The 5 Best Worst Summer Beach Movies of All Time

For my generation, summer evenings were often spent at the local drive-in watching whatever blockbuster or B-movie that happened to be on the marquis.

If we were lucky, we might have caught a masterpiece like Godfather II (as I did in 1975 while my family was passing through New Mexico) or Jaws, the best summer beach movie of all time.

More than likely however the fare were B-movies and cult favorites such as Women in Cages, Malibu Beach, Foxy Brown, and Macon County Line.

For surfers of course nothing was better than catching a beach flick that was so bad it was good—a flick like Muscle Beach Party—that made surfers look like the idiots everyone thinks we are.

Muscle Beach Party

Starting with the release of Gidget, starring Sandra Dee and La Jolla’s Cliff Robertson in 1959, the summer beach movie has been a Hollywood B-movie staple. Here are the best worst summer beach movies of all time.

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5. Point Break (1991)

This 1991 surf action flick should have been the best surfing movie ever made. Directed by up-and-coming action director Kathryn Bigelow (who went on to win an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker), and with Patrick Swayze as Bodhi and Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, with stand-in surfing by Dino Andino, it was the film that made us all embarrassed to be surfers.

With a story set in Huntington Beach that echoes some of the scenes in Kem Nunn’s novel Tapping the Source, Swayze plays an undercover cop whose boss Gary Busey (before he was sideswiped by his motorcycle and suffered permanent foggy brain), figures out that a string of bank robberies must be perpetuated by surfers since the robbers have tan lines!!

Although the action set pieces are truly spectacular (Bigelow is an action genius), the dialogue is wooden and everyone is a drug dealer, machine-gun salesmen and or bikini model-philosopher. Oh and the surf always seems to be blown out and everyone mostly surfs only at night. Point Break manages to make Bell’s Beach, arguably one of the world’s most visually stunning surf spots, look ugly.

4. The Van (1977)

This low-budget lackluster B-movie could have been one of the great time teen exploitation films of all time (along with Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but the forgettable cast (except for the inclusion of Danny Devito in a role replay of his Taxi casting), killed its chances. The plot goes something like this: a bro named Bobby graduatess from high school, spends the summer cruising for chicks, working at a car wash (apparently this was the last time in history that car washes weren’t staffed by ex-cons), and finally buying and driving his killer custom van (think 70’s dream machine–waterbed and shag carpeting).

Unfortunately Bobby can’t get the stuck-up valedictorian to like him, but after scoring with beach babes, he and the smart chick hit it off while cruising a custom van gathering at an L.A. County beach parking lot where they meet all kinds of groovy 70s van people–including the obligatory black guys in fedora hats– and fall in love. You couldn’t make this stuff up, so sit through The Van because you’ll laugh for all the right reasons.

3. Beach Blanket Bingo and all the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello movies:

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This is what you’d get if a retro version of Jersey Shores were reimagined as Laguna Hills but with dancing and dumber stars. That pretty much sums up all the Beach Party movies of the mid-60s. All are terrible enough to qualify as essential cult favorites. The only problem is that you have to be really drunk to enjoy watching them.

2. In God’s Hands (1998)

Arguably one of the worst movies ever made and definitely the worst surfing movie ever made (and that’s saying a lot given the plethora of awful surf movies out there). I’m not even sure what the plot is supposed to be about and more than likely the screenplay consisted of endless pages of undecipherable scribbles. Ironically sexploitation director Zalman King  made this straight so Matt George and Shane Dorian spend the movie  mumbling incoherently as they traipse around the tropics. Apparently the movie is supposed to be about something meaningful but only in a faux Euro-serious way. Even the surfing sucks.

1. Roller Boogie (1979)

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Hands down Roller Boogie is the best worst beach picture of all time. Who could have imagined that at the same time Tony Alva and his gang were in the midst of the gritty skateboard explosion in Venice Beach or Dogtown, legions of gay roller skaters were cruising the boardwalk in spandex short shorts and rainbow suspenders.

Dude, this is the funniest, campiest teen exploitation film ever! Linda Blair is so bad, the plot so preposterous, that Roller Boogie actually works as contemporary Will Ferrell-style 70s exploitation film remake.

The hero dreams of becoming an Olympic gold medalist in roller dancing! He is championed by Linda Blair (who can’t act) and at some point the plot goes Andy Hardy but with a skate competition instead of a dance. A crooked developer and his goons are thrown in towards the end to give the film some social redemption.

There is even a chubby beach beat cop who channels the Village People’s Victor Willis in short-shorts and a tight white t-shirt. The best part is the chase scene on roller skates in which the good guys (the skaters) pelt the bad buys with fruit (wink-wink) and then skate through a skateboard park that is only inhabited by the already mentioned spandex wearing roller skaters. The best part of the Roller Boogie experience was watching it along with my 13-year old son who laughed in amazement right along with me. So parents feel free to boost your core score by watching Roller Boogie with your teens. And since this disaster is filled with buxom Farrah-hair roller boogie hotties in French-cut bikinis, my son asked, “Dad were all the girls like that in the 70s?”

