Catch A Wave With The Best Documentaries About Surfing

Over 60 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Catch A Wave With The Best Documentaries About Surfing

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.

Ranked by
  • White Rhino
    Brent Storm
    13 votes
    • Actors: Bruce Irons, Nathan Fletcher, Mark Healey, Kalani Chapman, Dave Wassel
    • Released: August 2019
    White Rhino is a 2019 American sports documentary film directed by Brent Storm. A professional surf photographer chases down the largest surf ever seen in hopes of capturing a once in a lifetime image. What he receives is much more than that.
  • Momentum Generation
    Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
    28 votes
    • Actors: Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb
    • Released: 2018
    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 world of professional competitive surfing in the 1990s and rise to super stardom.

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  • The Endless Summer
    21 votes
    • Actors: Bruce Brown, Miki Dora, Robert August, Michael Hynson, Wayne Miyata
    • Released: 1966
    Documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown, himself a competition-level surfer, follows surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August on an around-the-world surfing adventure. With Brown's wry, sardonic narration and a twangy, guitar-driven instrumental soundtrack by The Sandals playing over the silent footage, Mike and Rob leave their California home to visit Hawaii, Australia, South Africa and other secluded surfing spots in a search for the surfer's holy grail that Brown dubs "The Perfect Wave."

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  • Out of Place

    Out of Place

    Darrin McDonald, Scott Ditzenberger
    8 votes
    • Actors: Vince Labbe, Eric Becker, Neal Luoma
    • Released: 2009
    Out of Place is a surfing documentary directed by Scott Ditzenberger and Darrin McDonald that follows the lives of several lake surfers in Cleveland, Ohio. While Lake Erie does not offer the quality of waves they would prefer, business commitments, family, and friends keep them from moving. As the best waves occur in the winter, the surfers often experience freezing conditions including during a snow bound Great Lakes Eastern Surfing Association competition featured in the film.
  • Step into Liquid
    19 votes
    • Actors: Laird Hamilton, Layne Beachley, Dan Malloy
    • Released: 2003
    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 Vietnam, and some of the world's largest waves, at Cortes Bank. This film was Dana Brown's first solo project.

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  • Bustin' Down the Door

    Bustin' Down the Door

    Jeremy Gosch
    13 votes
    • Actors: Edward Norton, Kelly Slater, Shaun Tomson, Ian Cairns
    • Released: 2008
    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 Shaun Tomson, Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew, Ian Cairns, Mark Richards, Michael Tomson and Peter Townend, as they relocate to Hawaii encountering obstacles, turf wars and massive wipeouts along the way. Clashes with the locals, some of whom find the newcomers' bravado to be insulting to Hawaiian culture, eventually culminate in death threats against the subjects of the film.

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