The Endless Summer

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Endless Summer Movie Poster Image
Dated but fascinating surfing documentary still charms.
  • PG
  • 1966
  • 95 minutes

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

Positive messages

If you go out looking for the perfect wave, you won't always find it. But if you're polite, friendly, and open to possibilities, you can have all kinds of adventures, make new friends, and learn a lot about the world. Some dated sexism in patronizing attitude toward female surfers and in being distracted by girls in bikinis. Also some dated cultural insensitivity, like fears of being attacked by native Africans, and being scared in the jungle by a man wearing a tribal mask.

Positive role models & representations

Surfers Robert and Mike are likable young men. Their outlooks are very positive, they're friendly, curious, and open to new people and places, and they look out for one another. They're very careful and responsible when it comes to investigating new places to surf. They make good ambassadors for surfing in particular, and for Americans abroad in general.

Violence

One surfer's very bloody shoulder is shown, broken bones are mentioned, and he's obviously in a lot of pain, although capable of walking. Twice small amounts of blood are shown on the face from surfing injuries. Dangers mentioned like being hit by surfboards, hitting rocks and coral, and stepping on poisonous fish.

Sex

Some sexual innuendo, like gawking at girls in bikinis. A female surfer's butt crack is highly visible for several minutes; the narrator mentions that the local Australians aren't fazed at all by it, but Robert and Mike find it very distracting.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Endless Summer is a 1966 documentary about two California surfer boys who decide to travel the world, going where the weather is warm and looking for new places to surf. There's a lot of information about then-popular places to surf in California, the sport in general, and some of the famous surfers of the day. A few bloody injuries are briefly visible, and some dangers of surfing are discussed. A young woman's butt crack is visible for a few minutes and is remarked on by the narrator and is distracting to Robert and Mike. There's some dated sexism and some cultural insensitivity that was accepted as the norm back then; these are good reminders for talking about how attitudes have and haven't changed. Surfers Robert and Mike are positive role models for being open, friendly, curious, and helpful to each other out on the waves.

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What's the story?

In the early 1960s, two California surfers decide to spend a year of THE ENDLESS SUMMER, living their dream of finding new places to surf by following warm weather all around the world. Filmmaker Bruce Brown documents their experiences, from being the first people to use surfboards in Dakar, to finding waves in Tahiti, to learning why you don't try to pet zebras. Sometimes they find waves, sometimes they don't. But they always find a new adventure around every corner.

Is it any good?

A fascinating travel adventure that always keeps the sport of surfing, and the waves, front and center. Director Bruce Brown's photography in The Endless Summer makes viewers wish they were out on the waves, too. At a time when surf and beach culture was just breaking through pop culture, audiences were given a real, detailed look at surfing, some of its heroes, and two engaging young men who became virtual ambassadors of the sport.

It may not be fair to put modern expectations on attitudes from over half a century ago, but some of those attitudes may make today's audiences cringe, like half-seriously wondering if they'll be attacked by natives, and patronizing attitudes toward women, both in general and as surfers. The movie's biggest appeal is to fans interested in the history of the sport, especially in how it has changed since the early '60s. But anyone can be inspired by Robert and Mike's spirit of adventure and desire to chase their dreams.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Endless Summer shows the people of Western Africa. What do you think expectations were about what it would be like? What were those expectations based on?

  • What are the film's attitudes toward women and female surfers? How can you tell? If a similar documentary were made today, would things be different? How?

  • Mike and Robert certainly didn't go everywhere. Are there any places they skipped that you'd like to go to someday, whether to surf or just to have an adventure?

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