These Were The 6 Best Surf Films of 2020 - Stab Mag

These Were The 6 Best Surf Films of 2020

You voted. Here are the results.

Words by Jack Mutschler

Most of us aren’t satisfied with our abilities on a surfboard. Progression is a tempting mistress, always leaving us to crawl back for more. Luckily, we have surf films. Surf films fill the void in our egos. For 10-20 minutes—or in increasingly rare cases, an hour—we escape mediocrity and live vicariously through someone with immense natural talent.

Given the government-issued stay-at-home orders, we saw more edits than usual in 2020. For many surfers, what once would have been a night out with friends turned into a date night with Adobe Premiere.

Amongst a surplus of vlogs, there were some real gems. A year filled to the brim with quality footage of quality surfing. So, we went ahead and asked 46 of surfing’s most influential voices and our Stab Premium members what they thought was the best piece of surf cinema in our 2020 Stab Surfer of the Year poll.

Ranking works of art makes no sense whatsoever. But, the world needs a winner. So check out the results below.

  1. Pentacoastal, by Wade Goodall and Shane Fletcher (11 points)

If Pentacoastal isn’t your favorite film in the last five years, you haven’t actually watched it. The film is rich with mammoth barrels and rapacious down carves for our consumption. Wade’s surfing and animations transcend what was previously considered possible in surf cinema.

And isn’t it nice? To sit down for an hour and become completely invested in a movie? Something that took more than a week to construct.

I had a recent discussion with Ian Crane about this and how short edits are truly inferior. The full-length film format is challenging, time-consuming, and less profitable, but it’s the backbone of surf media. The foundation that keeps all vlogs, Instagram edits, and 2-minute highlight reels from crumbling. Thank you, Wade, Shane, Vans, and everyone who contributed to this project.

Here’s what other Penatcoastal fanatics had to say about the film.

“Wade Goodall and Shane Fletcher’s Pentacostal was the best full-length surf film since Psychic Migrations.” – Jimmy Wilson

“I know Wade put a lot of time and work into it. Obviously the surfing’s insane, but all the animation stuff that Wade did himself and then the cinematography and everything. It was just as just a well put together film.” – Mikey February

“Honestly felt like it was the first actual surf film I’d watched in a while. It’s weird, the internet is so saturated with vlogs and edits that it seems hard to get something to cut through. I liked that Pentacostal felt like a real surf movie, and there was some epic surfing in there by Wade and the crew. I enjoyed the hell out of it while stuffing my face with pizza on my couch mid covid haha.” – Connor Coffin

“Like many Gen Z kids, my attention span is pretty shit. However, this surf film was one of few that is easy to watch from start to finish and didn’t leave me wanting to skip ahead of any parts.” – @Jettnorth

2. Spirit, by Jay Davies and Tom Jennings (8 points)

Spirit is everything a surf film should be. Electric, raw, dynamic. The kind of clip that makes your leg start shaking and your foot start tapping. Before you know it, you’re sifting through Surfline cams hunting down any surfable wave within a few miles. 

A reminder: Jay Davies works on a tugboat and made this film in his spare time. Imagine what he could do if he wasn’t pulling ropes 40 hours a week.

Here’s what one (apparently unbiased) SSOTY voter had to say:

“This has nothing to do with it being my own film. It’s based on the level at which Jay surfed consistently over that period of time. The lines he draws and the way he attacks a wave yet doesn’t force it. His attitude toward producing a film and his overall consistency in the ocean in any condition is stunning. I’m still so baffled he has no major backing.” – Tom Jennings

3. By Default, by Jacob Willcox and Isaac Jones (6 points)

Mental, tapped, fingered, etc. Pick your preferred Aussie surf lingo and slap it beneath this film. Jacob Willcox’s navigation of WA freight trains was proper filthy. Plus, the big-boy board segment at 2:00 is a nice touch. Adds a little flair to something that was already piping hot.

Here’s what one SSOTY voter had to say:

“I loved Jacob’s quote, ‘If you want to see me do three turns, go watch my QS heats.”’ Because it’s so annoying. We do turns all year, and when I go free surfing, I don’t want to do a turn. I want to do something mind-blowing. And he charges so hard and surfs so good, and when you’re living in a place like that, why wouldn’t you flaunt it? It shows that some of the QS kids who maybe aren’t getting the best results can actually surf pretty well in the right conditions.” – Cam Richards

4. Soft Serve, by Kael Walsh and Wade Carroll (5 points)

There is nothing soft about Soft Serve. Like Pentacoastal, Spirit and By Default, it’s rugged wave riding on some of Australia’s most tasty treats. Turns out that’s something of a blueprint for cracking the top 5 surf films of the year.

