Chasing Mavericks

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Chasing Mavericks Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Trite but inspiring teen surf story has some sad moments.
  • PG
  • 2012
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Chasing Mavericks' overall messages are that with enough determination and discipline, you can accomplish anything. Jay accomplishes it by staying true to his course as a surfer, son, and student to Frosty. Even when things get hard, Jay never gives up and continues on his mission to ride the Mavericks.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jay is an uncompromising, diligent, thoughtful young man who, unlike his friends, is extremely disciplined and willing to sacrifice to reach his goal -- riding the legendary Mavericks waves. (Spoiler alert: He ultimately dies while pursuing his love of surfing.) He's devoted to his mother and is a dedicated surfing student to Frosty, who requires obedience and hard work to make sure that Jay is ready. Frosty's wife is loving, encouraging, and kind. Frosty becomes the father that Jay always needed and wanted.


A young wife/mother has a stroke and dies. Huge waves crash down on unprepared surfers who get bloody and bruised. A young man is shown moments before his death by drowning. A young bully smashes a car mirror with a bat; a teen boy tackles a man to the ground for threatening his mother. Teens look like they're going to come to blows but manage to break off the antagonism before anyone gets hurt.


Brief kiss between married couple; one kiss between teens in love.


"Oh my God," plus insults like "trash," "loser," etc.


Frosty drives a big Ford van, and Radio Shack is mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jay's mom drinks a lot (he smells her drinks to confirm that there's alcohol in them and then throws them away). Teen bullies seem to be selling drugs, although it's never explicitly shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chasing Mavericks is based on the true story of how 16-year-old Jay Moriarty became a surfing legend by training to ride the massive Mavericks waves. There are a few brief scenes of violence -- mostly pushing, shoving, and huge waves battering a few surfers who aren't up to the task -- as well as a couple of disturbing moments: A young wife/mother suffers a stroke and dies, and a young man is shown moments before his death by drowning. This is an inspiring tale of perseverance and discipline, but (spoiler alert!) it ends in the sadness that Moriarty died at age 22 while doing what he loved: taking risks with the sea.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2-year-old Written byNK17 June 12, 2013

i love this movie

this is a great, yet sad movie but it is pretty tame in content, one use of ''piss'' but that's all
Adult Written byShivom Oza November 6, 2012

Chasing Mavericks (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – American Surfer Jay Moriarty’s Story

‘Chasing Mavericks’, directed by Curtis Hanson (‘L.A. Confidential’, ‘8 Mile’) and Michael Apted (‘The World Is Not Enough’), is based on the life of the Americ... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byJouji September 30, 2020

Best moovie

I do like this moovie it's one of the best moovies I have ever watchen
Teen, 13 years old Written byIsaac6 May 23, 2013

Chasing Mavericks reveiw

This movie is a great movie about a young boy named Jay. Jay's dream was to ride the great wave called the Mavericks. Jay was taught how to ride this wave... Continue reading

What's the story?

When he was just 8 years old, Jay Moriarty was saved from drowning in perilous Santa Cruz, Calif., waves by his neighbor, local surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). Seven years later, Moriarty (Jonny Weston) has emerged as a teen longboard phenom who still idolizes Frosty. One early morning, Moriarty follows him to a secret surfing destination where Hesson and three other older surfers ride huge, 20-foot-plus waves called "Mavericks" that were thought to be a myth. Moriarty begs Hesson to prepare him to ride the remarkably high (and dangerous) waves. Encouraged by his wife (Abigail Spencer) to be fatherly toward Jay, Frosty agrees and enacts a strict physical and character-building training regimen to get Jay ready to survive the massive waves.

Is it any good?

A typical, inspiring coming-of-age story about an athlete willing to do what's necessary to accomplish his goals, it's a bit too treacly (and the obstacles too contrived) to be a remarkable film. It's visually gorgeous -- particularly the climactic surfing sequences when the water and the riders become one. But the story feels flat, and a few of the domestic dramas seem inauthentic (like the fact that Jay keeps an unopened letter from his father who abandoned him and his mother, or that his mother -- played by Elisabeth Shue -- is troubled and either an alcoholic or just overworked).

What's worse is that the movie's antagonist (a slightly older bully who really has no reason to bother with Jay), does nothing to drive the movie forward -- unlike, say, iconic bully Johnny in The Karate Kid. The only real obstacle to Jay accomplishing his dream is the untamable power of the waves themselves. Because of that, the best scenes, naturally, are of Weston and Butler paddling and talking reverently about what it takes to be a true surfer who respects the waves. Ultimately, Jay conquers the Mavericks -- as if there was really any doubt. If there's an overarching lesson in the film, it's that anything worth doing takes hard work, preparation, and humility. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the discipline and drive that Jay calls on to commit to riding the big waves. How is he different from the other teenagers in the movie? Is he relatable?

  • Jay, while certainly inspirational, eventually meets a heartbreaking fate. Is it really good advice to "Live Like Jay"?

  • The movie is based on a true story; do you think filmmakers changed any details? Why might they do that? How could you find out what was fact and what was fiction?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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