The layout department set up a special motion-capture camera system on an old Sony video camera to give the illusion that the movie was actually being made with a real hand-held video camera, and thus enhance the documentary atmosphere in the film.
All the actors got to record in the same room together, which is unusual for an animated movie. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Jeff Bridges and James Woods never got to record their voices together.
This surprised a lot of people by picking up the third nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars that year after the locks, Ratatouille (2007) and Persepolis (2007). Many expected the box office hit, The Simpsons Movie (2007), to be the third nominee.
In a pictorial montage early on, where Cody is explaining the history of surfing and surf culture, one of the pictures featured is the 18th-century Japanese woodblock printer Katsushika Hokusai's "Great Wave off Kanagawa" reworked so a penguin is seen surfing off the wave's lip.
Two songs by Green Day - "Welcome to Paradise" and "Holiday" - are used as background music for the film but did not appear on the official soundtrack album. This is probably due to the profanity in the songs.
When Cody washes up on the beach while Z is training him, Z laughs and says "Wipeout." This is an homage to the beginning of the song "Wipeout" by The Surfaris, where a similar laugh and the word "wipeout" begins the song.
Cody's name is a reference to Mavericks, a famous surfing spot. It is also a possibly reference to the NBA basketball team the Dallas Mavericks, of which directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck are fans. Finally it refers to the main character of Top Gun (1986).
Reggie Belafonte was inspired by Bill Sharp, the promoter of the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards. Sharp is known for his spiked-up hairstyles and frequent media appearances on TV and in surfing documentary films such as Billabong Odyssey (2003).
Some performers handled real props while recording their lines: Zooey Deschanel carried a sandbag to simulate Lani's squid, and James Woods really did throw things at the filmmakers when his character did the same.
Originally SPEN was to have on-screen announcers appear as a walrus named Chunk and a seal named Rock, but were replaced Kelly Slater and Rob Machado signed on. However, the characters can still be found in the various Surf's Up video games, with Sal Masekela making an on-screen appearance in Chunk's guise.
The character Big Z is based on pioneer surfer Greg Noll. Noll is known for having surfed particularly imposing waves from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, but he chose to end his career shortly after trying to surf the largest wave ever attempted.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Originally, there were interviews with two of Z's old girlfriends, Doris and Sheila (voiced by Mindy Sterling and Jane Krakowski, respectively). They were cut to keep the focus of the film on Cody. Doris and Sheila do appear in the movie, when Z appears on the beach near the end.
Big Z faked his death and assumed a new identity as the Geek. This is a tribute to James Woods's previous film, the gangster classic Once Upon a Time in America (1984), where the same thing happened with Woods's character.