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Cover for Surfing about Music

Surfing about Music

Timothy J. Cooley


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This first major examination the interrelationships of music and surfing explores different ways that surfers combine surfing with making and listening to music. Tim Cooley uses his knowledge and experience as a practicing musician and avid surfer to consider the musical practices of surfers in locations around the world, taking into account ideas about surfing as a global affinity group and the real-life stories of surfers and musicians he encounters. In doing so, he expands ethnomusicological thinking about the many ways musical practices are integral to human socializing, creativity, and the condition of being human.

Cooley discusses the origins of surfing in Hawai‘i, its central role in Hawaiian society, and the mele (chants) and hula (dance or visual poetry) about surfing. He covers instrumental rock from groups like Dick Dale and the Del Tones and many others, and songs about surfing performed by the Beach Boys. As he traces trends globally, three broad styles emerge: surf music, punk rock, and acoustic singer-songwriter music. Cooley also examines surfing contests and music festivals as well as the music used in a selection surf movies that were particularly influential in shaping the musical practices of significant groups of surfers. Engaging, informative, and enlightening, this book is a fascinating exploration of surfing as a cultural practice with accompanying rituals, habits, and conceptions about who surfs and why, and of how musical ideas and practices are key to the many things that surfing is and aspires to be.


Praise For Surfing about Music

"[Cooley] tells a story that is just good entertainment. It will appeal to general audiences as much as it will to surfers and fans of surf music and surf culture."

— Brett Leigh Dicks

“A serious book about a normally laid-back subject.”

— Phyllis Fong

“Invites the reader to hop on the board and catch the (sound) wave.”

— Bill Baars

“Cooley, an ethnomusicologist and a surfer, finds commonalities in the ephemeral, creative qualities of the two activities.”

— Star-Advertiser Staff

University of California Press, 9780520276642, 240pp.

Publication Date: January 2, 2014

About the Author

Timothy J. Cooley is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Global and International Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of Making Music in the Polish Tatras (2005) and coeditor (with Gregory Barz) of the groundbreaking Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology (2008).