“The Sound of the Surf” at the Newport Beach Film Festival documents the rise of surf music

By Simone Goldstone | NB Indy Soundcheck Columnist

Ahh, the sound of the waves: the waves crash, the seagulls cry; retro guitar riffs?

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

The king of 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 for being home to chocolate-dipped frozen bananas and Balboa bars. The Fun Zone also created the Surf Rock as we know it. Through a myriad of interesting and upbeat interviews, “The Sound of the Surf” takes viewers back to a simpler time in 1959 when the Del-Tones remember sailing to Balboa to “check the girls” and playing the Rinky Dink in front of an audience of mostly surfers.

So their sound began to develop based on their own interest in surfing and the ears of their growing listeners.

“I was surfing with 17 other surfers,” legendary surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale recalls to 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 interviewed in the movie “Sound of the Surf”

What the film examines is how sound was born: inspired by Middle Eastern music and the Oud instrument, Dale added a bit of rock and roll spice to sound and viola: surf rock was born, a sound like no other.

The film is filled with little golden nuggets of information that any music lover would love: did you know before surf music was invented; most surfers would listen to jazz to prepare for the waves?

Don’t let the sunny Super 8 images fool you; this film is both educational and entertaining. Moments of brilliance will shock you, like the parallels surfers draw with jazz music (both require improvisation and virtuosity).

After Dick Dale created sounds no one else had heard before, Orange County became a mecca for surfers, musicians and hordes of VW pickup trucks with boards strapped to the top. Locals will revel in the nostalgia, new generations will experience Bruce Brown’s surf movies, and everyone will leave with a renewed sense of pride for Orange County’s contributions to music.

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

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

Gerald R. Schneider