Surfing games: Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer is one of the best titles of all time

Unlike skateboarding, surfing has never been a popular genre when it comes to video games.

In fact, between 1985 and 2020, developers created less than 20 titles in which surfing and riding waves are at the core of the game.

Although there is market potential, it has always been hard to simulate/emulate waves and the ocean itself digitally.

The water's fluid dynamics are more complex to program than air.

Buoyancy, liquid density, underwater forces, and the waves' rolling motion are still works in progress, even in new-generation video game consoles.

For a gaming developer, a wave is more than just a liquid mass in motion - it's energy traveling through water at different speeds and angles.

And that is something that physics engines can still not master correctly. Nevertheless, there are a few good surf-based computer and console games out there.

The following list of surfing games can still be played today on the original platforms.

Alternatively, you can find an emulator that runs these titles in new-generation consoles, desktop computers, and modern operating systems.

Surf Champ

Surf Champ

Surf Champ is the world's first digital surfing simulator.

The 1985 ZX Spectrum game was sold with a miniature, 19-centimeter 3D surfboard control pad that balanced on the computer's keyboard.

The player uses his fingers on the small plastic board to control the surfer.

To help sell the game, developers held the World Computer Surfing Championship during the 1985 European Surfing Championships, which took place at Rossnowlagh Beach in Donegal, Ireland.

Developer(s): New Concepts Ltd
Publisher(s): New Concepts Ltd
Platform(s): ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64
First Release: 1985
Aggregate Rating: 60/100


California Games

California Games

California Games was one of the first video games to feature surfing.

It was initially released for the Apple II and Commodore 64 but was later ported to other platforms, including Nintendo, Sega, and ZX Spectrum.

The game challenged players to ride and half-pipe, try roller skating and BMX, throw a flying disc, and have a go with a footbag.

California Games was the most successful game in the history of Epyx and had superb graphics for the time.

The surfing competition was highly entertaining. You could get barreled, do airs, and perform cutbacks.

Developer(s): Epyx
Publisher(s): Epyx and US Gold
Platform(s): Apple II, Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple IIGS, Atari 2600, Lynx, Atari ST, MS-DOS, MSX, NES, Sega Genesis, Master System, ZX Spectrum
First Release: 1987
Aggregate Rating: 93/100


Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage

Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage

Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage is a surfing and skateboarding game endorsed by the famous surf shop and brand founded in Pearl City, Hawaii.

With Joe Cool, Tiki Man, Thrilla Gorilla, and Kool Kat - "Da Boys" - you're invited to score as many tricks as possible in the game's two main modes: Street Skate Session and Big Wave Encounter.

Developer(s): Atlus
Publisher(s): LJN
Platform(s): NES
First Release: February 1988
Aggregate Rating: 60/100


Surf Riders

Surf Riders

Surf Riders was the first surf video game launched for PlayStation.

It was marketed as a "3D surf simulator," endorsed by legendary Hawaiian Pipe Master Gerry Lopez, and adopted the former ASP World Tour competition rules.

The game allows you to ride the best waves California, Hawaii, France, Australia, and Japan have to offer.

You can also choose 15 officially licensed surfboards and 16 world-class surfers. In addition, there's a circuit mode, and all competitors' waves are scored from 1 to 10.

Developer(s): ACOT
Publisher(s): KSS and Ubisoft
Platform(s): PlayStation
First Release: November 1999
Aggregate Rating: 64/100


Surfing H3O

Surfing H3O

Surfing H3O was the first surf video game released for PlayStation 2.

It was developed by Opus and published by ASCII Entertainment and Rockstar Games.

The title introduced a third-person view from behind the player, allowing gamers to get barreled and control their characters from an entirely new perspective.

In the tournament mode, surfers are invited to clear six stages by performing radical tricks and maneuvers with 11 characters, including Mark Mavericks, Megan Kira, Rochelle Rincon, Rob Makaha, and Kelly Sunset.

Developer(s): Opus
Publisher(s): ASCII Entertainment and Rockstar Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 2
First Release: October 26, 2000
Aggregate Rating: 46/100


Championship Surfer

Championship Surfer

Championship Surfers was the first-ever surfing game released for Microsoft Windows (PC).

The title was developed by Krome Studios and published by Mattel Interactive. It introduced new physics to action sports video games.

Players can choose between tournament and quick start modes, ten different beach locations with varying types of waves, and several camera angles.

The game also lets you pick your favorite surfer among Cory Lopez, Shane Beschen, Rochelle Ballard, and five others.

You can perform 50 different tricks, including aerials, 360s, and barrels.

There are also obstacles to dodge, like jet skis, buoys, boats, and helicopters.

Developer(s): Krome Studios
Publisher(s): Mattel Interactive and GAME Studios
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, and Dreamcast
First Release: November 19, 2000
Aggregate Rating: 70/100


Transworld Surf

Transworld Surf

Transworld Surf was the first surf game to introduce dramatic changes and improvements in the way waves looked and broke on a gaming console.

