October 25, 2023 5 min read

We analyzed TV streaming platforms and saw that there are different films: from those promoting environmental activism to those passionate about big-wave exploration and adventure. We debated for hours, discussing the top surf documentaries that every surfer should watch.

Perhaps a blend of surf, travel, and artistry is not the best option. In our opinion, the best approach is a diverse range of surfing documentaries on different topics.

Classic Surfing Documentaries

"Endless Summer" (1966)

As Mike Hynson and Robert August, the Californian surfers, travel the world in search of the perfect wave and an endless summer of wave riding, the soundtrack keeps the spirits high. With a classic 1960s backdrop and an enthusiastic and lively narrative, this hilarious adventure is sure to make you want to hop in a V-Dub, strap your longest board to the roof, and hit the road. I'm already excited to watch Part II!

"Riding Giants" (2004)

Stacy Peralta, a professional skateboarder and founding member of ZBoy, directed this renowned and highly regarded surf documentary. It explores the surf culture representation from its origins in Polynesia to its modern-day evolution with notable figures like Greg Noll and Laird Hamilton riding extraordinary waves. Released in 2004, the film captures the essence of this iconic water sport, showing the progression of surfboards throughout history. If historical significance and true stories are important to you, this documentary is for you. You can enjoy this captivating documentary on Apple TV and Prime Video.

"Step Into Liquid" (2003)

Dana Brown, whose father, Bruce Brown, directed the groundbreaking surf documentary "The Endless Summer" in 1966, helmed what many consider the most comprehensive surf documentary to date. This film delves into the world of esteemed surfers from the early 2000s, showing remarkable footage as they relentlessly pursue the best waves on the planet. Prominent surfers featured include Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater, Layne Beachley, and Taj Burrows.

Modern Surfing Documentaries

"Chasing Mavericks" (2012)


You must watch this surf movie that tells the incredible story of Jay Moriarty, a legendary surfer. The film follows Jay's inspiring journey as he strives to conquer the enormous and world-renowned wave, Mavericks. Jay seeks assistance from his neighbor Frosty, and their newfound friendship becomes the foundation for preparing Jay to ride this remarkable wave.

However, preparing for big wave surfing is no easy task.

Important! You won't be able to fully explore cinematography's influence on surf culture unless you learn how to bypass regional restrictions. This is another area where overcoming challenges is needed to achieve the goal.

The most effective tool for both the nomadic surf lifestyle and unblocking movies is Amazon Fire TV VPN from VeePN. It brings back the accessibility through TV streaming platforms that was lost due to the implementation of geographic restrictions.

"The Endless Summer II" (1994)

"The Endless Summer" was abundant in innocence, but compensated with its breathtaking views of pristine beaches found on both exotic and unlikely shores, such as Alaska.

"Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable" (2019)

This film takes you on a journey through Bethany's life as she rises to prominence after the attack. You witness the sheer determination and effort she puts in to achieve her goals, all while navigating the path of motherhood. It's another incredible surfing movie available on Netflix. Bethany Hamilton has accomplished feats that many can only dream of, serving as a true inspiration within the surfing community. After watching this film, we guarantee you'll feel motivated to train harder and paddle stronger the next time you hit the waves!

Environmental and Social Impact Documentaries

"180° South: Conquerors of the Useless" (2010)

He encounters a shipwreck off Easter Island, surfs the longest wave of his life, and readies himself for a rare ascent of Cerro Corcovado. Jeff's life takes a turn when he meets Chouinard and Tompkins in a rainy hut. They used to be driven purely by a love of climbing and surfing, but now their top priority is the experience of raw nature. They have come to Patagonia to spend their fortunes protecting it.

"The Smog of the Sea" (2017)

A film about ocean pollution, which all surfers depend on. Throughout the film, the participants sift through a myriad of ocean debris, meticulously separating plastic packaging and waste. They make a surprising discovery as they find bite marks on the plastic, indicating marine animals have been feeding on them. Their concern escalates when they realize that microplastic particles are not only present in water but also pervasive in various other environments.


"Momentum Generation" (2018)

HBO's Momentum Generation is a captivating surf documentary that delves into the journey of a close-knit group of childhood friends from the early 90s. Together, they transformed into the world's most skilled and competitive surfers, featuring renowned athletes such as Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado, Sunny Garcia, Talylor Knox, and Kalani Robb.

Surfing Travel and Exploration

"The Africa Project" (2009)

Filmmaker Jason Hearn, alongside a crew of dedicated surfers, conducts cultural exploration of both the East and West coasts during the project's production to unveil Africa's authentic surfing narrative. They embarked on a delightful surf journey, showcasing Africa with its surfers, waves, people, and cultures. Surf gang culture has also taken root here, but the main feature of this region is surf culture appreciation. Even despite the commercialization of surfing, everyone takes it slow and simply enjoys conquering the waves.

"Thicker Than Water" (2000)

The singer and his film-making friends captured captivating footage showcasing the lives and experiences of world-renowned surfers in Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, India, and Ireland. Naturally, the original soundtrack leaves a lasting impression.

Surfing as a Lifestyle and Philosophy

"Surfwise" (2007)

surf learning

This compelling documentary narrates the story of Doc Paskowitz, a man educated at Stanford, who with his young wife, defied conventional norms by raising his nine children in a camper while chasing the ultimate surf destinations across the continent.

Although his parenting methods raised doubts, and his obsession with surfing seemed self-centered, even today he prompts the question:
Is it truly absurd to prioritize the well-being and spiritual growth of a tight-knit family over society's conventional markers of success?


"Bra Boys" (2007)

Sea Of Darkness combines earthy romanticism and delinquency, while Bra Boys represents the antithesis of the saccharine surf culture of the 60s and 70s seen in Morning Of The Earth and Pacific Vibrations.

The movie is set in a rundown Sydney suburb in the early 2000s, exploring the amplified tribalism of surf culture due to historical oppression and contemporary social pressures. It follows the story of the Bra Boys, a gang from Maroubra Beach, with a particular emphasis on the Abberton family and their involvement in a high-profile murder case.


The purpose of all surf films is different. Some of them are simply inspiring and offer to enjoy the romance of the waves and unity with nature. Other documentaries invite reflection on the future and humanity's impact on the ocean. Still others explore the culture or history of the sport. Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it on our list.

Author - Olivia Poglianich
Olivia Poglianich          

Content Strategist

Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the surf, watersports and outdoor adventure space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.

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