Top Ten Surf Movies - Part One

California's long coastline means that surfing has been a quintessential part of the culture since the 1960s. In additon to California being Carol and Humberto's home state, the almost-mythical power of 'big waves' inspired one of our key prints of the KENZO Spring/Summer 2014 collection. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to experience the California surf lifestyle for yourselves, let Guillaume Le Goff transport you there with his selection of ten great surf movies. 

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"Big Wednesday" (1978)


"Big Wednesday - the story of every generation growing up…" went the tagline when the film first came out; one of the first major surf movies and the work of director John Millus – a native of California. The film spans a decade in the life of three young, talented Californian friends and surfers: Matt Johnson, Jack Barlowe and Leroy Smith. To each his own personality and experience but what they have in common is a destiny: to one day ride the world’s biggest wave. From ‘62 to ‘74, through early youth, the Vietnam war and subsequent loss of innocence followed by transition into adulthood, ‘Big Wednesday’ invites the audience to classic Californian beach spots in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Malibu, and Hawaii (Pupukea). In the end, Matt, Jack and Leroy reunite for the ‘74 Great Swell. They’re going to face the biggest challenge of their lives, and risk it all on this unique and long-awaited "Big Wednesday". With incredible surf images and a strong plot, BW was predicted to achieve the success of Star Wars or Jaws by Spielberg himself but failed to gain the recognition it deserved. At last, it is now a cult surf movie.





"Point Break" (1991)


“100% Adrenaline” was how Point Break was presented upon its release. Faithful to the word, the movie won over audiences and critics alike with its memorable surf (and sky-diving) sequences, legendary casting and a fast plot. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Point Break was the film that launched then-rookie actor Keanu Reeves to stardom (he was subsequently awarded "Most Desirable Male" at the 1992 MTV Movie Awards). First titled "Johnny Utah" (after Reeves’ character’s name in the movie) then "Riders on the Storm" (after The Doors song), "Point Break" was finally chosen by the producers as a clear reference to the surf world. Indeed, Point Break tells the story of two cops hunting down a bunch of Californian surfers who rob banks, the "Ex-Presidents": more in search of adrenaline than money. The closing scene of the "50-Year Storm" (in Victoria, Australia) presented some of the biggest waves ever seen on screen… And, thank God, Keanu is still a surfer today.


"In God's hands" (1998)


After Point Break's success, Hollywood wanted to offer an even bigger surf movie to the public. Along came "In God's hands", produced by actor Charlie Sheen and singer/actor Bret Michaels, and directed by Zalman King (9 1/2 Weeks, Wild Orchid). IGH tells the story of a group of big wave riders looking for the ultimate ride of their life. Hopping between the most dangerous and exotic spots around the world (Bali, Madagascar, Hawai, Mexico), three young pro surfers Shane (Patrick Shane Dorian - who spent 11 years touring the Surf World Championship Tour as a real pro surfer from Hawaii), Mickey (co-script writer Matt Georges) and Keoni (Matty Liu) are living fast but never lose sight of their ambitions: surfing the biggest waves on earth, that is until the dramatic (but happy) ending. On-the-water footage was shot by notorious director of water photography Sonny Miller (Die Another Day), whose exceptional angles add a nice twist to “In God’s Hands”.


"Once Upon a Wave" (1963)


Shot in color by Walt Phillips (Sunset Surf Craze…) between 1959 and 1962, "Once Upon a Wave" takes you on a 48 minute tour along the California coast, introducing some of the region’s best waves and most stylish riders.  Enjoy Dewey Weber, Miki Dora or Lance Carson perfecting a line on Surf Rider Beach; big wave riders Fred Van Dyke, Peter Cole and Ricky Grigg on Sunset Beach (Huntington) and legends like Mike Doyle and Robert August, who in their quest for the ultimate ride, show us how to control a board in such locations as Steamer Lane (Santa Cruz) or Haleiwa (Oahu North Shore, Hawaii). Considered a vintage surf safari, "Once Upon a Wave" is a testimony of a purer time – gone, but never forgotten.


"Riding Giants" (2004)


Written and directed by Stacy Peralta (Lords of Dogtown) and the first documentary to ever open the Sundance film festival, "Riding Giants" is an impressive piece about legendary pioneers surfers who dedicated their lives to Big Wave riding: among them Greg Noll, Gerry Lopez, Jeff Clark, Mickey Munoz, or more recently Laird Hamilton.  "Before mankind ever walked on the moon, a few young men stepped off the ledge of the earth and carved out a new way of life…” This is how the opening line of "Riding Giants" sets the scene, before charting how those incredible characters - real “water astronauts of their era" - living on nothing but their raw passion came to defy the forces of the ocean to invent a whole new lifestyle. Starting from Waimea Bay, Hawaii (where it all began) in the ‘50s and ‘60s, to Mavericks in Northern California in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they set up the big wave blueprint for generations to come.  As Greg Noll recounts in the film, they didn't care about dying; they just lived to surf the biggest wave. With a deep spirit and vision, a lot of archive footage, interviews and amazing surf scenes, "Riding Giants" remains today an essential reference.