I’m a surfing enthusiast. I could sit and watch surfers glide among ocean waves for hours on end. Living, as I currently do, in the Midwest, the closest I can get to experiencing this most graceful and beautiful of all sports right now is my DVD player. Traditional surf films have always followed a very specific format: a small group of buddies take a trip to Tahiti, Bali, Australia, or some far-flung location with killer waves, and take turns filming each other surfing, usually with an inexpensive non-sync-sound, wind-up 16mm camera. They slap some punk rock and a few voice-over segments in which they reminisce about the trip on the soundtrack, edit together their best rides, and release the thing through one of the many small distributors of extreme sports videos. These films are understandably marketed to other surfers, because no general audience would ever want to sit through what frequently feels like a beach bum’s home movies.
Hollywood tackles the sport on occasion, usually with so much earnestness that the movie comes out impossibly dopey (see “North Shore,” 1987) or with a hipper-than-thou attitude that drowns the flick in smugness (ex. “In God’s Hands,” 1998). This isn’t to say that Tinseltown can’t occasionally nail the excitement of the culture (see #2 next page), but there’s good reason that most of the movies on my short list are nonfiction efforts.
I have constructed this list of the best in surf cinema not with the surfer in mind, but with the more casual fan / viewer. This list is composed of both fictional narratives and documentaries that don’t assume any former knowledge of the sport. All are available on DVD, and worth a look.
Get the list in part two of SURF CINEMA>>>