The History of Surf Movies

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

... To celebrate the newest in a long line of surf films, Sony's new CGI animated Surf's Up, which gives us the penguin perspective on competitive wave-riding, UGO offers this brief history of surfing in cinema.

The history of surfing as a sport goes all the way back to the 1700s when Captain James Cook first witnessed natives riding the waves off of the Hawaiian Islands. The sport was outlawed in Hawaii by Calvinist missionaries for decades until it started a slow comeback into the public eye around the turn of the twentieth century. As surfing began to flourish again, thanks to media attention (by such writers as Mark Twain and Jack London) and new longboards, it wasn't long before the eye-catching sport caught the attention of one of the twentieth century's other major new developments - film.

The awesome spectacle of man riding wives first caught the attention of documentary filmmakers in the 1940s and 1950s, who simply wanted to record the seemingly impossible activity for posterity. However, soon, directors like Bud Browne began exhibiting his surf documentaries to great acclaim, attracting crowds of young surf wannabes with titles like Hawaiian Holiday (1954), Hawaiian Surf Movie (1955), Trek to Makaha (1956), The Big Surf (1957), and Surf Down Under (1958), to name a few. Possibly the best known of these documentarians is Bruce Brown, who helmed what many believe to be the definitive surf documentary, 1964's Endless Summer. The film follows two expert surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August, as they travel the world, searching for the perfect wave. Endless Summer was an overnight sensation, winning critical and popular acclaim, and inspiring a sequel in 1994.

With the advent of video cameras during the 1970s and 1980s, surf documentaries became much cheaper and easier to produce, thus foregoing the multiplex and becoming more like other specialty sports videos, like the popular underground skateboarding video market. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence in surfing docs, with such notable titles as 2002's Liquid Time, Dana Brown's 2003 Step into Liquid, and the 2004 history of surfing documentary Riding Giants, by Dogtown and Z-Boys director Stacy Peralta....

comments powered by Disqus