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60 years of surf movies every grommet should watch

Getting a surfing education from 60 years of surf movies

There’s nothing that gets The Surf Nomad’s stoke pumping like a good old fashioned surf flick. Over the years we have watched em all.  Some are better than others but in our opinion there are certain surf videos that stand out as the definitive surf movies of their day.  These are the surf movies that exemplified what was happening at the time and have gone on to inspire and educate generations of frothers ever since.

Who says education cant be fun?

1950’s and 1960’s

Greg Noll Search for Surf

Pieced together from over 10 hours of surfing footage shot by Greg “Bull” Noll during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s this movie is an incredible insight into surfing in California Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands before the rest of the world got on to the idea.  Greg used to make these movies as a form of advertising for his California based surfboard building business and they give an amazing glimpse into a time when there really were only a few hard core guys travelling the world and  experiencing what it was to be a Surf Nomad.  This movie gives an incredible insight into what it was to be a surfer at a time before crowds filled the water.

Greg and his crew were the first non Hawaiians to surf Sunset, Waimea, Pipeline, Velzyland, Haleiwa, not to mention the outer Hawaiian islands.  As it turns out they actually named Pipe, V’land and lots of other breaks that have become household names in the world of surfing today.  They are absolute legends and every grommet should be forced to sit down and watch this movie.

Watching this film it is easy to see where writer director John Milius got many of his ideas for the locations and characters in his cinematic surf classic Big Wednesday.


This is a little taster though showing his board factory circa 1957

The whole movie was on Youtube for a while but has since been pulled.  You can stream or download it it on the Surf network though. I don’t know if it is worth the 10 bucks to download it but you be the judge on that.

Endless Summer

The culmination of 10 years of surf movie making by the legendary Bruce Brown,  Endless Summer is the quintessential surfing road movie. The film that spawned a billion surf trips Endless summer documents the travels of Mile Hynson and Robert August as they follow the sun around the globe in search of waves in far flung lands.

If you are in Australia you can view the full movie online here

For those elsewhere in the world here’s a couple of tasters

Endless Summer clips youtube playlist

The Fantastic Plastic Machine

This incredible movie shot in 1969 Features Skip Frye and the California crew as they head Down Under for a surfing competition and to crack a few with the Aussies. It is notable because it documents Aussies Bob McTavish and Nat Young (the old one) who, after watching American born kneeboarder George Greenough, start to move to shorter surfboards in an effort to develop more manoeuvrable surf craft.  This was the beginnings of the Shortboard revolution.  It’s possible that Kelly, John John and Gabriel Medina would not be doing what they are today if it were not for the advancements made by the guys in this film.

Fantastic Plastic Machine youtube playlist


Morning of the earth

Created by Alby Falzon and David Elfick, Morning of the earth was Released in 1972.  It was created not only as a surf movie but also as an environmental statement of sorts. It is notable for its depiction of the early days of the short board era and also for being the first commercial surf movie to highlight the amazing waves of Indonesia’s now famous Uluwatu.

Surfers featured in the film are Chris Brock, Stephen Cooney, Terry Fitzgerald, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Gerry Lopez, Rusty Miller, Michael Peterson, Baddy Treloar,Mark Warren, Nat Young.

you can watch the full movie here (At least for now)

Fantasea 1979/80

Filmed between 1976 and 1979 by Greg Huglin, Fantasea shows the culmination of short board surfing in the 1970’s.   This film was made just prior to the onset of an official pro tour and shows the best  free surfers of the generation as they readied themselves to make the transition to professionalism.

The list of surfers in this movie is a who’s who of surfing in the day and is particularly notable as the first surfing movie that The Surf Nomad ever went to see.  There almost isn’t a turn that you would see him make today that didn’t stem from a scene in this movie.

The following playlist contains the entire film broken into four parts as uploaded by the producer himself Greg Huglin.

Thanks Greg you are a legend

The 1980’s

Wizards of the Water and Storm Riders

Significant among all the surf movies created in the 1980s Wizards of the water released in 1981 utilises a lot of footage derived from the burgeoning pro tour and shows some incredible surfing from a range of 1980’s young guns in the last few years before the dominance of the thruster. For that alone it is worth a look. Purchase it here on the surf network.

Storm Riders
In the tradition of The Endless Summer Storm riders is another trip around the world movie but notable mostly in the fact that it in many ways signifies the loss of innocence of surfing as a lifestyle and its steady progression into becoming a “professional sport”.

Snippets of Cheyne Horan Surfing from WOW and the Storm Riders trailer

Opening Scene from Storm Riders

The 1990’s

Momentum 1, 2 & 3

We have to admit that we at The Surf Nomad Skipped the 90’s.  Let’s just say it is mostly a blur of bass driven music and inner city indulgences. Our Hazy memories of that time recall that the the pro tour was full steam ahead and a new breed of surfer was out for blood. If the sale of surfing was set up in the 1980s it was closed by the 1990’s and the majority of surfing related video content was sponsored by the corporate giants of the industry flaunting their massive check books.

This whole era is typified by Taylor Steel’s post punk apocalyptic Trilogy, Momentum 1 2 and 3. These films show the vanguard of surfing in the 1990’s riding impossibly narrow, wafer thin genie shoes with such ferocity that by force of will they spawned aerials in surfing. Damn The Surf Nomad hated the boards in the early to mid 90s no wonder we lost that decade.

Taylor Steele’s Momentum trilogy



Symbolising the Surf Nomad’s Return to the Ocean and the dawning of a new Century with it.  Shelter is one of our all time favourite movies from the early 21st century. It typifies a new approach to surfing or perhaps a reversion to an old approach with a couple of decades of product development under the industry’s belt. Somebody somewhere finally realised not everyone wants to be a pro, bust an air or ride a thruster Shelter marks that moment for us at The Surf Nomad.

Shelter Free Surfing lives again long may she ride.

Fin 2007

A celebration of individuality FIN is a study of the end of one mentality, a look at the results of the paradigm shift that happened at the turn of the century.  It is a celebration of a time in surf culture when what you ride means nothing, but how you ride it means everything.
It can be purchased and streamed online from The Surf Network

Ok well that’s it for now almost 60 years of surfing history documented in surf movies we hope you enjoy watching them and get as much from doing so as we did.

2010 and beyond

With HD video camera equipment like GoPro and online distribution channels hungry for content, anybody can make a surf movie.  As a result an entirely new generation of Bud Brown’s are coming to the fore.  The Surf Nomad believes we have entered a new Golden Era of Surf Cinema, long may it last.

Stoked and Broke

Introducing a throwback to the home spun movie making styles of Bruce Brown and Greg Noll in the 50’s and 60’s Cyrus Sutton shows that you don’t need a lot of money to go on a surf trip or for that matter to make a movie.  Hat’s off to the YouTube Generation Cyrus and those like him are getting it right and kicking ass doing it. Stream it for a couple of bucks here

Thirty Thousand

In 2010 two brothers Richard and Andrew James traveled 30,000 kilometers through west Africa. Along the way they surfed in Morocco, West Sahara, Senegal, Siberia, Angolia, Namibia and South Africa. Thirty Thousand Documents the beautiful portrayal of the wonderfully rich culture, untouched waves and the amazing people of West Africa, and combines it all to tell a beautiful story of a surf journey. Stream it for a couple of bucks here

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