‘The Sound of the Surf’’ at the Newport Beach Film Festival Documents the Rise of Surf Music

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By Simone Goldstone | NB Indy Soundcheck Columnist

Ahh, the sound of the surf: waves crash, gulls screech—retro guitar riffs?

The new documentary “The Sound of The Surf” at the Newport Beach Film Festival examines the birth of surf music that started on our picturesque beaches and our own backyards.

King of the Surf Guitar legend Dick Dale of Dick Dale and the Del-Tones performing at the Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim in 1962. Photo credit: Getty/Sound of the Surf

Balboa Island and Newport Beach aren’t just known to be the home of chocolate dipped frozen bananas and Balboa bars. The Fun Zone also created Surf Rock as we know it. Through a myriad of interesting and upbeat interviews, “The Sound of the Surf” transports viewers back to simpler times of 1959 when the Del-Tones recall cruising to Balboa to “check out the babes” and playing at the Rinky Dink to an audience of mostly surfers.

Thus, their sound began to develop to suit their own interest of surfing, and the ears of their growing listeners.

“I was surfing with 17 other surfers,” legendary surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale recalled over old footage of crashing waves and endless summers. “I said I was playing at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, and so my first audience was 17 surfers.”

Dick Dale being interviewed in the “Sound of the Surf” movie

What the film examines is how the sound came to be: inspired by middle eastern music and the Oud instrument, Dale added some rock and roll spice to the sound and viola: surf rock was born, a sound like no other.

The film is filled with small nuggets of golden information any music aficionado would love: did you know before surf music was invented; most surfers would listen to jazz to get them revved up for the waves?

Don’t let the sunny Super 8 footage fool you; this film is equal parts informative as it is fun. Moments of brilliance will shock you, such as the parallels surfers made to jazz music (both require improvision and virtuosity).

After Dick Dale created sounds nobody else had heard before, Orange County became a mecca to surfers, musicians, and hordes of VW vans with boards strapped atop. Locals will revel in the nostalgia, new generations will discover Bruce Brown surf films, and everyone will leave with a renewed sense of pride for Orange County’s contributions to music.

Cerulean waves, sunny surf music, and the overlooked history of our own backyard are all celebrated in this incredible documentary. Don’t miss it!

“The Sounds of the Surf” screens on Tuesday, Oct 18 at 5:30 p.m. at The New Port Theater in Corona del Mar. Visit www.NewportBeachFilmFest.com for tickets.

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