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.