The takeaway from this film is that Kael Walsh is a full-on fin flailing psychopath. The alley-oop at 6:40 made my knees tense up. Imagine if he hadn’t hurt himself halfway through the intended filming window.

Here’s what one SSOTY voter had to say:

“High octane surfing from start to finish.” – Holly Wawn

T5. Cloud Chase, by Albee Layer (+ friends) and Dan Norkunas (3 points)

No vapes, no bongs, no extended blunts. This is a more productive kind of cloud chase. John John Florence, Matt Meola, Albee Layer, and Nathan Florence all playing a game of “Let’s see who does the best airplane impersonation.”

Truthfully, I’d feel more comfortable sitting on the nose of John John’s Pyzel than flying with Spirit Airlines.

Here’s what one SSOTY voter had to say:

“Albee called me an hour ago and made sure I’d vote for him. But nah, I love how technical it is and how it shows how hard it is to do airs. Albee’s skate-style bone-outs got me; they steal my heart.” – Chris Cote

T5. Undone, by Laura Enever and Steve Wall (3 points)

Tiny girl. Huge cajones. Laura Enever is a badass.

The former CTer is straight loca for the waves she surfed in this film, and voting her onto this list is the least Laura’s peers could do to reward her Herculean efforts.

If you haven’t seen her Shipstern’s tumble yet, it reminds us of a cat falling down an endless flight of stairs.

Watch the full film here (yes, you have to pay).

Here’s what one SSOTY voter had to say:

“It is great to see her putting together a project like that. Laura has been charging those slabs like crazy.” – Justine Dupont


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Haydenshapes Has a New Model, Micky Clarke Endorses It

"Functional, fast, and drivey with amazing release."

Mar 4, 2021

An Ideal Blend Of Surfing And Editing

Tomas Hermes found the magic ratio.

Mar 4, 2021

An Accomplished Surfer Whose Name You Might Not Know

Ryland Rubens is one of San Diego's most underrated surfers.

Mar 3, 2021

These Are Your Favorite Surf Movies Of All Time

We asked the internet about the films that rerouted the trajectories of their entire lives…

Mar 3, 2021

Watch: Sierra Kerr and Al Cleland Junior Just Won $1,000 for Lounging in Tubes

Thanks, Sun Bum.

Mar 3, 2021

Is This Eli Hanneman’s Best Edit Yet?

The 18-year-old is off the grom scale.

Mar 3, 2021

Premium Peek: Beach Head’s New Audience-Titled Film, ‘Wax On, Wacks Off’

Featuring Ian Crane, Caroline Marks, Eithan Osborne, Yadin Nicol and Pat Gudauskas.

Mar 2, 2021

Who Gave 14-Year-Olds Permission To Throw Full Rotations?

Hughie Vaughan is out of his prepubescent mind.

Mar 2, 2021

Shane Sykes Escaped South Africa Just In Time

But not before positively scoring the joint.

Mar 2, 2021

The Undeniable Magnetism Of Craig Anderson

As explained by his longtime friend and photographer, John Respondek.

Mar 1, 2021

The Dark Hollow Collection Is Some of Globe and Dion Agius’ Best Design Work

If that doesn't float your boat, the rest of their Living Low Velocity range will.

Mar 1, 2021

Watch: A Creative Take On A Waco Film

Seager Co. with a delightful throwback to bit-style surf cinema.

Mar 1, 2021

The Flight Patterns Of Balinese Royalty

The Royal Beach Bum flies private.

Mar 1, 2021

Please Do Not Like Or Comment Below

Isn't that refreshing? Click or Miss Vol. 15

Mar 1, 2021

Three Boards That Saved My Hawaiian Season

The Ghost, Shadow, and Pyzalien 2 come to our rescue.

Feb 28, 2021

5 Things We Learned from Chapter 1 of ‘Andy Irons and the Radicals’

Who put that weed in Andy's bag?

Feb 28, 2021

The Opposite of a Vlog, Mauro Diaz Stars in ‘Aqui’

If you don't know Mauro Diaz, now's the time to get acquainted.

Feb 28, 2021

Not Your Typical Father-Son Outing

Mason and Michael Ho max out the wave count at Pipe and Backdoor.

Feb 28, 2021