Drive Thru Review: Real life surfing

If you like surfing then you probably like surfing DVDs. At which point you hit the same problem all surfers over 9-years-old face: most surf films are either cheesy, sentimental homages with waves bigger than houses that try to get into the ‘soul’ of the sport (like the awful Laird) or just lame excuses to play droning Type O-Positive B-sides with the odd ‘ironic’ Bee Gees track while some drooling Goldie-ite talks about ‘charging’.

Update 25/4/08: My new Drive Thru soundtrack listing page is here.

Not so the Drive Thru series. I first stumbled across Donovan Frankenreiter, Greg Browning and Benji Weatherly et al about five years ago when a surf DVD I bought turned out to be messed up so I took it back to the shop. They asked if I wanted to pick a replacement and completely at random I hit on new release Drive Thru California – the first in the now 7 8 9-strong series.


Now just because I put Drive Thru above the big wave porn doesn’t mean these films are intellectual. Quite the opposite. The Drive Thrus are simply extended road movies during which you can forget plot, clever dialogue and indeed any kind of intricate planning. But it’s these films’ lack of direction that gives them their charm. That, and the undoubted surfing talents of the regulars and occassional starring extras like Rob Machado, Pat O’Connel, Kelly Slater and Mike Lossness, make each film a watchable, light-hearted and blissfully under-length snapshot of surfing life.

The format is simple. Go to a country, hire a campervan (or RV as they say in the US) and drive around looking for waves all the while filming the countryside, locals, critters, weather and trivial incidents that hit you along the way. On the whole the Drive Thru team know just when to pull back on the childish humour, ok, there are possibly one too many fart gags but over their 5-year, 7-DVD run, the arguments over waves, food, lodgings, sharks, sunburn and aggressive locals are the hard currency of surfing that anyone who’s ever picked up a board can relate to.

One last thing. The Drive Thru series are a great way to find out about new and old music. If it wasn’t for these films I’d never have hard of The Shins, The Sounds, The Postal Service nor The Hoodoo Gurus and many, many others. I’ve purchased over 5 CDs based on the soundtracks of these films alone. I hope you manage to grab a couple.

Update 25/4/08: My new Drive Thru soundtrack listing page is here.

The real secret to getting into surfing’s soul is simply not to try, as these films amply demonstrate. One question I have for the makers? When can we expect Drive Thru UK?

california2.jpg3 starsDrive Thru California (2002). Number 1. in the series and a nice intro to the knockabout gonzo style of the series. Features several secret spots up and down America’s west coast, a wonderful deteriorating bitterness from Tim Curran as he realises that campervan living is basically a prison hell, a surprise showing by The Machado, excellent buffoonery by Shawn Barny Barron, and great tunes from Death on Wednesday and The Dead Kennedys.

japan.jpg4 starsDrive Thru Japan (2003). Number 2. Unlike some others DT-J has a generous running time at 60mins and some funny lines from Benji trying out karaoke in the dorm, ultra smooth surfing from Machado on some serious waves, bemused locals and I will be eternally grateful to the Drive Thru gang for introducing me to the brilliant sounds of Shonen Knife and The Dwarves.

australia.jpg5 starsDrive Thru Australia (2004). Number 3. and one of my favourites not least because for once I can defeat the DT team’s insistence on not naming the secret spots on film because I’ve been to some of ’em! This film features a fantastic sequence with sadly-departed croc-meister Steve Irwin at his Australia Zoo (checkout the angry wombat – a magic moment), the pathos of unintentionally amusing, hernia-suffering, head-banging Margo, stunning surf and great music from Pennywise, Postal Service, AFI, The Hoodoo Gurus and The White Stripes.

europe.jpg3 starsDrive Thru Europe (2005). Number 4. and not bad. Worth it just for seeing surf superstar Kelly Slater slumming it in the campervan with the rest of the guys. This one works well if you thought there were no waves in Italy, France and Portugal. Nice revealing moment from Pat O as he exhorts viewers to come look at a steeply-cobbled street in a tiny Euro seaside town: he calls it “Disneyland”. Tetchy rivalry between Pat O and Slater as they battle to be first to surf under a pier. Ry Craike’s accent is pure Aussie. Brilliant tunes from two bands that were totally new to me: Sweden’s The Sounds and California’s own Yovee.

