Ultimate List of Surfing Documentaries To Watch in 2024

🕓   10 min read

✏️   Updated on 20th April 2024


Welcome, surfing friends, to my “Ultimate List of Surfing Documentaries to Watch in 2024”!

If you’re here, you’re likely looking to satisfy some surf content craving and this list will do just that. Below we’ve compiled a list of the best surfing documentaries that will offer insights, thrills, and inspiration to surfers of all levels.

It’s a fantastic list of content made even easier to navigate as we’ve split it up into vibes, helping you decide which ones are worth delving into based on what you’re looking for.

Here’s a rundown of the surfing documentary vibes to choose from…

1. Epic Adventure
2. Cultural Insights
3. History and Evolution
4. Personal Stories
5. Recent Bangers

Each surfing documentary has a quick summary as well as a score out of 10 to give you a feel of each film. So grab your popcorn and let’s paddle into the world of surfing cinema!




Epic Adventure

1. The Endless Summer (1966) – 9/10

Starting with probably the most referenced surfing documentary on the planet, “The Endless Summer”. This groundbreaking surf film follows two surfers travel the world in search of the perfect wave. It captures the essence of adventure in the pursuit of the ultimate surfing experience.


Gets 9/10 from me for its timeless allure and capacity to ignite a universal sense of wanderlust and adventure. The impact this had on future surfing documentaries also cannot be understated. This surfing documentary has solidified its status as an iconic and enduring masterpiece in surf filmmaking.

Memorable quote – “Some of the best things in life are total accidents.”

Length – 1h 35m


2. The Endless Summer II (1994) – 8/10

“The Endless Summer II” follows surfers on another global quest for the perfect wave. Similar to it’s original this film goes out of its way to explore diverse cultures, while embodying the enduring spirit of adventure that comes with surf discovery.


Still great at 8/10… this surfing doc makes for a captivating sequel, continuing the global surfing journey with breathtaking scenes and cultural exploration. Only thing hurting the score was that it lacked the groundbreaking impact of the original, an impossible feat to achieve anyway.

Memorable quote – “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.”

Length – 1h 49m

3. View From a Blue Moon (2015) – 9/10

“View From a Blue Moon” is a visually stunning surfing documentary that follows professional surfer John John Florence as he embarks on a global journey. It showcases top tier wave-riding action, stunning cinematography of beautiful landscapes accompanied by a great soundtrack. What’s not to like?


9/10 from me, certified banger.

Memorable quote – “Every wave is different, every approach is different, every ride is different, and that’s what’s so fascinating about it.”

Length – 58m

4. Under an Arctic Sky (2017) – 9/10

“Under an Arctic Sky” follows a group of surfers as they embark on an expedition to Iceland in search of waves under the Northern Lights. Battling harsh conditions and unpredictable weather, they encounter stunning landscapes and epic surf, capturing the raw beauty and adventure of surfing in the Arctic wilderness.


Another big 9/10 and it’s thoroughly deserved here. “Under an Arctic Sky” offers off the charts cinematography, immersive storytelling alongside a unique surfing adventure. If those are on your checklist for a surfing doc, look no further.

Memorable quote – “Nature doesn’t give you any guarantees, and sometimes you just have to embrace the unknown.”

Length – 40m

5. Billabong Odyssey (2003) – 7/10

“Billabong Odyssey” is a huge surfing doc that follows the worlds best big wave surfers chase giant waves around the globe. It’s an edge of your seat surfing doc showcasing the insane world of extreme surfing.


Gave this one a score of 7/10, does a great job of outlining the sport’s risks and rewards with some top end shots but it left me wanting more compared to a few other big wave surfing documentaries.

Memorable quote – “You don’t want to be under it, you want to be on top of it.”

Length – 1h 28m




Cultural Insights

1. Step Into Liquid (2003) – 8/10

“Step Into Liquid” is a slightly different style surfing doc that highlights surfing’s diversity and it’s cultural significance across various locations and surf styles.


