The Coast News Group
Cartoon of surfboard with headphones

Sounds of surfing

“Man, your music sounds like riding a wave.”

— Surf legend Lance Carson to Bel-Airs band member Paul Johnson, circa 1962


Surfing remains the only sport in the world (the possible exception being curling, which only those with finely tuned dog whistle auditory capabilities can hear) with its own music.

And so there I was last Saturday, grooving to the surf beat of my own lousy drummer while driving toward the Pacific on Oceanside Boulevard when I came upon an unlikely sign reading, “Cinematic Arts and Sound.”

Thinking they might have a part I needed for my camera, I wandered into 5,000 square feet of movie and sound-making equipment to find myself in a scene as unlikely as Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory.

While co-owner John MacDonald didn’t have the needed part, he kindly gave me materials with which to improvise. John, along with his brother Jesse, Steve Evans, Donovan Stapleton and Jaqi Beasley, runs this world-class recording and film studio. He told me that his brother, Cinematic’s founder, had left a successful business in LA to live near to the beach, surf without massive crowds chocking each wave, work and simply live.

The conversation with John, which drifted from Great Wall of China leaper Danny Way’s musical production talents to the brilliance of Switchfoot and Taylor Steele, soon had me strumming “Miserlou” in my head while recalling a conversation I once had with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman about recording a surf album with dearly departed Dick Dale, aka King of the Surf Guitar.)

Surf bands are nothing new, but most of them merely play the soundtrack to the waves while few ride along to the music.

Undoubtably the best surf band the world has ever seen was the shortly lived and flatly named, The Surfers. The trio consisted of Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and Peter King. Next in line for the crown would be three-time world surfing champion Tom Curren and his group known simply as the “Tom Curren Band.”

Switchfoot, with three excellent surfers, Jon and Tim Foreman and Chad Butler, rate high in the rankings, as does Denny Aaberg’s “The Wrinkled Teenagers.” Add in Borracho y loco, the Mar Dels’ Rod Piazza’s Mighty Flyers, Bill Stewart, and the great Peter Tripp Sprague and we’ve got ourselves a festival culminating in a battle of the surf bands.

Here’s how I see it working: First, there’s a surf contest (thank goodness The Surfers, who would slaughter all comers, are no longer together) where points are given for wave riding. Then there’s the musical portion where an audience rates the music on, say, a 10-point scale.

I haven’t asked anyone, but I’m thinking we could run the contest on Oceanside Boulevard and move the musical portion two blocks up to Cinematic’s parking lot. Or, we could do it all in Stewy’s (Bill Stewart’s) Fun House after surfing Trestles, which is just down the street.

Or maybe, we do it all at Doheny, which has surf and a large grassy area for music lovers. I know it’s just a dream, but a dream I can hear, taste and celebrate. Think how fun it would be!

Until then, anyone wanting to record music or make a movie of any kind, no longer needs to brave the Hollywood traffic. It’s all right here in beautiful downtown Oceanside. Check for details. Anyone know how to play “Pipeline”?