Surfing Movies Back in The Day
Surfing movies have been an important part of surfing culture since the very early days.
Back in the day, entrepreneurial surfers would tour their respective countries with a film projector, a screen, and rolls of 8 or 16mm film in tin cases.
Surfers would wait weeks at a time for the latest surfing movies to screen at their local pub, church hall, or sports club. Some of the higher budget films would make it to movie theatres.
The screenings would usually be raucous, sold-out affairs with free-flowing alcohol. Great rides would be accompanied by hoots from the crowd, with the very best waves receiving full-scale applause.
I grew up with access to my father’s VHS tape collection. Five Summer Stories, The Cosmic Children, and Ticket to Ride played on a constant loop. The little 18″ TV with a built-in video player in my bedroom was a portal to vicariously experiencing locations and waves beyond my wildest dreams.
With the mainstream introduction of DVDs and Bluray came a new era of surfing movies. Talented filmmakers like Taylor Steele, Jack Johnson, and more, continued the tradition of following the best surfers around the world. These movies documented incredible performances in perfect waves and gave a glimpse into the lives and personalities of our favourite surfers.
The Transition to Online Surfing Movies
The modern method of watching surfing movies is online. We live in a time where consumers are looking for instant gratification.
If Medina just boosted a backflip in a championship tour final, we all know about it.
Notifications, suggestions, and messaging services make sure we don’t miss a beat. The internet is full of short clips of surfers performing the craziest moves and riding waves that defy logic.
The Death of Surfing Movies?
Unfortunately, surfing movies suffered as a result of the online transition. If you wanted to see fantastic surfing, you could jump on Youtube and pick the latest crazy performance. We started watching more surf “edits” and “vlogs” and fewer surfing “movies.”
Why would anyone bother dusting off an old DVD? Does anyone even own a VHS player anymore?
“The death of surf movies as a whole is the most heart-breaking thing I find in surfing.”
An excellent surfing movie is a whole-body experience. Filmmakers conduct a physical and emotional journey for the viewer.
Great surfing movies still illicit excited hoots of joy, albeit in your living room as opposed to the village hall.
Modern-day classics from Cyrus Sutton, Nathan Oldfield, and The Salty Crew achieve the same as Hal Jepsen, Greg MacGillivray, and Scott Dittrich.
They make you want to go surf!
TheSurfNetwork created the perfect opportunity to watch surfing movies, breathing life into an element of surfing that deserves to be preserved for eternity.
Not only have they “dusted off” the old VHS and DVDs, they have also featured a long list of modern day surfing movies.
They have identified the need for a platform that allows surfers to access every surf film genre in one place.
Progressing through the modern era has provided many benefits to surfers. However, as VHS put an end to film, DVD ended the VHS era, and Online has ultimately reigned supreme; a multitude of beautiful surfing movies have become archived.
TheSurfNetwork has opened the vault and presented over 1000 professionally produced titles, regularly adding to their roster.
Everything from 1970’s masterpieces to current brand-produced episodic TV is available on the easy-to-use and beautifully presented platform.
Each element of the surfing lifestyle is represented. You can watch documentaries, longboarding, shortboarding, bodyboarding, big wave surfing, and loads more.
“We want to provide our subscribers the best quality movies, television and documentaries produced. That’s our mission.”
Ira Opper – Lifelong surfer and president of Opper Sports Inc
Movies can be streamed via any device and watched on the big screen in your living room through Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire, or Google TV.
You can keep the stoke levels high during long flights or airport layovers by downloading a film to the app for offline viewing.
TheSurfNetwork offers all the above for a low monthly fee of $5.99 US per month or a discounted annual rate of $59.00 US. It is effortless to sign up and get going. They even offer a seven-day free trial.
The 10 Best Surfing Movies on TheSurfNetwork
Now for the really tough bit!
There are so many epic surfing movies available on the platform, my list has changed many times.
I have finally committed to the following.
I’m sure you guys are going to agree with some and disagree with others. I’m really looking forward to the discussion on social media.