southafrica.jpg5 starsDrive Thru South Africa (2006). Number 6. and a beaut as they say Down Unda. This is a great example of how to film a 2-week road trip. Chaotic travel arrangements, a hilarious race on Ostrich back (complete with trampled riders), a genuine close shave with a shark, Pottsy getting annoyed with the younger surfers’ tardiness, the scariest bungee jump I’ve ever seen and laughs galore as each and every pro surfer struggles and fails miserably on a wickedly difficult indoor wave machine. The cameraderie of a surfari really comes through on this one. Great tunes from Damian Marley and er, Toto.

drivethrusca1.jpg3 starsDrive Thru South & Central America (2004). Number 5. OK but it feels like you’re getting short-changed on the running time – yes I know that’s hypocritical when I’ve only just mentioned how ‘blissfully under-length’ these films are, but 48 mins of action is miserly. Great artwork and titles and superb footage of some really out-of-the-way secret spots in Panama, superb hang-gliding in Brazil but someone needs to tell Kalani he’s not funny. Excellent sounds from Yovee – Private Caller remains my favourite track out of the whole 7.

caribbean.jpg2 starsDrive Thru Caribbean (2007?). Number 7. Again a sadly super-short running time of 37 minutes. Perhaps they should have combined it with Central America? Brilliant artwork and titles design. Great footage in Barbados and Jamaica: the accent of the old geezer, Billy Mystic, who acts as their guide is excellent; he’s quite touching when he talks about how Jamaica is known for being violent but hopes that maybe the DT team’s visit can show a fresh side of his troubled island. Great shots of the team doing stunts with dolphins and Kalani’s funny factor improves but is still sub zero. Lots of great tracks from Communique but unusually this one features a somewhat dull soundtrack. A poor showing.

DT NZ3 starsDrive Thru New Zealand (2008). Number 8. Great scenery and great stuff from Occy showing off his songwriting skills with a homegrown Drive Thru band featuring Donnie on the organ and Pat O’ on guitar. Check out the gnarly tow-ins and the insane zorbing. Some of the coldest surfing yet seen on the series. Not a very varied soundtrack but great stuff new to me from Lemurs, Cut City and Los Campesinos. A good Drive Thru but the blokery verges into overload sometimes — how about some female surfers on the next Drive Thru . . ?

drive-thru-boxsetDrive Thru Limited edition Collectors Box (2008). Contains the first 6 Drive Thrus up to South Africa. As far as I can see nothing is missing from the original films and having these beauties all together in one place is a joy. Get it here or here.

drive-through-oz-23 starsDrive Thru Australia II (2009). The gang return Down Unda and team up with Shane and Occy. As in Oz I the Goldie features but this time they head west to some seriously windy spots. Full credit to Drive Thru for opening surf shots showing the team wiping out on nasty and unrideable waves — not many pros let themselves get filmed this way. Inventive titles as ever and some nice slo-mo shots and great cinematography — vibrant colours and stunning scenery . . have they upgraded the film equipment? Great moment when Donny puts on his wettie backwards — admit it, we’ve all done it! Great music from El Ten Eleven, New Faces and Head Like a Kite.


56 Responses to “Drive Thru Review: Real life surfing”
  1. Sietse says:

    Nice blog!
    Do you know where I can find tracklists of the Drive Thru DVD’s?
    I just watched the one thru south africa on Extreme Sports channel and I really want to have the whole soundtrack of that show.

  2. pcoletti says:

    I don’t know where you can get tracklists although I note that the latest DT (Carribean) has on-screen credits . . . must be the sheer volume of folks watching the films who want to know exactly what you asked.

    If there’s a track you don’t know, lemme know whereabouts in the film and I’ll look it up.