Next week I’ll look at the best summer beach and surfing movies of all time and look forward to hearing about your favorites as well.

Beach Party (1963)

Beach Party (1963) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Massive Swell Pounds California: An Interview with Surfline Forecaster Sean Collins

From a Patch article I published on Friday September 2, 2011.

Waves from a storm that originated off of Antarctica have pounded Southern California beaches since Wednesday resulting in at least one drowning in Orange County and resulting in broken surfboards up and down the coast and epic rides for the region’s best surfers.

Beaches that saw larger than usual surf with sets up between 8-10 feet included Imperial Beach, Coronado, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Trestles, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach among others.

“Yesterday, one reef in La Jolla was breaking with eight wave sets and was at least triple overhead,” said marine biologist and surfer David Kacev.

According to Surfline, the size of the sets breaking at Newport Beach’s infamous Wedge, were between 15-20’ yesterday.

Image representing Surfline as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Lifeguards from Imperial Beach to Zuma are patrolling beaches to make sure inexperienced surfers and swimmers stay out of the water and out of trouble.

The drowning victim, Jowayne Binford of Long Beach, was an inexperienced ocean swimmer according to his mother, Gail Binford, in an interview with KABC-7.

On Tuesday, Sean Collins, Chief Forecaster and President of Surfline, alerted Southern California authorities about the dangers posed by the swell. In a press release he stated that, “Extra caution is urged to keep the public aware and safe from these large waves and associated rip currents.”

Sean Collins at work. Photo courtesy of Surfline.

Collins was the first person to accurately forecast swells on a regular basis in the ’70s and early ’80s. He pioneered and created the first ongoing surf forecast available to the surfing public via Surfline and 976-SURF in 1985.

From his coastal headquarters in Huntington Beach, Collins and his Surfline team provide surf-related weather and forecasting services to lifeguard agencies in California, the Coast Guard, US Navy Seals, National Weather Service, and surf companies.

Surfer Magazine named Sean one of the “25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century”. In 2008, he was inducted to the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach. He is the author of California Surf Guide: The Secrets to Finding the Best Waves.

Sean acted as Chief Forecaster for last week’s Billabong Pro Tahiti surf contest at Teahupoo, in which the same swell that is now pounding Southern California resulted in 40-foot waves and closed harbors throughout the island chain.

When I caught up with Sean, he was on his way to New York City to act as Chief Forecaster for the $1 million Quiksilver Pro New York surf contest, that will be held on Long Beach, New York from September 4-15.

Q. When was the last time we had a southern hemisphere swell this big hit California.

A. Actually this is the biggest out of the southwest for quite a while, I think that last one like this was April 2004. The swell in July 2009 that hit the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach was actually a little bigger, but not as long period. Depending on the swell period some areas will focus the swell energy better like on Wednesday. The 20-22” periods were really focusing into some areas but completely missing others. Once the period dropped on Thursday most other areas began to see the swell.

Q. It seems like the swell hit earlier than forecast and the estimate of its duration is now longer than originally forecast?

A. Only because the spots that focus the longer periods picked up earlier. If we forecasted for that, most spots and surfers would have said we were wrong. We did say that the swell would be filling in Wednesday afternoon. Longer periods travel faster than shorter periods so that is why the long period spots flared up first. Longer swell periods also help the swell to wrap into San Diego County where spots need more southwest in the direction, or longer periods to feel the ocean floor to wrap in.

Q. Is it hard to predict the surf that is generated from southern hemisphere storms?

A. It’s the most difficult because there is so little data in the middle of the ocean to validate the models, and the models are off all the time. A difference of 5 knots of wind speed between 40 knots to 45 knots in a storm off New Zealand will result in a 24-hour difference in arrival time here in California and a difference of 4-feet in surf face height.

Q. These large storms off of Antarctica that produce massive swells are pretty unique. Generally how often receive southern hemisphere swells?

A. On the long term average we receive about 50 swells a year from storms in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of those swells create surf of 3 feet on the wave face, 40% of those swells are over 5 feet, 10% are over 8 feet. This swell is obviously in the top 10% and we usually receive about 5 major overhead southern hemisphere swells a year. But this swell is definitely at the top of the best swells and will probably be the largest southern hemisphere swell we’ve received in the past few years since the July 2009 swell. Again, most of San Diego County is not exposed to all of the southerly directions like other areas in Southern California so you may not see as many there.

Q. When large sets hit one location are they hitting different areas around the same time?

A. Powerful long crested swell like this one do have sets that arrive at the same time along a few miles of beach. And the swell energy travels in these big patches through the ocean with big lulls in between.

Q. Besides the Wedge in Newport Beach, what locations in Southern California Cal received the brunt of the swell?

A. La Jolla wrapped in it great. And then everywhere from Oceanside up to Huntington Pier was solid. North of there was shadowed behind the Islands (Catalina and Channel Islands). The LA County South Bay around El Porto, north to Ventura was also very solid. Malibu was epic Thursday but saw very little of the swell on Wednesday, due to the swell period and island shadowing issues.

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