Surfing is more than just a water sport. For those who participate, the activity becomes a lifestyle. Waking up at five in the morning, just to get in the perfect sunrise session, is a rush that is unexplainable. Surfing originated in Hawaii, and according to Surf N Sea, the sport held great spiritual meaning to those who partook. Duke Kahanamoku is regarded in the world of surfing as one of the great surfers in history, having won the gold in the Olympic Games of 1912.
Since then, surfing has become a cultural landmark throughout the world, with various spots that surfers travel to just to catch waves. California, Australia, South Africa, and, of course, Hawaii are home to some of the most coveted barrels that the ocean has to offer. Although few and far between, films about surfing showcase not only the skill of catching waves, but the lengths that surfers will go to find them. Here are the best movies about surfing, ranked.
5 Soul Surfer
Almost seven years after the publication of the book by the same name, 2011’s Soul Surfer hit screens across the country, telling the story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. The film focuses on a pivotal moment in the surfer’s life, when she was attached by a shark, causing her to lose her arm. AnnaSophia Robb portrays Hamilton in the inspirational story of recovery, of young women in sports, and of reconnecting to the sport that would later become her professional career.
4 Chasing Mavericks
Mavericks Beach in California has long been regarded as one of the most notorious big wave surfing spots in the entire world. A wave at Mavericks can range between 25 and 60 feet at the crest. 2012’s Chasing Mavericks was a tribute film to surfer Jay Moriarity, who drowned in 2001 during a free dive session. The film told the story of Moriarity’s goal to be the youngest surfer to surf a Mavericks wave and live to tell the tale. His dream becomes a reality due to hard work, and the help of the surf legend Frosty Hesson, who is played by Gerard Butler. With Frosty’s help, Jay is not only able to become the youngest surfer to take on Mavericks, but earns a local legend’s friendship.
3 Point Break
Point Break mixes up the plot of an action-thriller by throwing in surf culture. New FBI agent Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) goes undercover to infiltrate a group of local surfers who are suspected to be involved in a string of bank robberies. Johnny befriends the leader of the group, Bodhi, who is played by the late Patrick Swayze, and quickly falls in love with Tyler, a woman surfer who is close to the gang. Point Break was the first film of Swayze’s that broke his typical genre since The Outsiders, and featured him in a completely different light. Although it is much different from other surf films in terms of focusing primarily on the sport itself, Point Break gets its feet wet in the reality of surf culture.
2 The Endless Summer
In 1960, surfing became recognized as a professional sport and all things surf culture were on the rise. In 1966, competition surfer and documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown set out with a group of surfer friends to film their travels around the world to document the best waves. The Endless Summer is accompanied by twangy guitar tones and montages showcasing music from The Sandals. The film is not only one of the greatest movies to watch during the summer months, but for any surfer proves as a monumental film recognizing the sport at its very heart.
1 Surf’s Up
Surf’s Up without a doubt best showcases what it means to be a surfer. Yes, the film is about animated penguins in a surf competition, but there is no other movie that truly encompasses what it means to be a surfer and to have love for the sport. Cody Maverick, voiced by Shia LaBeouf, is a young penguin from Antarctica who longs to become a professional surfer after meeting his childhood hero, Big Z, a famous competition surfer. Cody jumps at the chance to compete in the Big Z Memorial surfing contest, but, upon arrival, realizes he has more to learn about surfing than he bargained for. In the madness, Cody finds that his idol Big Z (voiced by Jeff Bridges) is still alive and faked his disappearance to exit the world of surfing. Surf’s Up is a movie about finding yourself through sports and friendship, while learning that winning isn’t what makes a sport — it’s the fun of it.
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