10 Must-See Surf Films

According to Filmmaker Cyrus Sutton

| posted on May 16, 2011

Cyrus Sutten's films are known for their offbeat examinations of surf culture. Check below for the film projects that have inspired him. Photo: Maassen

Musica Surfica
“A smart, fun film that perfectly captures the simple stoke of surfing. This film exposed many people to Derek Hynd’s finless experiments, and it was cool to hear surfing paired with the classical music of violinist/conductor/composer Richard Tognetti.”

Ride A White Horse
“Bob Evans’ 1968 film captured the most progressive period of longboard development, when McTavish, Lynch, Midget, Nat, Ted Spencer, Drouyn, and others were pushing the limits of their designs on clean Australian pointbreaks. Great custom jazz soundtrack, too.”

Dolphin Glide
“I was lucky enough to watch a preview copy of the unreleased dolphin-surfing homage a few years back and was blown away. George Greenough mounted a camera to the bow of a boat and traveled with dolphin pods. The lens was mounted in such a way that it paned laterally as the boat turned mimicking the point of view of a dolphin so perfectly it blew my mind.”

Last Hope
“I really liked Andrew Kidman’s concept of bringing together different filmmakers in one film. Richard Kenvin’s section about saving the Windansea parking lot is classic.”

One California Day
“The best compilation of waves and personalities on the California coast I’ve ever seen. Shot in super 16mm film and with a good soundtrack.”

The Big Surf
“If you’re a filmmaker, you’ll be blown away at Bud Browne’s water footage from a 1957 swell at Waimea Bay using a military surplus 16mm camera and a homemade rubber housing.”

Pacific Vibrations
“SURFER Magazine founder John Severson’s contraband classic, featuring incredible surfing and art direction. Some great stuff by artist Rick Griffin, and a rocking (and never legally cleared) soundtrack by some the ’60s best bands.”

“Runman’s films were super raw super 8mm looks at a different side of ’90s surfing. Runmental is kind of like the …Lost films but more artsy and featuring secret Hawaiian perfection and the Irons brothers shredding as groms.”

“My favorite modern surf flick by far. Not just another chest-beating montage of huge airs and barrels, but a quirky, fun showcase of futuristic performances by Mitch Coleburn, Dusty Payne and others.”

Between the Lines
“An interesting look at surfing during the Vietnam War era. Much more emotional depth and moral complexity than I’d expected, and it raised as many questions as it provided answers. Good production value and storyline make it go down smooth as well.”
Watch the trailer here.

  •* ChantellesArt

    AWESOME list… gonna catch up on the ones I’ve missed… THANKS 4

  •* ChantellesArt

    AWESOME list… gonna catch up on the ones I’ve missed!!! THANKS & hope U all have a TOTALLY FUN WEEK:))

  • Steve Shearer

    Stoked you got Dolphin Glide in there Cyrus.

    Been freaking pumping since you left.

  • Whamo

    No “Salt Water Wine” or “Seadreams”?

  • Alex

    Why should anyone care what movies Cyrus Sutton likes? Why is this even a story? Isn’t this guy just some longboarder who made a crappy movie? Don’t get the point of the story here. Who is this guy again?

    • Dick

      Who the fuck are you? Cyrus is probably one of the most credible sources of information on this topic currently. Do you’re research kook.

  • adam

    This is the worst list I’ve ever seen. Nice revisionist “indie” history! Truly momentous and representative films have been left out here: Blazing Boards, Beyond Blazing Boards, Pump, Momentum, Kelly Slater Black & White….. etc. Wow, how can you even publish such an obviously incomplete and shoddy list?!!??

  • juan Tagliafico

    are you kidding me? with this list ???
    let me show you the 10 must see surf film

    1) One track mind
    2) blue horizon
    3) the present
    4) days of the strange
    5) life is a movie
    6) castles in the sky
    7) modern collective
    8) blue print
    9) broke down melody
    10) Secrete Machine

    good videos for seat back relax and enjoy

  • Jamon Bagel

    The hat says it all.

  • http://surfermag greg hall






  • Trav

    Ya’ll need to definitely check out ‘Litmus’

  • PC

    Lets not forget FIve Summer Stories. Besides beautiful surfing it had a classic soundtrack that included music by Honk and The Beach Boys

  • mattman

    He forgot to mention “Riding Waves” and “Stoked and Broke.”

    Major oversight.

  • mattman

    In all seriousness, though…I totally agree with his commentary on One California Day, but September Sessions and Morning of the Earth have to be part of this list.

  • Brad Western

    Best movie last year was “Into the ether” Kidman.

    If SS was to include a centre field effort it would have to be Morning of the earth.

  • Alex

    I say everyone just start spilling out they’re Top 5 and then we just have a massive list collectively. Screw “Top 10s” and garbage lists, I just wanna watch good surfing with good music and dream about barrels.