  3. Clint says:

    I was trying to find out the name of one of the songs played on Drive Thru Carribean. I watch it on Fuel TV so they may play it again so I can find out. The lyrics go something like this “…all day long we shake and dance till the…” I can’t remember the rest and I can’t find it on any lyric search engines.

  4. Laura says:

    hey, just wondering what the song was that they played before and after every commercial on Drive Thru Europe, I watch it on Fuel TV and i’ve been on a hunt.
    Is there anywhere where I could find a full track list, most television shows have them. The music is really good and its killing me that I can’t find it, I am familiar with most of the artists just don’t know which songs

  5. pcoletti says:

    Thing is Laura, I watch the Drive Thrus on DVD not on Fuel TV so I’m not sure what tunes Fuel use to ident themselves . . . to find out what the songs are you just ened a few words from the song and put ’em into google and you’ll get the lyrics . . .

    Clint, I’m not sure what song you’re hearing but from the lyrics you gave I’m guessing you’re after “Dance With Me” by The Sounds . .


  6. myate says:

    Great reviews. I’ve seen 3 of the films on extreme sports channel. They seem to have one on every saturday now. Lookin’ forward to Oz on Saturday. The credits at the end usually show all the tunes used in the film.

  7. Ashley says:

    All of these movies are absolutely AMAZING!!!!!!!!

  8. Alexandra says:

    First of all, I love all the movies and your great review! I’ve been watching these movies from the beginning and they can always make me laugh.

    But I was really wondering though if you (or anybody) knew the name of the song in Drive Thru Japan during the surf scene in chapter 3… I feel like a huge idiot but I love the song and am desperately trying to figure it out. It goes somewhat like “just feel it… just feel it, feel it, baby…” and so on. It’s really chill and gorgeous and it’s killing me that I can’t find it.

  9. pcoletti says:

    Good question and I know exactly the track you are thinking of, it also has the line: “it’s my life, my life . . my life baybee”, I think? I can’t tell what it is because I’m away from my DVD collection but I’ll post the answer soon as . .

    . . . by the way DT fans, I’m in Oz right now and rumour has it that Benji Weatherly has just landed in Oz after a trip to New Zealand filming a new Drive Thru. Nothing on 14 Day productions web site about this yet but then again their web site hasn’t been updated for over a year. Is DT NZ the next instalment?

  10. Stevo Maclure says:

    Man oh man WHAT can I say….

    The Drive Thru series od surf DVD’s are AMAZING FANTASTIC GANGBUSTERS AWESOME CLASSIC HYSTERICAL and just sheer BRILLIANCE. I LOVE ’em!! Great reviews on here and it seems, like SO many others I came across this page by mistake while trying to find out some of the SUPERB soundtracks. How about we try and compile a list of all the songs in ALL the films??!!

    Drive Thru, I LOVE YOU!!

  11. Eric says:

    Hey, could you tell me exactly in what years was each movie released?

  12. Eric says:

    I know Cali was in 2002, South Central in 2004 and Caribbean in 2007, but what about the rest?

  13. Simon Bucknell says:

    New Zealand is the next Drive Thru on the list. Ive been fortunate enough to meet Donavon a few times, and last time I met him we were talking about New Zealand and he mentioned this to me. (this was in Dec 07), so definitely likely that benji and the boys were there in NZ.

  14. Crystal says:

    So i have a few of the dvds. the weird thing is though, when i watch the DT Europe on Fuel TV it is like completely different than the dvd. SO much more footage on the tv than the actual dvd. N i bought it, cause it says they go to Spain and thats where im from, but in the dvd they just drive through it. But on one of the episodes on fuel they do surf there. so that was kind of annoying. but i stil love them all. Does anyone else notice the same thing? Benji lives a couple streets down from me, he’s def my favorite

  15. Jason says:

    I’ve just gotten into the DT series, watching them on Fuel (which I just got for the first time recently), and bought DT New Zealand DVD. I agree with the last comment, the shows have more and in many cases better content than the DVD.DT South Africa is my favorite so far. I think they should try to get an older legend on every trip like Potz and Occy. They compliment the regular crew quite well.