The graphics are solid, realistic, and smooth.

Select between Andy Irons, Rochelle Ballard, Shane Dorian, Shawn "Barney" Barron, Jason "Ratboy" Collins, Christian Fletcher, Tim Curran, Cory Lopez, Chris Ward, Dan Malloy, Taylor Knox, Fred Patacchia, and Taj Burrow.

Get ready to surf Kirra Point, Hossegor, Tavarua, Fort Point, G-Land, Huntington Beach, Witches Rocks, Pipeline, Todos Santos Teahupoo, and more.

The game allows you to save your best moves for photographers to put you on the in-game cover of TransWorld Surf magazine.

There are also several exciting multiplayer modes, including Shark Attack and King of the Wave.

Players can also customize the soundtrack with the 50-plus music tracks available, and there are even real surf video tutorials in which professional surfers teach you how to perform tricks.

Developer(s): Angel Studios
Publisher(s): Infogrames
Platform(s): Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
First Release: November 14, 2001
Aggregate Rating: 76/100


Sunny Garcia Surfing

Sunny Garcia Surfing

Sunny Garcia Surfing features the Hawaiian star and his friends as they ride the waves of a fictional island located 185 miles east of Fiji.

The game has fluid gameplay, realistic maneuvers, and several playing modes, including free surf, time attack, and championship tour options.

The player can pick surf spots delivering small two-foot summer ripples or incredibly challenging 30-foot monsters. Watch out for sharks, reefs, and jet skis.

Developer(s): Krome Studios
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Platform(s): PlayStation 2
First Release: October 22, 2001
Aggregate Rating: 61/100


Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer

Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer is arguably one of the best surfing games ever.

It was endorsed by the Floridian champion and featured seven other iconic surfers - Lisa Andersen, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Nathan Fletcher, Bruce Irons, Rob Machado, and Kalani Robb.

Players can travel to famous surf breaks like Pipeline, Sebastian Inlet, Kirra, G-Land, Mavericks, Teahupoo, Bells Beach, Trestles, and Cortez Bank and enjoy the game's stunning graphics, animations, physics, motion, and overall gaming experience.

The game features an intuitive control system and several play modes, including career mode, special events, and a surf trip.

There are even licensed boards, wetsuits, and clothing for you to choose from and enjoy. Interestingly, the tutorial takes place at an indoor wave pool.

Developer(s): Treyarch, HotGen, and Beenox
Publisher(s): Activision
Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows
First Release: August 21, 2002
Aggregate Rating: 80/100


Surf World Series

Surf World Series

Surf World Series is an arcade surfing game that invites you to ride five iconic surf spots - Bells Beach, Waimea Bay, Supertubos, Cacimba do Padre, and Jeffreys Bay - against a backdrop of stunning horizons, golden coastlines, and surging waves.

You can customize your own style and compete against other surfers against the clock.

In survival mode, the goal is to ride out a single wave right to the end in extreme conditions.

There are 44 challenges and three online game options.

Developer(s): Climax Studios
Publisher(s): Vision Games Publishing
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox, Microsoft Windows
First Release: August 30, 2017
Aggregate Rating: 65/100


True Surf

True Surf

True Surf is the official mobile game of the World Surf League (WSL). It features 21 of the world's most famous surf breaks.

The title is driven by a real-world physics simulation engine powered by real-time weather forecasts, including swell height and direction, wind conditions, tide times, and water temperature.

Choose one of the six playable characters and start performing beginner, intermediate and advanced tricks.

Unlock gear, new surf destinations, and perfect storms.

You can also build your private quiver with a wide variety of shortboards, fish boards, funboards, longboards, and guns.

Test your surf gaming skills against players from around the world.

Developer(s): True Axis
Publisher(s): World Surf League
Platform(s): Android, iOS
First Release: October 2, 2018
Aggregate Rating: 78/100


Virtual Surfing

Virtual Surfing

Virtual Surfing is a realistic surf simulation with multiple camera options that allow players to witness the breaking waves from exciting new angles.

Get ready to surf big waves, perform maneuvers, and earn big scores from the judges.

The player can customize male and female characters and choose the type of boards and fins they are going to use.

The title receives inputs from the gaming community so that they can be reflected in regular updates.

Developer(s): Waveor
Publisher(s): Waveor
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows
First Release: December 21, 2018
Aggregate Rating: 60/100

Top Stories

The first-ever pro tour wave pool contest was held at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

A wipeout changed Jack Johnson's life. Here's how the young man who once dreamed of becoming a pro surfer went on to sell over 25 million album copies.

It's quite a paradox, but summer in the Northern Hemisphere really is surfing's silly season.

Long are the days when surfing was the sport of riding ocean waves. Today, it's more than that - it's about choosing one of the many ways to ride a wave.