    That being said, why wasn’t “Endless Summer” on this list??? Even though everyone’s seen it, it should be a “Must See” or whatever. Same with “Thicker Than Water” seeing as all the other Malloy/Jack films have been mentioned

    But it’s nice to see some films I’ve never heard of too, even in the comments 😛

  • Pablo

    “Morning of the Earth” all day.

  • Whamo

    “Ride the Wild Surf” was a great movie about surfing. It captures the struggle of surfers against the surf bum image that was prevalent during the early sixties as well as including decent footage of Greg Noll and Mickey Dora at Waimea and Haliewa.
    I liked Alex’s comments as well.

  • Anon

    Cyrus is just trying to impress us with his oh-so-edgy picks. But Juan’s list are all the ones worth actually watching. Most of Cyrus’ list is largely unbearable.

  • No Respect

    You guys are missing the point to this whole thing. Black and White, Momentum, Spout, and all the other movies you guys have listed are great. But essentially, it’s the same ol’ shit you read about on everyone’s Top 10 list… Cyrus is merely trying to expand your horizons rather than keep your mind boxed up. Think outside of the box. That is what Cyrus is doing and has been doing for years.

  • Calm The Fark Down

    Cool list with many films I haven’t seen. Thanks for sharing the not-so-obvious.
    For the panties in a bunch crowd, run to Costa Mesa warehouse sale – quick.

  • jen

    I recommend Out of Place, about the surf culture in Ohio. Way off the beaten path.

  • Trey

    Alex is right bros, we need a huge list of movies for all the kooks who think they know what surfing really is, and for anyone who already loves surfing to find movies they’ve never seen before

  • Strealy

    Taylor Steele defined the 90’s…Booyah!

  • wlad

    what about “Blue Crush”, “Point Break” and a special mention to “Brice de Nice” (“Tu es comme le “H” de Hawaii : tu ne sers à rien”)

  • Cyrilex

    The list of Cyrus Sutton is  in some way different. 
    But saying it’ is the ten best movies all times it’s totally      untrue. This list should be called the most obscure surf movies of all times. But it’s Cyrus choice.

    What make a good or a really good  surf movie?
    1 the surfing performance, the quality of the wave.
    2 the quality of the image
    3 the music
    4You should be able to watch a good surf movie two or three times in raw.

    Bunyip Dreaming
    Searching for Tom Curren
    Feral kingdom
    Kelly slater in black & white
    The secret machine
    The September session
    Morning of the earth

  • speedo

    For one thing, that video of THE BIG SURF is not the one that Bud Browne made, it’s just a short goofy film on surfing sold for the home movie market in 1965.

  • thrownbuckets

    all im sayin is why isnt there a website dedicated to surf movies and surf movies only where we could all upload and stream any or all movies pertaining to surfing…i mean wouldnt it be rowdy if a website like that existed and was organized by date the film was released/ what pros are in it/ what company made the film/ and whether or not it is a story type film or a documentary….thats what we need…not top 5s or top 10s..

  • Budlum

    Cyrus doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about, for one thing THE BIG SURF by Bud Browne has not been seen in years, It was lost years ago, So Cyrus has never seen it, That clip they show is just what Speedo Says, a short film with the same name but it’s not Bud’s film and it’s a shitty little film at that, No way anyone would think that Bud Shot it, There isn’t even any good surfing in it. And there are 20 other old films that most surfers should check out but are just so hard to find that most never see them.

  • mathew

    I used to watch heaps from the video store back in the early-mid 90’s when i was a kid…does anyone know any of these film names? i’d love to see them again…i loved em so much it was really hard to return them and not steal them…its all i thought about

  • Rockafellaskank

    ‘Shelter’ has to make to the top ten somewhere.
    Amazing soundtrack, a real look into AUS breaks (not pumping though) and Kelly slater ripping.
    Was a good film


    you can watch free surf movies

  • aiden

    You forgot Strange rumblings in shrangila,the Bruce movie,Dear suberbitory,intersection and this time tomorrow and lots more.

  • surfman10

    Welcome To The Most Complete Surf Movies List Available Online –

  • Thracker

    Does anyone know of a Bob Evans surf film and/or the original sound-track called “Family Free” circa 1971 featuring Wayne Lynch?
    Please contact me if you have any information.
    Michael Norris –

    • Bill Rogers

      Hello Michael
      I was at National Park Noosa when they were filming for the movie and ended up in it for the opening wave. It screened at the Alambra Theater Stones Corner Brisbane about 1970 – 1971. I have tried to get a copy and got in touch with Bob’s son about 10 years ago. It was still on the old 16 mm reels and as I had no way of having it reproduced at that time I gave up on it. I think Bob’s family still reside around Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Unfortunately I did not keep the phone number that I had. I am going to Contact Surf World Gold Coast as they did a spot on Bob’s movies last year and who knows they may have more up to date information. If I have any luck I’ll let you know.

  • Anthony

    Does anyone remember the movie where the intro is a bunch of kids repeating the phrase “Warriors …. Come out to playaaayy” ???