  16. Dylan says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this series since it’s inception, my wife is a huge Donovan Frankenreiter fan and so I bought a DVD for her back in the day, since then I’VE been hooked, mainly because these are just everyday guys surfing & playing music only doing it EXCEPTIONALLY WELL, theres no posturing for the cameras or fake personas here, just first class guys filming fun surf trips and sharing them with everyone living life honestly and happly…which unlike the fake emptiness of the Paris’s or Kim’s is a huge breathe of fresh air everyone should take

  17. Kayla says:

    Does anyone know what the theme song is that they play at the beginning of every episode on fuel tv?
    It’s an awesome song and I can’t find it any where.

  18. Heather says:

    I love the Drive Thru series. I just bouth south africa and carribean on dvd. but very disappointed in how short the dvd’s are. i was hoping to be able to see everything i saw on tv. does anyone know why they don’t show what they show on FUEL TV in the dvds?? because that’s a lot of good footage im suprised they don’t show on dvd.

  19. Crystal says:

    So I actually think the episodes on TV are all of the “behind the scenes” footage. The commentary that they have on the episodes on Fuel are never shown on the dvds. so i think the dvds are just a straight movie and on Fuel it is clips from the dvd with cast commentary. i say its stupid they should have it all on dvd.

  20. kyle says:

    right before drive thru starts, their theme song plays. What band is that and what is the name of the song?

  21. Austin says:

    Does anybody know the song being played in Tim Currans solo session in Drive thru Cali. It in the 4 surfers menu. I dont know who it is?

  22. Bk says:

    The theme song is “I Wanna Go Out,” by Tangiers

  23. Jeff says:

    WOW!! It is so nice to see all of these comments. I, too, found the review by accident, and i’m glad I did. Thank you so much for the in-depth review.

    I have to tell you that I agree with ALL of your criticism. Very smart and constructive.
    I have been involved in coordinating the music for the Drive Thru* series, since it’s inception. To see so many of you inspired to take the time out of your busy day to mention that you liked the music (or didn’t) is really vindicating. I am ecstatic! I fought to get some of the songs, that you’ve mentioned in particular, into the movie, specifically the Roy Ayer’s song Everybody Loves the Sunshine covered by Cibo Matto-“My life, my life, my life in the sunshine…” Although I can’t take all the credit for all of the music, I could tell you what it is (except for the “bumpers” on Fuel, before the commercials. That’s from Fuel and not 14 days.

    I recently took a trip to surf Ireland, where I was snaked by some kooks from Cornwall. The Irish surfers are really good and they charge! Lots of guts on those Irish! Especially Richie Fitzgerald. Not sure about those English blokes, but it may have been the over-aggressive crew we ran into. I’d love to visit, but, as of now, unfortunately no UK trip planned.

    The next Drive Thru (and this is the first time it’s been said) will probably be Bali. The one after that will be the 10th video of the series. It’ll have to be huge, right? Maybe a world tour?

    Another secret, in the Drive thru: South Africa (I think) there is an “egg” in the menu. A secret graphic which will let you watch our first movie “Fifteen”. You may already have it and not even know it!

    So I understand the movies should be longer. How long? How do we keep it blissful, and tight? 60 minutes? What kind of bonuses would you like to see? Of course in an RV farting becomes an issue. Are we not men?

    I was curious how people liked the Super 8 bonus disk on the latest, Drive Thru new Zealand? Did anyone watch it? Is it any good? Would you rather have seen something else?

    We are currently working on a diving and surfing video to be released in the next few months. It was shot in Tahiti. It’s some of the most beautiful footage ever. And, there’s a girl in it!

    Thank you again for the nice words, everyone. I’ll pass them along. Thanks for watching!

  24. Mike says:

    For those of us without cable TV, The Drive Thru Europe series on Fuel TV is available now on itunes!

