Patrick’s Top 5 Surfing Movies

“The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun” – Unknown

It’s a cold December morning here in Vancouver, and being unable to snow board with my recent shoulder surgery I find myself thinking about surfing.  And so without much ado, here are my five favorite surf movies:

#5  – Surf’s Up  – 2007

“You know, we’ve known each other way back since, like… yesterday, I think it was.”

chicken joe

Except for the annoying voice of Shia LaBeouf, this 2007 parody of surfing documentaries, such as The Endless Summer and Riding Giants, with parts of the plot parodying North Shore teaches a lot about the surfing culture to non-surfers.

“So, Cody, when you take your first wave, and the whole island’s there to watch, what’s it gonna be like? ”

It’s gonna be amazing. Honestly, it’ll be the best wave of my life, and I hope the cameras are rolling because you’re gonna want to watch it over and over and over and over again. It’s gonna be awesome”

Codie’s wipe out when he first challenges Tank is something every surfer has experienced.   We think we have mastered the ocean and the waves are there for our taking, only to be dropped and crushed by the weight of our ego’s.  And be reminded of it over and over by your bro’s over a cold beer.

And who, but a surfer understands this line?   “You should have been here yesterday. We had a sweet swell yesterday.”  This is the typical sarcastic comment you get if you missed out on a session by your bro’s and dudettes, and believe me, almost nothing can be as frustrating as getting told how great the session (which you missed out on) was.

And we all know a ‘Chicken Joe’.


#4 Bra Boys: Blood is thicker than water – 2007

“the surf has saved so many kids around here, and led them to a lifestyle in the ocean instead of a lifestyle in crime”.

bra boys patrick smyth

My friend Rudi introduced me to this film, a 90 minute documentary film about the surf gang based south about an Australian gang founded and based in Maroubra, an eastern suburb of Sydney.  The film details a story of the Bra Boys from the viewpoint of the gang, particularly Sunny Abberton who wrote and co-directed the film with Macario De Souza with actor Russell Crowe providing narration. The film’s official cast included 49 well known surfers from Bra Boys members Evan Faulks and Richie ‘Vas’ Vaculik to ten-time world champion, Kelly Slater, and surfing legends including Mark Occhilupo, Bruce Irons, and Laird Hamilton.

The film is rough and shows some of the seedier sides of the Aussie surf culture.  And it really highlights something that is hard to explain to non-surfers; the almost blood-bind surfers have in common.


#3 Morning of the Earth  – 1971

“One Ocean once covered the world … it was The Morning of the Earth.”

morning of the earth

Turlough introduced me to this film not too long ago.  The film portrays surfers living in spiritual harmony with nature, making their own boards (and homes) as they travelled in search of the perfect wave across Australia’s north-east coast, Bali and Hawaii.  It features great footage and some excellent tunes from the early 70’s

Michael “MP” Peterson (24 September 1952 – 29 March 2012) is featured in the film.  As a professional Australian surfer, he was considered one of the best surfers in Australia during the early to mid-1970s and was recognized for his deep tube riding skill, especially on the Gold Coast, Peterson won the Australian championship in the 1972 and 1974, along with won many other major surfing competitions. Peterson became a heavy drug user, and his friends reported increasingly erratic behavior, hostility towards others (including friends) and paranoid delusions in which he believed that others were plotting against him.  While he did do drugs, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia .

Watch the movie for the music.  And watch it again for the images of a simpler life, something we surfers live every time we shred.


#2 Step into Liquid – 2003

“It’s like the Mafia. Once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no getting out.”

step into Liquid

The name of the movie says it all.  Step into Liquid. When non-surfers, like my folks, ask what surfing is all about, I ask them to watch this 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, Roca Bruja (Witch’s Rock) in Costa Rica and some of the world’s largest waves, at Cortes Bank. Featuring a litany of surfers including Robert August, Taj Burrow, Laird Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado and Kelly Slater.

The movie rings true for me in so many ways.  One of my favorite quotes that only a surfer will get is Dolphins, seals and Pelicans are the best surfers.”


Point Break – 1991

“Surfing’s the source. It will change your life.  Swear to God.”


This movie was the reason that I moved to Los Angeles, and eventually to Costa Rica.  This is what started it all for me.  It took me years to realize my dream and become a decent surfer…okay, pretty good surfer?  But I got there, and it was this film that inspired me.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty and Gary Busey, the movie is about a bank of surfers who rob banks, and the FBI agent charged to catch them.  No it’s not.

It’s about a man realizing that his life is empty, and finds solace and love through surfing.   And it’s about how surfing really does change your life.  And the action scenes are totally awesome dude!  Surfing, Skydiving, and Shootouts!

“Look at it! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, man! Let me go out there and let me get one wave, just one wave before you take me in. I mean, come on man, where I am I gonna go? Cliffs on both sides! I’m not gonna paddle my way to New Zealand! Come on, compadre. Come on!”


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