Surf Music Collection Essay

Dublin Core


Surf Music Collection Essay


CA Surf Music


The Surf Music collection is designed to provide viewers with an in-depth look into the surf music that fueled California surfers throughout the years. The collection consists mostly of famous early hits from 1962 and 1963’ and 1960s tunes such as Bustin’ Surfboards by The Tornadoes, The Chantays’ Pipeline, Wipeout by The Surfaris and Dick Dale’s famous Misirlou. These songs relied heavily on replicating the sounds of the ocean with ocean swell intros, rhythmic drumming, and deep guitar reverbs that remind listeners of incoming waves. Pipeline by the Chantays is a prime example of this. The guitar reverb utilized creates an almost haunting echo sound that replicates the thrilling excitement of a surfer ‘shooting the tube’. The title of the song itself refers to the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii, a well-known surfing spot worldwide; as well as a reminder of the cultural significance associated with the band’s work. A similar use of guitar reverb can be heard in Misirlou, which borrows heavily on ancient Eastern Mediterranean tones and is a modernized version of an earlier 20th-century Egyptian version. However, Dick Dale’s appropriation of the song - which proves to be a very common theme in surf rock history - is properly executed and carries a uniquely surf rock vibe that remains instantly recognizable.

Going for more of a natural direction, Bustin’ Surfboards by The Tornadoes incorporates actual sounds of the ocean into the track, replicating the sound of ocean swells and waves crashing against the shore. Wipeout by the Surfaris uses its lone lyric to comically refer to the fearsome, ever painful “wipeout”, or falling off your board and taking a spill. Instrumentally, its high pace Hawaiian influenced guitar riffs carry the tune like a surf wave heading down to the shore. Through these tunes’ sound and popularity among surfers or beachgoers, one can conclude that surf culture is centered around a life of leisure amidst a deeper admiration for the natural wonders of the ocean. Lyrics generally aren’t needed in surf rock because the people listening are either filling in the rest of the sound or moving to its rhythm. For example, Bustin’ Surfboards continues this established style of simply providing the backdrop to a relaxed beach setting; naturally infusing itself into the human vibrations of the night. Considering the context of 1962 America, it made sense for California youth to embrace these songs along with a sunny beach lifestyle and the thrilling excitement of surfing.

These early instrumental pioneers that fed the ears of surf lifers helped establish the base sound for later pop-infused hits such as Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys in 1964. The Beach Boys were able to build on the popular surf craze of the time and rose to prominence with their soft surf-like vibes. Surfin’ USA was actually a direct replica of a Chuck Berry song, Sweet Little Sixteen, but reworded with lyrics about surfing in sunny California. The Beach Boys built on this ‘surf instrumental’ sound and maintained a successful career with subsequent popular hits. Judging by the released date of the items in the collection, we can see that the early 1960s were somewhat of a golden age for California surf music. Instrumentals dominated the sounds by the waves and managed to stake a permanent home in the hearts of older surfer cliques.These classic hits are still staples of the surf rock community and a few of the artists only just recently hung up their instruments for retirement. Through this collection, we (the contributors) hope that viewers will gain a better understanding of the famous sounds and tunes that carried surf culture from the 1960s and on.


Walter Cervantes, Tiffany Esquivel


HIST 305


September 19, 2016


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Surf Music Collection


CA Surf Culture

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Walter Cervantes, Tiffany Esquivel, “Surf Music Collection Essay,” California Surf Culture Archive, accessed February 27, 2021,