Hollywood has had a fascination with surfing and surfers for some time—likely because of our stunning naturally blonde hair, tanned skin, and unrivalled coolness.
Now, I’m not doubting that Hollywood has nailed the trendy and good-looking aesthetic (e.g., just look at Swayze in Point Break!) but sometimes they gloss over one crucial aspect: the actual surfing. Over the last few decades, there have been innumerable heinous crimes committed against surfing in Hollywood surf flicks and, for sanity’s sake, I’ve only listed five.
Bodhi switching between natural and goofy (Point Break, the OG):
I don’t want to shit on the original Point Break too much because I actually like it, but there are a few cringey slip-ups, to say the least. Obviously, it isn’t Patrick Swayze cutting sick in the film, but they could’ve at least kept his stance consistent. During Bodhi’s introduction, he switches between natural footer and goofy in rapid succession; one wave he’s laying back in a glassy sunlit tube, the next he’s a goofy soul-arching under a stormy outer-reef bomb. The surfer they use as Swayze’s stunt double looks the same between shots, so it seems the directors opted to keep the direction of the waves the same and flip all the right-handers so Bodhi was suddenly a screwfoot. Of course, the alternative is that they knew what they were doing and Bodhi really was that good.
Anne’s first Pipe wave in Blue Crush:
Does a director’s sense of continuity not carry into the world of surf? Even if you’d never caught (or seen) a wave in your life, it’s obvious there’s about 15 waves spliced together in Anne Marie’s opening Pipe wave. Splicing a couple of different waves together is fine if they look alike, but when you’re cutting from a 2-foot slop to an 8-foot set at Pipe and back, the occasional viewer might just catch on. Also, they realistically portray how shallow pipe is (a couple of feet) at the start, but when she finally decides to untether her leg she’s suddenly got three metres of swimming to do. Not to mention the fact that she switches briefly to a goofyfoot (mid-tube, mind you) before we endure two minutes of underwater shots. The whole scene is equivalent to an eighth-grader doing their best to reach the word count using ‘right-click synonym’. There are a thousand shots of people getting smoked at Pipeline, couldn’t they have just picked one and stuck with it?
The Teahupo’o Scene (Point Break, the remake):
This could be the worst (surf) movie of all time: the writing, the acting, the offensive CGI, all topped off with a Laird Hamilton cameo. I wouldn’t force a full-viewing of this onto my worst enemy. Fortunately, however, there’s a 4-minute splice that includes all of the abhorrent aforementioned features. CGI first became feasible in the early ’70s and wasn’t really any good until at least the 2000s if not later. It’s as if in Point Break’s remake, the directors decided, like a trust-fund hipster opting for a film camera, to use the oldest CGI technology available. This shit-show of a film was released in 2015 and, by comparison, it’ll have you believing Patrick Swayze really paddled out in 100-foot Bells in the original; in fact, the CGI in the original is genuinely better. Just in case you’re unconvinced (or a masochist) here’s the final scene from the remake.
James Bond, invading North Korea via skeg in Die Another Day:
Okay, I’ll admit I think this one’s mostly sick. It’s got real surfers in military-looking uniforms surfing what looks to be Jaws. Plus, considering it was filmed circa 2002, the surfing they’re doing is actually kinda good. Today we’re all accustomed to Kai Lenny doing straight airs out of the Jaws bowl, but back then the only absurdity you’d find at Jaws was Laird Hamilton and his hydrofoil. I’m not even annoyed about Bond and co pulling their boards apart to unveil a litany of weapons, comms and explosives. The only kooky thing about the whole scene is that the three of them carry their boards up the beach wax-to-chest. I’m sorry, but that’s a cardinal sin. Also, I guess it was a tad unrealistic to have them tow-surfing into North Korea—we all know Kim Jong is staunchly pro-paddle. The same acclaim however cannot be given to another surfing scene in that same film. I’m genuinely stunned this made off it off the cutting room floor.
Gidget, probably the whole thing:
Gidget was one of Hollywood’s first attempts at covering surfing, and oh boy did it set the bar low. It was released in 1959, so I don’t want to be too harsh, but it’s hard not to laugh when you can see the wake of the boat used to capture the green screenshot in the background. Or some footage of Gidget paddling around in a lake before being up and riding 10 metres in front of a breaking wave. There are plenty more cringe-inducing Hollywood surf scenes out there, but this will turn into a book if I continue. If for some sick reason you’re yearning for more, then just go ahead and take your pick from any number of terrible Hollywood attempts. The list is endless and considering Breath was only released three years ago, seemingly continuing to grow.