Surf Music!

Hi Swaylockers,

I am new to the swaylocking community, and was wondering If anyone could give me some input. Im writing a University Dissertation on Surf Music, not a paid project or anything. Basically a lot of people say surf music only was big between 1961-66 but my project is basically going to express how surf music has been here all along since the ancient hawaiians - in terms of music thats influenced by surfing or the surf, as oppose to the music that appropriates Surfing (Beach Boys) for capitalist gain. I was wondering if Anyone had any input about what they consider to be surf music from 66 all the way through to now, even just as a starting point for research. Im basically looking for music that was influenced by surf culture, music that was sonic representation of surfing like Dick Dale, but kind of in a different period. ALso any good surf clips you anyone can recommend through the 60s, 70s, and 80s that i can look at the tunes from.

Thanks in advance everyone,


You would be better suited asking your question over at this site:  

Contemporary surf music:

The Mermen

For me personally…

old kine

hawaiian apres surf music - any kiho 'alu(I prefer Sonny Chiilingsworth’s or Dennis Kamakahi’s style), ukulele (beach boy style)

Antonio Carlo Jobim


modern kine

Soundtrack to “Five Summer Stories” - Honk

Tom Curren/J-Bay The Search Footage - “War” by Joe Satriani

Soundtrack to “Hot Buttered Soul - The Movie” - Whitehorse


I’ve always felt this album reminded me of all different aspects of surfing (psyching before paddling out, big waves, small waves, apres surf)

Eric Johnson - Ah Via Musicom


never got into Dick Dale (felt too spaz), reminded me of a californianized Les Paul or Django Reinhardt.

beach boys/jan and dean/the champs/ventures were only for those gidget and tony & antoinette movies but didn’t anything to do with surfing

most 50’s/60’s surfers were into hardcore bebop jazz or even latin music

second what mako said… go to SG101… anything surf music related will be there and more. It’s a great community and on line resource.


see ya there.

The Atlantics - Bombora

Dan Rumour and the Drift

Midnight Oil - Wedding Cake Island

Cruel Sea - 4

Also on youtube are some of the songs from an Australian surf music documentary called Delightful Rain. 

Thanks for all the input - much appreciated! 

I have a pretty decent collection of surf music stretching back to the beginning.

I am a purist. So, rule #1 is no vocals. As mentioned, The Beach Boys aren’t really part of the genre. Though they did a few covers of surf tunes and pulled it off without embarrassment.

Oddly, one of the greatest surf LPs was by a non surf band from Colorado called The Astronauts. I have two copies of the LP plus a CD reissue. Recorded in 1963, it has an enormous sound and most folks can’t believe it’s that old when they hear it. I work in concert audio production and love blasting it through PA systems to test the rig. the instrumentation is all Fender, with a nice big low end sound and tons of reverb. It epitomizes the perfect surf sound, IMO.

The following are bands I consider worth checking out

The Challengers, The Bel Airs, The Surfaris, The Crossfires, Eddie and the Showmen, The Mermen, The Aqua Velvets, Boss Martians, Mark Brody and the Beaver Patrol, Chantays, Halibuts, Paul Johnson, Packards, Jon and the Nightriders, Laika and the Cosmonauts, Lively Ones, Malibooz, Man or Astroman?, Phantom Surfers, Pyramids, Los Straightjackets, Phantom Surfers, Raybeats, but NOT The Ventures!!!

There is a website dedicated to surf music, hosted and written by a knowledgable guy from the Santa Cruz area by the name of Phil Dirt. Although, I do not agree with him about The Ventures :wink:


Agree about The Astronauts sound- great recording. The low end of an early 60s Fender amp when the caps were brand new… words fail. I have the LP, and it is sublime.

The Ventures in Space (as well as so many others by them) is fantastic! If you like Laika & the Cosmonauts & the Raybeats type offshoot, idiosyncratic surf styles, I’m not sure why you (SammyA) dislike them.

This thread is tangenting off (it was maybe a bit misdirected to start with)- sorry to keep veering away. But I might mention The Stylers, from Hong Kong. Not at all pure surf, but representative of the impact of The Ventures worldwide. Hmm, also The Spotnicks, while on that topic.

…Im a musician (I build surfboards for almost 30 years but music was my first love); I really loves music in almost all the genres (from all over the world and from different centuries). I compose music in different styles; play in surf bands, recorded; played live in small joints and mid venues; was stage manager for rock (trash sleasy 50s novelty bands; rockabilly bands; surf bands; instrumental bands; etc) bands; I fly to see bands or artists; I buy records!! still! Studied recording for a couple of years. A year ago after all these years finally I bought a high end stereo in Japan and took me home.

All to remark that I really into music from all the sides.

Mostly now Im into non diatonic compositions inspired by the modern XX Architecture and avant garde.

Hey Sammy I had couple of records commented by P Dirt…you know Im REVERB  ha ha

So I can help you out if you do not find more info on some obscure surf bands.