Bustin’ Down the Door – 2008
Director: Jeremy Gosch
Starring: Rabbit Bartholomew, Shaun Tompson, Michael Tompson, Ian Cairns, Peter Townend, Mark Richards
In the early 1970s, Australian chargers Mark Richards, Peter Townend, Ian Cairns, and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew landed in Oahu with something to prove.
Hawaii was seen as the epicentre of the surfing universe and the brash Aussies sought to shake things up, along with South Africans Shaun and Michael Tomson.
The crew ripped apart legendary breaks like Pipeline and Waimea with radical innovations and bravery that bordered on insanity.
Combining classic footage and revealing modern-day interviews, Bustin’ Down the Door exposes the soul of this revolutionary period in a way few surfing movies can.
The groundbreaking talents of MR and Co. are rightfully lauded for helping to build the concept of professional surfing. However, there are no excuses offered for the reckless arrogance that ignited a powder keg of Hawaiian cultural pride.
“You have to bust down the door before they hear ya knockin’.’
Wayne (Rabbit) Bartholomew
Five Summer Stories – 1972
Director: Greg MacGillivray
Starring: Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, Sam Hawk
Five Summer Stories is a cultural icon. A time capsule from a watershed era when the world was at a critical crossroads and its reflection was clear in the emerging sport/art of surfing.
Against a backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Nixon years, Five Summer Stories was the culmination of the joint surf-film careers of Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray.
Code name “The Last Surfing Movie” during production, the movie portrays a young, outlaw sport at a strategic point in its creative evolution, and at an historical crux in time.
“For the surfing afficianado, Five Summer Stories is an incredible barrage of audio-visual stimulus.”
Surfer’s the Movie – 1990
Director: Bill Delaney
Starring: Mickey Dora, Martin Potter, Tom Curren, Kelly Slater and many more
Directed by Bill Delaney, Surfers: The Movie truly wraps up how surfing looked like in the 1980s.
Surfers is a genuine insight into many of the personalities who dominated 80’s surfing. It features some of the best surf videography of the time. Martin Potter’s section is just incredible!
The film reveals the bold personalities, the big boards, the twin fin setups, and the deep tube rides that put surfing under the media radar back in the day.
“I like to see people’s faces after I beat them.”
Searching For Michael Peterson – 2009
Director: Jolyon Hoff
Starring: Michael Peterson
Michael Peterson ruled the surf scene throughout the early to mid-1970s with his savage, groundbreaking surfing.
This documentary plunges below the surface to find out what happened to the legendary Michael Peterson, whose incredible talent and supreme confidence in the water was rivaled only by his extreme shyness on dry land.
Director Jolyon Hoff takes us back almost four decades, when Australia was in turmoil due to the Vietnam War protests, prolific drug taking, and a back-to-the-land movement. Surfing was an outsider sport that drew those searching for a simper life.
Despite the spirit of the time, consumerism continued and surfing turned mainstream. MP, it turns out, was schizophrenic, and his condition might well serve as a metaphor for the era.
This film will be of most interest to those passionate about surfing and its history. But it’ll also draw in viewers who are interested in counterculture, the ocean, and mental illness. The environmental themes are subtle, but it’s hard to resist the call of the crashing ocean.
“The final wave ridden by MP in this film is symbolic of Michael as a man. Beautiful, powerful and inspirational. Only to come crashing down at the end”
One California Day – 2007
Director: Jason Baffa & Mark Jeremias
Starring: Jimmy Gamboa, Tom Curren, Joel Tudor, Tyler Warren, Greg Noll
From the filmmakers who brought you Singlefin: Yellow, DRIVE and Stylemasters, comes a story about surf culture and tradition.
One California Day is a visual journey through six distinct coastal regions of California.
The film captures the archetypal surfing experience synonymous with the State. The story is told via the surfers embedded in the lifestyle.
Shot in brilliant super 16mm film, the movie examines the variety of subtle differences that makes California so unique.
“It’s not just about the wave, it’s about the people who are involved“
Super Session – 1975
Director: Hal Jepsen
Starring: Larry Bertleman, Gerry Lopez, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Jeff Hakman
Fast paced, action packed and breathtaking surfing filmed in Hawaii, California, and Australia.
