The best surf-related songs by The Beach Boys

August 8, 2019 | Surfing
The Beach Boys: the most famous surf music band of all time | Photo: Creative Commons

Surfing was always a central topic in many of The Beach Boys' major hit songs.

Actually, the band was originally formed to compose a song about surfing, an outdoor activity that was taking over California, and Southern California in particular.

The sudden rise of surf culture and beach lifestyle inspired Brian Wilson and Mike Love to write and compose "Surfin'," the first hit by The Beach Boys.

The rest is history.

The SoCal-based surf music group became the American answer to The Beatles, and quickly developed and delivered consecutively successful music hits and records.

The Beach Boys helped shape the so-called California Sound by introducing sophisticated vocal harmonies and simple, yet direct and fresh lyrics that conquered millions of across the planet.

The original lineup - which included brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine - wrote a new chapter in the history of surfing.

But, more than selling millions of records worldwide, The Beach Boys also boosted the popularity of surfing in and outside the United States.

The Beach Boys: Dennis Wilson was the only member who actually surfed | Photo: The Beach Boys

A Band of Non-Surfers 

The most famous surf music band of all time released 11 songs with surfing and waves in their title. Many others have references to surfers, surfer girls and prolific wave riding stunts in their lyrics.

Interestingly, everyone in the band loved cars, and Dennis Wilson was the only member of The Beach Boys who actually surfed.

Ironically, Dennis passed away after drowning at Marina Del Rey.

Mike Love co-wrote a few lyrics about surfing.

But, ultimately, when the waves were the central theme of their sun-kissed tunes, it was almost always Brian Wilson composing - or co-composing - nearly all surf-related songs.

They featured surf slang and ling, and classic surfer catchphrases that instantly gained traction among the SoCal wave riding community.

Take a look at the most popular The Beach Boys songs featuring surfing as the central theme of their title and lyrics:


Surfin' (1962) | Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

Brian Wilson: receiving the A for his Surfin' Safari | Photo: Wilson Archive

"Surfin'" was the first massive hit by The Beach Boys.

The lyrics feature the unforgettable baba-dippity-dippity-ba-ba and the naive line "Surfin' is the only life the only way for me."

The fun thing is that one year before its release, Brian Wilson submitted "Surfin'" as an assignment in the music class, and got an "F" from his teacher, Fred Morgan.

However, in 2018, Hawthorne High School decided to switch the grade to "A."


Surfin' Safari (1962) | Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

Today, it is one of the most popular songs by The Beach Boys.

However, when it was released in 1962, it only reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Surfin' Safari" apparently sold well in New York, a city where surfing has never been a popular sport.

The best line in the lyrics is "At Huntington and Malibu, they're shooting the pier. At Rincon, they're walking the nose."


Surfin' USA (1963) | Written by Brian Wilson and Chuck Berry

Surfin' USA: one of the most popular songs by The Beach Boys

"Surfin' USA" was the number 1 song of 1963 in the Billboard rankings.

Interestingly, the original music was composed by Chuck Berry. Brian Wilson wrote the surf-related lyrics to Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen."

Mike Love would later win a lawsuit against Wilson over the co-ownership of the lyrics.

The tune mentions 15 surf spots, the majority of them located in California (Del Mar, County Line Beach, Santa Cruz, Trestles, Manhattan Beach, Doheny Beach, Haggerty's, Swami's, Pacific Palisades, San Onofre, Redondo Beach and La Jolla).

There's also a reference to Australia's Narrabeen and Hawaii's Waimea Bay. The song also talks about Sunset Beach, but it is not clear whether the band wanted to mention the sand strip located in Oahu or California.

"Surfin' USA" is one of the most recognizable songs ever by The Beach Boys.


Catch A Wave (1963) | Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

Brian Wilson loved this song. He said that the combined sounds of the piano and guitars created "one unique sound."

The lyrics seem to invite everyone to try surfing: "Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world. Don't be afraid to try the greatest sport around. Everybody tries it once."


Surfer Girl (1963) | Written by Brian Wilson

Surfer Girl: a song by Brian Wilson inspired by his first girlfriend

It's the first song ever composed by Brian Wilson. He wrote it in 1961 when he was only 19 years old.

It had lyrics inspired by Judy Bowles, the musician's first girlfriend.

"I created a melody in my head without being able to hear it on a piano. I sang it to myself. I didn't even sing it out loud in the car," Wilson later explained.

"When I got home that day, I finished the song, wrote the bridge, put the harmonies together and called it 'Surfer Girl.'"


Noble Surfer (1963) | Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

Here's an example of a song Mike sings with witty humor: "Noble (ain't joshin'). Surfer (ain't joshin')."

If you pay attention, you'll notice that the drums are syncopated.


The Surfer Moon (1963) | Written by Brian Wilson

Here's a relaxing, laid-back tune in which the vocal harmonies stand above everything else.

"The Surfer Moon," the song tells us, "brings the tide in, takes it all away, helps us ride in, brings us waves each day."


Surfers Rule (1963) | Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love

The Beach Boys: the band performing in a studio in 1964 | Photo: Creative Commons

The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys were the only two American bands to enjoy significant chart success in the 1960s.

So, there was some rivalry between both bands.

The lyrics challenge The Four Seasons to take The Beach Boys' words seriously: "Surfers rule (Four Seasons you better believe it)."


South Bay Surfer (1963) | Written by Stephen Foster, Bruce Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Al Jardine

"South Bay Surfer" is an adaptation of The Honeys' "Surfin' Down the Swanee River."

The song tells us that the "boys are rough and ready to handle anything," and they'll "take the big one."


Surf's Up (1971) | Written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks

Despite its title, "Surf's Up" has nothing to do with surfing. Actually, it's an ironic response to the group's early surf-centered obsessions.

With its intricate harmonies, philosophical lyrics, and a smart musical structure, it has once been considered "the soul of 'Smile,'" the legendary unreleased album by The Beach Boys.

"Surf's Up" was first recorded in 1966, but was re-recorded several times until its release in 1971.


Still Surfin' (1992) | Written by Mike Love and Terry Melcher

The Beach Boys: awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 30, 1980

In 1992, the world was not living the hippie era anymore, and the sport of surfing had changed too.

"Still Surfin'" was one of the tracks found in "Summer in Paradise," the only album not to feature any new contribution from Brian Wilson.

The lyrics mention surf magazines, but the best part is knowing that "He doesn't do a whole lot with his law degree. They thought about a major oceanography. But he does a lot of thinkin' 'bout how to save the sea."

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