california games, surfing, sega

These are the best surfing video games you (probably) forgot about

Words: Josh Rakic
Photo: YouTube / Michael Adams

A brand-new surfing video game and a video history of surfing’s top games.

It’s been nigh on 14 years since the last genuine true-to-life surfing game came to XBox and Playstation consoles courtesy of Kelly Slater Pro Surfer, but a long-awaited update is finally here in the form of Surf World Series, due out 2017. A lot has changed in technology, graphics and game play since, making the new addition all but certain to trump any of its predecessors. Though yet to be conformed is whether or not the six characters available will be pro surfers or random characters like Tara Chopes…

Check out the trailer here, and while you wait for its arrival on PS4 and XBox One, here’s a video history of surfing in video games, from 1987 to present day.

Spongebob’s Surf & Skate (2011)

© YouTube/ XBoxHry

The most recent offering, this game’s hardly true to surfing - or skating for that matter - but was made available with XBox Kinect, making it the first surfing-related game to utilize the stand-and-play technology. It’s average by anyone’s standards, but there are worse on the list.

Surf’s Up (2007)

© YouTube/ transat236

Based on the kid’s animated movie of the same name, and voiced by KS and Rob Machado, it’s effectively an arcade-style skate game with the wheels removed and cement made to look like water. But it was voiced by Kelly Slater and Rob Machado, and a hit with the kids. So kudos for keeping the genre alive.

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Kelly Slater Pro Surfer (2002)

© YouTube/ GXZ95

Arguably the most memorable of the modern era, Kelly Slater Pro Surfer was designed to capitalize on the success of the Tony Hawk franchise but never scaled the same heights. From a graphics standpoint, it was on point. But it was effectively the Nintendo 64’s 1080 snowboard game made to look like a surfing game - complete with mute grabs and 720s. But it did feature real surfers, look-a-like boards and legit dream tour locations cut with video footage.


Transworld Surf (2001)

© YouTube/ JupiterSailfish

If KSPS was the most memorable of the era, Transworld Surf was the most playable. Inspired by the tour, and with the Transworld team in consulting roles, it remains the most realistic of any surf game to date. And with names like Shane Dorian, AI and Christian Fletcher, it was the ASP come to life. If anything, the creators behind KSPS ripped the same concept only to make it more arcade-friendly. This game deserved more hype.

Sunny Garcia Surfing (2001)

Basically Championship Surfer but with a big name attached for marketing purposes, Sunny Garcia Surfing by Krome Studios was largely an unnecessary game but fun enough nonetheless. Like Championship Surfer before it, movement was too quick and its game play was designed to cater to the novice gamer, making it more comical than realistic. The best part? In true Sunny style, there were a number of “taunts” you could do in the water, like having your character point to the beach or raise his arms in anger at another surfer or score. Sadly, there was no fighting.

Championship Surfer (2000)

© YouTube/ DreamcastGuy

One of the last games available on Sega’s ill-fated yet under-rated Dream Cast, and the original PlayStation, Championship Surfer is largely responsible for re-creating interest in the surf game sub-genre. Compared to what came before it, it was a massive leap forward in graphics and game play. But with WWII floating mines and scuba divers crowding the waves, it was far from realistic. However, it did set the stage for the Transworld and KSPS games to come after it.

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Surfing H30 (2000)

© YouTube/ Ready03

Largely forgotten, and for good reason, Surfing H30 was one of the first games to drop on the all new PS2 in 2000 and was quickly panned. With characters like Kelly Sunset and Rochelle Rincon, it was hard not to laugh before doing a shove-it, nosegrab, 540 in anger. Developed in Japan and distributed by Rockstar in the US, the aim of the game was to collect colored icons while on a wave for max points. Four thumbs down.

Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood and Water (1988)

© YouTube/ Lord Karnage

Designed specifically for NES to capitalize on the success of California Games before it, Town & Country was a combo surf and skate game that even then reeked of 1980s cartoon comic nostalgia. Like Super Mario Bros, it was a side-scroller all about collecting items, icons and points. Unlike SMB, it doesn’t quite garner the same adoration almost 30 years later. However, it was fun for its time and even spawned a sequel in 1991.

California Games - Surfing (1987)

© YouTube/ YouRolandTube

The original and still the best, California Games holds a special place in the hearts of any surfer or surf-fan born between the 1970s to early 1990s. The music, the colors, the gameplay - by comparison to all else available at the time - it had it all. Yeah, it was available on NES, Atari and Sega Master System ,but it was developed for the Apple II and Commodore 64, and many good memories were formed on those side-scrolling dinosaur PCs. It spawned a sequel in 1990, but that was all but a money grab. However, the original can now be played on Wii and mobile platforms!

Special mention - Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude! (1992)

© YouTube/ Insert Coin

Reminiscent of Alex The Kid but cooler, this made-for-Mega Drive epic had almost nothing to do with surfing other than it’s title and tanned, long-haired blond stereotype of a character, but it was popular nonetheless. Uttering words like “cool” and “dude”, Greendog was off in search of the world’s best waves before being knocked unconscious on a bomb and waking up in a strange Aztec land - where he finds a cursed pendant around his neck that prohibits surfing and causes animals to attack. So using nothing but his gyrocopter, inline skates, banana board and magical antique frisby, Greendog has to fight his way through the jungle and end the curse so he can surf again. That’s one extravagant story line. Nonetheless, his girl Bambi in her red bikini was quite the 10-but babe to boot.

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