan Byrne, Midget Farrelly

    Released1969

    The Fantastic Plastic Machine is a 1969 documentary film following a group of California surfers as they journey to an Australian surfing competition. The film is narrated by Jay North. It was...  more
  • 15

    Blue Horizon

    Jack McCoy
    2
    3

    Released2004

    Blue Horizon is a 2004 documentary film directed by Jack Mccoy....
  • 16

    Keep Surfing

    Björn Richie Lob
    2
    3

    ActorsDieter Deventer, Nick Carroll, Markus Knörringer, Gerhard Schlegel, Walter Strasser

    Released2009

    "This kinetic and fast-paced documentary will put you right on the Eisbach in the heart of Munich, where river-surfing was invented 35 years ago. Stunningly shot with cameras literally on the...
  • 17

    Take Every Wave

    Rory Kennedy
    2
    5

    ActorsNick Carroll, Darrick Doerner, Laird Hamilton

    Released2017

    Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton is a 2017 American sports documentary film directed by Rory Kennedy. An American icon who changed the sport of big wave surfing forever, transcending the...  more
  • 18

    Liquid Time

    Monty Webber
    1
    1

    ActorsMonty Webber, Greg Webber

    Released2002

    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...  more
  • 19

    Five Summer Stories

    Greg MacGillivray
    1
    3

    ActorsDavid Nuuhiwa, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez

    Released1972

    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...  more
  • 20

    Waveriders

    Joel Conroy
    1
    3

    ActorsCillian Murphy

    Released2009

    Waveriders is a 2008 documentary film. The film was produced by Margo Harkin and directed by Joel Conroy....  more
  • 21

    Highwater

    Dana Brown
    2
    1

    ActorsMonique Marrier

    Released2009

    Highwater is a 2008 documentary film centered on surfing's Triple Crown competitions, the professional surfing tour's final three competitions held each year on the North Shore of Oahu. The film is...  more
  • 22

    The Living Curl

    Jamie Budge
    1
    1

    ActorsJamie Budge, Corky Carroll, Lance Carson

    Released1965

    Surfing In California in the early '60's....  more
  • 23

    Crystal Voyager

    David Elfick
    1
    3

    ActorsGeorge Greenough, Richie West, Nat Young

    Released1973

    Crystal Voyager is a 1973 Australian surf film directed by David Elfick. It was filmed, written and narrated by surfer, photographer and filmmaker George Greenough who had previously made the 1970...  more
  • 24

    God Went Surfing with the Devil

    Alexander Kleinn
    1
    4

    ActorsMatthew Olsen, Arthur Rashkovan, Gil Keren

    Released2010

    God Went Surfing with the Devil is a 2010 surfing documentary directed by Alexander Klein that follows the story of a group of activists who are trying to get a shipment of 23 surfboards into the...  more
  • 25

    Storm Riders

    David Lourie, Jack McCoy
    1
    3

    ActorsGerry Lopez, Mark Richards, Wayne Bartholomew

    Released1982

    Storm Riders is a 1982 film by David Lourie, Jack McCoy and Dick Hoole, featuring some of the world's best surfers and the world's champion windsurfers. The film was produced by "Hoole/McCoy Films"...  more