I’ve given it a score of 8/10 as there’s some really interesting stories paired with some unbelievable cinematography. It also captivates the essence of surfing’s universal appeal and its value for entertainment make it a worthy watch.

Memorable quote – “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Length – 1h 22m


2. Bra Boys (2007) – 8/10

“Bra Boys” is a culture and lifestyle documentary that delves into the life of the Bra Boys, a notorious surfing gang from Maroubra, Australia.


This was a super interesting watch and I think 8/10 is about right. I thought it was a pretty raw portrayal of the challenges faced by this community, which was refreshing. This doc explored themes such as brotherhood and identity, and shed light on the complexities of social issues within the context of surfing culture. Turned out to be a pretty powerful and thought-provoking watch, would recommend.

Memorable quote – “Blood is thicker than water, but loyalty is thicker than both.”

Length – 1h 30m


3. Surfwise (2007) – 8/10

“Surfwise” is one of those surfing documentaries that really stands out. It focuses on the unconventional life of the Paskowitz family, and tells the story of their nomadic and alternative lifestyle centered around surfing.


I’ve given this one an 8/10. It’s more than a surfing doc about a family, it’s an examination into the pursuit of happiness outside of societal norms, which make it one of the most memorable docs on this list.

Memorable quote – “Health, more than the mere absence of disease is the presence of a superior state of wellbeing – a pazazz, a vitality”.

Length – 1h 33m


4. Out in the Lineup (2014) – 8/10

“Out in the Lineup” is a super important doc on this list as it delves into the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles in the surfing world. It includes some profound insights into identity, acceptance, and the pursuit of equality amongst the waves.


It’s a great eye opener and gets a score of 8/10 from me. The powerful storytelling and enlightening interviews highlight the importance of fostering inclusivity and diversity within surf culture.

Memorable quote – “Surfing transcends labels; it’s about connecting with something greater than ourselves.”

Length – 1h 23m




History and Evolution

1. Riding Giants (2004) – 10/10

“Riding Giants” is the ONLY 10/10 on this list. It’s an incredibly interesting story that chronicles the evolution of big wave surfing, offering an exhilarating journey through the sport’s most iconic moments and legendary surf spots.


This is my favourite surfing documentary, so it gets the 10/10. I can’t fault it and more importantly whenever I watch it I can’t take my eyes off of it. If you only give one documentary a watch on this list, make it this one.

Memorable quote – “I remember paddling into the lineup and your balls were just in your stomach… thinking the bottom was gonna fall out or something was going to eat you alive”.

Length – 1h 41m


2. Momentum Generation (2018) – 8/10

“Momentum Generation” is a hugely important surfing documentary that tells the story a group of friends that pushed surfing into the mainstream. For 104 minutes the lives and stories of Kelly Slater and his gang of misfits are unpacked in their truest form.


Given it an 8/10 for the honest interviews, archival footage and the level of passion oozing out of the screen.

Memorable quote – “If you heard “You won’t go” in our crew… you’re going, and if you don’t go then that’s like a month of getting heckled…I’d rather split my head open”

Length – 1h 44m


3. Fish: The Surfboard Documentary (2016) – 7/10

“Fish: The Surfboard Documentary” is a surfing doc all about (you guessed it), the fish surfboard. It’s one that sheds light on the board shapes unique characteristics and impact on surfing culture. With interviews from shapers, surfers and historians it will satisfy any cravings for a future fish surfboard purchase.


Gave this one a score of 7/10, super interesting documentary that focuses on a totally different aspect of surfing to the rest of the list. If that sounds like your cup of tea, this one will go down a treat.

Memorable quote – “Riding a fish is like dancing with the ocean”

Length – 1h 20m


Personal Stories

1. Given (2016) – 8/10

“Given” is one of the most visually stunning surfing documentaries out there. It follows a family of surfers as they explore different global surf spots and immerse themselves in the culture of each region.


