For a grimy city with no sea, London sure has a lot of surfers. And even more people who'd like to be surfers, so it's no surprise that the London Surf Film Festival, now in its fifth year, sells out every time. It also helps that it has a kickass programme, showing the year's finest surf movies, many of them being screened in Europe for the first time.

Here's our pick of this year's must-see films:

1) Bear Island

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When he was 25, Inge Wegge and a friend spent nine months living in a remote makeshift wood cabin surfing and starving their way through a Norwegian winter. The resulting story was 2012’s award-winning movie North of the Sun.

This time Inge decided to bring his two brothers along for a ski, splitboard and surf adventure on Bear Island, an even more isolated island with no inhabitants, save the nine temporary workers at the weather station and the polar bears. To make things even more interesting his partner back home was pregnant.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 13.36.51

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 13.36.51

They stock up on supplies from dumpsters, hitchhike on some giant ships and row the last stretch to the island, where their mission of ski touring, while dragging their surfboards on sleighs, begins.

Will they find waves? Will the bears get them? Will they get along? And will they make it back before the snow melts?

Bear Island is less a search for stoke, though it certainly is that, especially when Inge goes speed flying off a cliff, but it’s also about the boys setting themselves a ridiculous challenge, and their quest to find harmony with the natural world. It’s also a trip so far removed from the kind of adventure any of us will ever experience, which makes it compelling viewing. The boys’ singsong Norwegian dialogue, soundtracking the subtitles, fully adds to that otherworldly vibe.

Bear Island is showing at the London Surf Film Festival on Friday 16th October.

Watch the trailer here:

2) The Wave I Ride

paigealms

The question of whether surfing is sexist has been covered a fair amount online but not really in movies. And when it has been discussed no one really mentions the women who charge monster waves, aside from that one time Laird Hamilton called out Maya Gabeira for surfing Nazare saying she “didn’t have the skills" for it.

All of which makes The Wave I Ride, which tells the story of Hawaiian big wave surfer Paige Alms, all the more groundbreaking. A contemporary of the two-time World Champ Carissa Moore and the sport’s bikini poster girl, Alana Blanchard (who also rips, you just wouldn’t know it from her Instagram feed…) Alms opted for a different path in giant surf. Most notably by becoming the first woman to catch a barrel at Jaws earlier this year.

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Mixing awesome footage with candid interviews with Alms herself and a host of big wave surf stars including Greg Long, Albee Layer and Keala Kennelly, who are all amazed Alms doesn’t get more wider recognition for her surfing feats. Not to mention more money. The top guys earn a good living from big wave surfing but on the women’s side there’s virtually no money or sponsor involvement.

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Action footage aside, one of the film’s best moments is when Alms is eye-rolling with Carissa Moore over the way women surfers are marketed as sex symbols. Alms says: “I love pictures of me looking beautiful and sharing that but I’d rather focus [my social feed] on what I do as an athlete. Mick Fanning doesn’t post pictures of his abs."

Carissa Moore, says, baffled: “She’s charging Jaws and no one really knows about it." Thanks to this film they will now.

The Wave I Ride is showing at the London Surf Film Festival on Friday 23rd October.

Watch the trailer here:

3) Unchartered Waters

Wayne Lynch in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia

The best kind of history lesson here, as Unchartered Waters takes us back to Australia in the 1960s and 70s for this life and times of one of the most influential and enigmatic surfers ever: Wayne Lynch.

Lynch was so good as a kid he got banned from adult contests, and watching his smooth style, which still wows in this awesome archive footage, it’s easy to see why. A teenage star and pioneer of the shortboard revolution, Lynch was also the original soul surfer.

Wayne Lynch in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia

He become disillusioned with the contest and sponsor scene, preferring to surf alone in deepwater reefs in Victoria and hang out in his cabin in the woods. But these were of course the days before Cabin Porn, so people understand that urge less than they do now.

Director Craig Griffin does a great job of weaving breathtaking surf clips with interviews including Lynch himself, plus Rabbit Bartholomew, Drew Kampion, Paul Witzig and many more. All you could want from a surf film basically.

Unchartered Waters is showing at the London Surf Film Festival on Saturday 24th October.

Watch the trailer here:

4) The Search For Freedom

TSFF WEB PHOTO 13

TSFF WEB PHOTO 13

This is slightly cheating, as The Search For Freedom isn’t just about surfing, though there is plenty of beautifully shot surfing in it, including the likes of Kelly Slater, Kelia Moniz and Meg Roh.

But the film is more about joining the dots across the action sports from rock climbing and mountain biking to skate and surf and windsurf and snowboarding and trying to capture what it is that those who dedicate their lives to these sports have in common.

TSFF WEB PHOTO 7

TSFF WEB PHOTO 7

It seeks to answer, what on earth possesses Danny Way to jump the Great Wall of China on a skateboard, or Robbie Madison to jump 400 feet on a motorbike, or Annie Boulanger to ride big mountains with avalanche danger all around.

TSFF WEB PHOTO 24

TSFF WEB PHOTO 24

The footage across all the sports is jaw-droppingly good as are the big name interviews, especially Gary Fisher, who invented mountain biking and Tom Schaar, the kid who landed the first 1080 on a skateboard aged 12. Though watching the late freeskier Shane McConkey and climber Dean Potter feature, knowing that they both died chasing the buzz was tough.

The Search For Freedom has won a stack of awards. It should have another one for making a mass-appeal action sports movie that is actually very good and not a massive cheesefest.

TSFF WEB PHOTO 9

TSFF WEB PHOTO 9

The Search For Freedom is showing at the London Surf Film Festival on Friday 23rd October.

Watch the trailer here:

Honourable mentions should also go to Faroes: The Outpost, the beautifully bleak travelogue from Chris Burkard and Ben Weiland, and Sean Collins: The Ripple Effect, by director Peter Hamblin, the story of the guy who invented surf forecasting and changed the life of all surfers forever.

See the full LSFF Programme here

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