What the f#ck does _____ got to do with surfing?

Justine Mauvin Photo: Timo


WHAT IS IT? A wooden six stringed instrument that is thought to have originated in medieval Spain, influenced by the European lute and its cousin, the four-string oud. The instrument remained relatively obscure for 500 years, until made famous by Jack Johnson in 2003. While Jack Johnson didn’t invent the surf guitar, Dick Dale and his surf music was around in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was Johnson that elevated surf music and guitar onto such a level that many humans can’t remember a time when guitars were played before Bubbly Toes.

WHAT THE FUCK HAS IT TO DO WITH SURFING? While it impossible to simultaneously surf and play guitar, unless of course you are Jack Johnson, who does it regularly at 10 foot Pipe often coming out wit the spit while singing Sitting, Waiting, Wishing, surfing and music have been as intertwined since day one. It was obligatory after each surf in the ‘60s to sit around a campfire and play the guitar. In the ‘80s and ‘90s surf punk exploded in violent shitstorm of ill conceived notes, with bands like Pennywise, The Offspring, The Sunnyboys, TSOL soundtracking a decade of surf vids. An Australian surf band called Dick Bent and the Bent Dicks were terrible, but had the best band name in the history of band names. All this was irrelevant though when Jack Johnson picked up a guitar.

WHO DOES IT? Apart from Jack Johnson, Tom Curren was the first high profile surfer to travel with a guitar, something he did with around the 25% of the style, technique and success of his surfing. Kelly Slater took inspiration from Tom and his band called Surfers were absolutely shithouse, to the point where he is often asked to play with Eddie Vedder. Flying the flag now is Makau Rothman, whose ukulele skills I refuse to critique except to say they are amazing. Steph Gilmore is also amazing at fretting herself to death, while Tom Curren’s daughter Lee-Ann has had a far more successful guitar based career than her father, which isn’t saying much at all. If I say ‘Ben Howard’ right now, some English readers will literally jizz.

WHAT’S RIGHT WITH IT? Jack Johnson, the sound of which is like an angel cumming in your ear hole.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT? There is perhaps nothing so eyeball bleedingly irritating as the surfer dude who sits in the corner abusing the strings on a guitar with an endless series of half songs and amusing ditties. The fact that he often ends up with a hot chick, and not with the lute derivative wrapped around his neck, only makes it even more diabolical.



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