Another solid 8/10. This surfing documentary can be a tad samey at times but the breathtaking cinematography was enough to make it a completely immersive watch.

Memorable quote – “The ocean connects us all, regardless of language or culture.”

Length – 1h 15m


2. Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (2019) – 8/10

“Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” is an incredible documentary about champion surfer and inspirational figure Bethany Hamilton. Known for overcoming adversity, which includes a serious shark attack amongst other things.


My score of 8/10 reflects the intimate portrayal of Hamilton’s resilience and determination, alongside some breathtaking surfing footage. While it lacks depth at points, its motivational message make it an uplifting surfing documentary.

Memorable quote – “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”

Length – 1h 39m


3. White Rhino (2019) – 8/10

“White Rhino” follows professional surfer Jake Burghart as he explores the world’s biggest waves and most dangerous surf spots. It showcases the fearless approach to big wave surfing and lifestyle of extreme athletes.


Burghart’s charismatic presence along with some crazy good cinematography make this a hearty 8/10. While it offers limited insights into Burghart’s own life, it’s a memorable film and a great big wave watch.

Memorable quote – “Every wave has its own personality; you have to respect its power.”

Length – 1h 4m


4. Storm Surfers 3D (2012) – 7/10

“Storm Surfers 3D” is on the same lines as “White Rhino”. It follows a couple of Aussies (Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones) on their quest to ride the world’s most challenging waves. More fantastic cinematography and an immersive experience await those who tune into this top notch surfing doc.


Given this one a score of 7/10 as I enjoyed White Rhino slightly more. However, it still offers a tonne of must see shots for surf enthusiasts and it’s especially good for fans of extreme big wave surfing.

Memorable quote – “Big wave surfing is about pushing your limits and finding out what you’re truly capable of.”

Length – 1h 35m




Recent bangers

1. Resurface (2021) – 9/10

“Resurface” may be one of the shortest surfing documentaries in recent years but it’s certainly one of the most profound. It explores surfing as a form of therapy for military veterans struggling with PTSD and other mental health issues.


Easy 9/10 given the powerful storytelling of the veterans’ journeys, and surfings impact on their physical and emotional well-being. The film does a great job of highlighting the healing potential of nature and community. This makes it a must-watch documentary alongside whatever else you pick, it’s ok it’s not too long.

Memorable quote – “Every wave I catch is a small victory, a reminder that I’m stronger than my struggles.”

Length – 27m


2. Girls Can’t Surf (2021) – 8/10

“Girls Can’t Surf” is an untold story of female surfers who fought against sexism to pave the way for gender equality in surfing. It’s another eye opening surfing documentary that shows how surfing can have positive impacts on things bigger than itself.


Another 8/10 is a reflection of this docs engaging storytelling, archival footage, and interviews with pioneering women surfers.

Memorable quote – “We didn’t wait for permission to surf; we paddled out and claimed our rightful place in the lineup.”

Length – 1h 48m


3. Minds in the Water (2022) – 9/10

“Minds in the Water” follows professional surfer Dave Rastovich as he becomes an advocate for marine conservation.


With the breathtaking footage of marine life alongside Dave’s surfing adventures, I had to give this one a 9/10. Its call to action make this a must-watch for anyone passionate about protecting our oceans and marine ecosystems.

Memorable quote – “The beauty of the ocean lies not only in its waves but in the life it sustains beneath the surface.”

Length – 1h 30m





And that is that, hopefully this ‘Ultimate List of Surfing Documentaries To Watch in 2024’ has got the juices flowing.

If I were to pick one from this long list of illustrious surfing documentaries, I’d pick Riding Giants. With the range and breadth of surfing content these days however, there really is something for everyone.

If you have any further questions on the list itself or even better, any recommendations for surfing documentaries not included here, let me know in the comments below!


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Next read: ‘Northcore Beach Basha Pro Review’

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