Drone Surf Footage

The past few years have seen a sharp increase in the scope of what drones can capture on camera, as well as the environments in which they capture this footage. Ever since my childhood, I have been a huge fan of surf films, ranging from The Endless Summer in 1966 to the recently released View From a Blue Moon.  Up until the last couple of years, surf films had to be shot from the shore (providing a pretty poor view), in the water, from a Jets Ski, or from a helicopter (not very cost efficient).  The pictures below provide a typical view for most surf films in the last 30-40 years.



Clip from The Endless Summer, 1966


Clip from Riding Giants, 2004

In the past, surf film producers had to travel to remote and dangerous surf spots to get the desired result.  That is why most of the producers from the past were most likely pro surfers themselves, because very few people were ambitious enough to hop in the 10-20 foot surf and start filming.

With the introduction of drones, any decent drone pilot can now become a world class surf photographer.  The four short video clips below show some recent examples of the beauty that drone footage can produce.  Never before could one obtain such clear and stable footage of the complex reef system underwater.  The footage below shows the incredible surf break of the Mentawai Islands off the western coast of Indonesia, the north shore of Hawaii, Malibu in Southern California, and other various surf spots around the world.


Paul Borrud’s Wanna Go Surfing youtube channel, June 2014

Notice the incredible definition of the drone’s camera.  In traditional surf films, viewers aren’t able to examine the reef below the surf break.  The introduction of drones allows us to see how shallow and dangerous many of these reefs are.

Eric Sterman takes his DJI above the Banzai Pipeline on the best day of season, from Surfline.com

Surfing Malibu, zShotMedia youtube channel, published August 30, 2014

“Best drone videos of surfing in 2014” by Epic Drone Videos youtube channel

In the future, I only see drone footage becoming more pervasive in the surfing and action sports industry.  The ever-improving drone market creates devices that can handle almost any terrain in the world (besides where the govt. claims “off limits”).  It will be interesting to see what films can further push the limit of drone technology.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • This is one topic I was thinking about writing on and I’m glad someone did it! I think the drones opened up a whole new perspective to view surfing. Traditionally videographers were limited to swimming in the water or filming from shore but the drone allows for the aerial footage and follow cam aspect. Excelletn points and awesome observation as well as connection to the action sports community as a whole.

  • Surf videos are super cool! One of my favorite thing about the surf videos I’ve seen is the music and that kinda surf rock, tropical vibe that they all show off. To me, the freedom and adventure side of the videos and surf lifestyle is just as important to the aesthetic as the beautiful images. The drones definitely enhance the surf videos of the pre-drone era, especially like you noted with the reefs being so shallow.

  • Joseph Yoshimura
    January 23, 2016 11:57 pm

    I’ve definitely seen a great deal of videos and images of people surfing, but for some reason I had never thought about the method of how the image or video was taken. It’s impressive that you were able to think about this to come up with this concept and find such beautiful moments of surfing. It would be cool if you were also able to show somehow how surf videography has developed over the years from the alternative less affective methods to the drone methods of today!


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