Super Session inspired the whole Dogtown generation. Many regard it as the best surfing ever filmed in the 1970s.
Super Session focuses on a very experimental era, with not only traditional surfing but also bodysurfing, knee boards, snow skiing and much more.
The main star is Larry Bertlemann, with a unique and beautiful style that many tried to imitate. The truth remains that only a few were this imaginative, cool and talented in the whole history of surf.
“Exceptional surfing orchestrated by virtuoso editing and photography. I was climbing and dropping in my seat.”
Under the Sun – 2010
Director: Cyrus Sutton
Starring: Dave Rastavich, Nat Young, Beau Young, Rabbit Bartholomew, Dean Morrison, Mick Fanning, Albe Falzon, Kelly Slater
Byron Bay and the Gold Coast are two seemingly opposite Australian surf towns.
Beneath the surface they are inextricably linked to a multi-billion dollar industry which thrives on the commodification of the surfing lifestyle.
With populations swelling, resources draining, and housing prices going through the roof, where do these two towns go from here? Where does surfing go from here?
Under the Sun is a 16mm documentary shot in Byron Bay and the Gold Coast and features incredible surfing from Dave Rastovich, Beau Young, Nat Young and a handful of others.
The film explores the roots of commercialism, now so entrenched in our surf culture.
Be prepared for a dark and compelling narrative amidst beautiful imagery and a kick ass custom soundtrack.
“How those two places ended up an hour apart I dunno. Must be some cruel joke someone’s playing.”
Surfer Girl – 1994
Director: Donna Olson
Starring: Freida Zamba, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Jodie Cooper, Debbie Beacham
Tavarua, Fiji, 30 acres surrounded by an incredible reef break. Where the water is deep blue, crystal clear, and the waves are world class.
Against this backdrop, charging ten foot waves that pound the coral bed beneath, or inside of a perfectly shaped tube, Surfer Girl captures images of women that are unique, groundbreaking, and sometimes spellbinding.
Each athlete speaks of her passion for the ocean, for surfing, and for following her dream despite the odds against her.
Five women – Ten world Titles – Spectacular Possibilities!
“An essential addition to the collection of any serious surf archivist.”
Letting Go – 2006
Director: George Opadchy & Jamie Tierny
Starring: Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Simon Anderson, Mark Richards, Todd Kline, Occy, Bede Durbidge, Bruce Irons, Phil MacDonald, Evan Slater, CJ Hopgood, Damien Hopgood, Brock Little, Wayne Bartholomew
In the 1990s, Kelly Slater established himself as the most dominant professional surfer throughout history.
Although he had already established six world titles, in 2005 it had been seven years since he had worn the crown. Many thought he was past his prime.
They were wrong.
Experience the most triumphant year of Kelly’s career. Join him in the epic waves of the WCT “Dream Tour”, Australia, South Pacific, Africa, North and South America, Asia and Europe
Kelly’s quest for his long-awaited 7th world title is a roller coaster of emotions. Get a behind-the-scenes look into one of the most intense years in competitive surfing. The rivalries, the controversies and the drama.
Witness revealing and exclusive interviews with Kelly and never before seen backstage footage of his life.
“Andy (Irons) is the only guy in history who has handed him a major defeat.”
Lost and Found – 2012
Director: Doug Walker
Starring: Aaron Chang, Dan Merkel, Gerry Lopez, Jock Sutherland, Buttons Kahuiokalani, Larry Bertleman, Duncan Cambell, Bobby Owens, Greg Weaver, Candy Moore, Bob Barbour, Rory Russell, Randy Rarrick.
Lost and Found is a film based on the discovery of 30,000 negatives found in 3 boxes at a flea market in Los Angeles.
A beautiful, heartwarming tale with a soundtrack to match. This film highlights the importance of preserving the history of the sport and the memory of the characters who made surfing what it is today.
Doug Walker traveled for over three years re-uniting photographers and surfers with some of surfings best images ever captured.
Lost and found is a film that truly comes from the heart. The stories are told, and captured in a way quite unlike any other surf film.
“If stories are not told, they are lost“
Keep an eye out for future reviews here on Surfd.com, featuring new releases on TheSurfNetwork.