Stab Magazine | The Best Surf Film Of All Time Is 30 Years Old!

The Best Surf Film Of All Time Is 30 Years Old!

Three decades might be gone, but Burkhart is still a bastard.

Words by stab

The story of a surfer from a wave-starved homeland who, after winning a contest in a wave pool, goes on to surf at the biggest contest of the year, held at The Banzai Pipeline. However, upon arriving excitedly on Oahu, he immediately finds out that he knows nothing about the local habits, customs, or pecking order… which leads him into some problems. We all know the plot line of cult film, North Shore. But, can you believe it turns 30 this year?

For those who have forgotten, North Shore embodies all the cringe-worthy stereotypes that have stained surfing and portrays them in the most excessive form of over-acting Hollywood could offer during the 80’s. Depending on who you ask, it is either art, and perfection, or it is technically awful. Which is probably why it didn’t receive the gentlest reception upon release (it bombed).

“It wasn’t a hit at the time,” says Gregory Harrison, who played Chandler. “Universal was really unhappy with the response because it didn’t tap into the middle of America. But today we still get packed audiences for screenings with people dressed as the characters. We didn’t expect that. It was one of those that really snuck up on us.” 

And that’s because the nature of a cult film is this: It releases, and bombs. Then, people ironically embrace it because it’s so terrible. All of a sudden, the irony disappears and makes way for legitimate love. Next thing you know, it’s a cultural (and quotable!) treasure. North Shore crawled from “horrible disgrace” to “best worst movie ever.” All you need is a few everlasting one-liners (and cameos from Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton, and Occy) to make a film unforgettable. 

Technically, North Shore doesn’t hit the big three-zero until August. But, with the North Shore season slowly wrapping up in between action at the Volcom Pipe Pro, it seems fitting to revisit the movie that gave us advice on how to avoid getting drilled when the wave breaks there. It’s a beautiful mess, but always yields a few good laughs.

Here are some highlights to take you into the early weekend.


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