A diverse subject that will vary from country to country , and area to area…in Australia , there was a blues under ground scene , that (I suppose) was kick started by the popularity of the Beatles , the Stones , Yardbirds etc etc…I think all over the world jazz has always lurked in the background having far more influence than most people realise…early Frank Sinatra was a deep foray into jazz (he should have stayed there)…then there’s Elvis , Eddie Cochrain , Hank Williams , Syd King , Chet Atkins, The Bird , WC Handy , Howlin’Wolf , Doc Watson , Patsie Cline…it’s endless . If you surf , and listen to music , does it become surf music ?

…Is that " Fender-Twin Reverb" ?..

…of course a twin reverb; it s an amp that defines the clean tone.

Regarding the rock style surf rock/pop; there in Australia were/are the Atlantics and M Cilia that played/plays with them for several years, is a very good guitarist and composer in this style and in couple of jazz styles. Check him.


 I never said I disliked The Ventures. Please do not misquote me. That’s someone else’s job here on Sways.

I like The Ventures. I just don’t consider them to be a true surf music band. Their forte was mostly latching onto what was trendy and doing instrumental covers (British inavasion, folk-rock, etc). Those who know little about real surf music somehow think The Ventures epitomize the genre. They did just one surf themed LP and it was pretty bad. Their version of Pipeline is terrible. The best they ever did within the genre were two tracks on Walk Don’t Run Vol 2. Those were Walk Don’t Run '64 and Diamond Head. Diamond Head is maybe the best thing they ever did. What I’m getting at is best illustrated by this anecdote.

I once read a fictional story online by a guy who surfs and fancies himself a writer. He told a story of being in a diner when Pipeline comes on the radio. Someone asks him the name of the tune and he says: “Pipeline, by The Ventures”.

Give me a break! Pipeline was by The Chantays. Anyone who knows the slightest damn bit about surf music knows this. The Ventures butchered the tune.

One of my favorite versions of Pipeline is by Agent Orange. I also have a ska version of it. But, The Astronauts killed it on that one. The best, ever.

BTW, I have Ventures in Space, Surfing with The Ventures, The Ventures Knock Me Out, The Ventures Play Telstar and Other Hits, and Walk Don’t Run Vol 2. All on vinyl. All bought when they were brand new.


I started out as a musician. Played in a couple of surf bands, then went on to cover bands and solo performing. At one point, I realized I had a knack for the techy side of things and got into live audio work. It dawned on me that I could make better money doing sound, rather than being a mediocre musician. I went on to work at a couple of venues and also worked for a regional sound company that had most of the major contracts in New England. Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, Tanglewood, Boston Opera House, Great Woods/Tweeter/Comcast Center, etc.

I have done sound for some legendary musicians and also slogged my way through terrible bar band acts.  I now own a company that does PA rentals and such. Clients include Berklee College of Music, film festivals, event planners, even the POTUS.

I still strangle a guitar sometimes. At home, where I won’t annoy anyone.

My dad & godfather surfed back in the late 30’s before the war and they always listened to jazz.  I remember as a little kid, around ‘55 - 58’ hearing jazz coming from the garage late at night as my dad worked on tv’s as his second job.  Bud Shank was his favorite.  As for me, I didn’t associate music with surfing as I was already surfing by '57 as a little grom.  Whatever I could pick up on my crystal radio got me stoked for the weekend at the beach & waves.  Stations like KRLA & KFWB in Los Angeles played a big assortment of Surfaris, Dick Dale, Chantays, etc…  Anything that helped the stoke was ok back then.  Today I’m a bit more picky, anything that I can mindsurf to works, Satriani, True by Concrete Blonde, Time waits for No One (Stones) etc. are what I call surf music.

@reverb:   After Nam, I moved to Europe to decompress, and with the money I saved, I bought my best guitar/amp combo I ever had & regret selling it to this day.  The combo;   '65 Les Paul & Fender Twin Reverb.  The band I was in played country for the Americans & Rock for the Europeans!  Awesome sound!

Wow…this subject is wide open for interpretation.  There’s such a wide range of music today that I think it would be impossible to define “…surf music from 66 all the way through to now.”  Especially for the “now” part.  Who’s to say dub step or any other form of electronica is not influenced by or influences the surf culture.  The stereotypcial Jack Johnson / Slightly Stooped surf music of today is easy to categorize as surf music because non-surfers imagine surfers smoking a bowl, listening to this music and then surfing a log as the surfing lifestyle.  But does this same music apply to the up and coming grom landing head high alley-oops and or getting pitted in close-out barrels?  Probably not.  I think you already know the structure of your paper despite all of our input.  It starts with the classic Beach Boy-esque bands with some esoteric groups sprinkled in during the 60s and progresses to today’s music.  Laugh as you may, I catch myself humming to Taylor Swift laughing at herself for “…going on too many dates…” while I’m in the lineup.  I think what you fail to see is that surfing is no longer a subculture.  It’s simply an activity that most of the country can’t do.  We’re simply viewed as that co-worker that surfs a lot (unless you actually make a living from the surf industry, which I think it’s safe to say is a very few).  The rest of the population will never understand our obsession with tracking storms half way across the world, tides, wind, etc.  And there aren’t many bands nor genres of music that can translate this obsession.  Those that can, fall upon deaf ears who simply hear a Beach Boys re-make masked by an electronic drum beat.  

The orig tubes are getting hard to come by…6L6 boogies do the job…no warmth in transisters.