    Its a little redundant at times, but worth it to get more Drive Thru.

    Buy it so they’ll add the other Drive Thru series’!!

  25. brian says:

    where can i find the soundtrack of drive thru caribbean? tnx!:)

  26. stolen surfer says:

    What is the name of the very last song that is played on DT South Africa episode?

  27. pcoletti says:

    It’s Africa by Toto .. .

  28. paul says:

    Does anyone know who sings thwe song with the words “jonas do you feel at home”.

  29. Jason says:

    Brian, The Super 8 bonus disc was great. In fact the addition of that disc made me feel I had gotten my moneys worth. In some ways the bonus disc was better than the movie itself.

    Looking forward to the next movie… Bali.

  30. pcoletti says:


    I think the lyric you’re thinking of is “join us, do you feel at home” and I can hear the song in my head . . can’t place the name of the track though.

    What Drive Thru is it on?


  31. pcoletti says:

    . . oh and Brian, I found the easter egg on DT South Africa . . . thanks for pointing that out. Benji looks about 15 years old. Very funny.

  32. paul says:

    I think it is from Europe.Fuel keeps using it when they go to commercial.It is driving me crazy.Please help.Thanx Paulie

  33. pcoletti says:


    >>Does anybody know the song being played in Tim Currans solo session in Drive thru Cali. It in the 4 surfers menu. I dont know who it is?

    That song is Don’t Fall In by The Red West.


  34. Tom says:

    Here is a link to the scene from DT Europe where the “Join us do you feel at home” song is played. If anyone knows the Band and or name of the song please let us know…


  35. pcoletti says:

    Tom, Paul,

    GOT IT!

    The song is The Innocent will Pay by California’s own Yovee . . . an awesome song from a great band. I have the cd: Too Far Gone


  36. Jason says:

    I just saw an interview with Andy Irons where he says that he committed to a Drive Thru “episode”. Assuming that means an entire Drive Thru, not just one show from a DT, which one will he be on?

    Has the 9th DT shot yet?

  37. Jason p. says:

    can someone please tell me the theme song for drive thru south america?
    im in love with that fucking song

  38. pcoletti says:

    Jason, are you talking about the one that goes “Get READY!!!” . . .?

    it’s Private Caller by Yovee . . .awesome track . .truly awesome. Check out more on the soundtracks page here.

  39. Jason says:

    Drive Thru #9 will be back in Australia and will film this April. AI, Occy, & Shano will join Benji, Donovan, & Pat for the trip. Here is a link:

    There is also an interview with Pat O where Drive Thru is discussed, here:

  40. hugo says:

    Dudes i’m going nuts…i can’t find the artist + song of the following clip:

    Normally i find songs by typing in the songtekst in google, but this song is instrumental. I’m pretty sure its in drive thru Europe at the end when Kelly has his last session in France with his mates.

    Please let me know!!!

  41. Phil says:

    It may be irrelevant now but i just googled it and found all the tracks for every trip

  42. ADRIAN says:


  43. Lost in Nor Cal says:

    Im trying to find the song title for catchy track on DT South Africa when the boys are surfing in super sharky waters (coffee bay?) Pottz refuses to paddle out…..Lyrics: “I just try to forget the way you make me feel”
    I have searched a dozen sites with no luck…..can someone help me out?

  44. pcoletti says:

    Lost in Nor Cal, you might be thinking of the UK’s very own Hard Fi, track = Cash Machine. But that line you mentioned isn’t in the song

  45. johnny says:

    whats the intro song in drive through south central america?

  46. pcoletti says:

    Johnyy, are you talking about the one that goes “Get READY!!!”?

    It’s Private Caller by Yovee.


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  1. […] Surf fans rejoice . . .  the latest Drive Thru is out on 18th April 2008. As soon as I get it it will be added to my Drive Thru page right here. […]

  2. […] page accompanies the main Drive Thru page which you can find here. This page lists the soundtracks on each Drive Thru. Note, the information is gleaned from the DVD […]

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