Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beyond Little Surfer Girl: Time to Recognize Big Wave Surfer Girls

Over the 4th of July weekend, I made a pilgrimage to Hawthorne, California—the childhood home of the Beach Boys. I wanted to see the birth place of a band that produced what Rolling Stone considers to be the second greatest Rock album of all time: "Pet Sounds." It should be duly noted that magical record shaped what is believed to be the number one Rock n Roll album, "Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band." But I digress...

I encountered a town that was at one point in time, the portrait of middle class America. Living in San Francisco, the notion of that demographic is increasingly hard to find. But the Hawthorne where Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson went to high school, cruised around eating at the local Foster's Freeze was just that. Public parks, modest homes, and a whole lot of nothing special is now known for some of the greatest harmonies on an LP.

Hawthorne is less than 10 miles from the closest beach. Yet among the three Wilson

brothers, their cousin Mike Love (who is the uncle of NBA star Kevin Love) and Al Jardin, only one was a surfer—Dennis. He claimed that their music—hits like Surfin', Surf's Up, and Surfin' Safari didn't resonate with most surfers. But it captured the imagination of everyone else. The California myth was born. I'd like to think it is alive today.

One need not travel to Southern California to learn more about this mythos. The film "Love & Mercy" as written by Rotten Tomatoes "presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. Set against the era defining catalog of Wilson's music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost."


It is not exactly "Fun, Fun, Fun." Wilson's personal story is heavy, but I love learning the "story inside the story." That's right. If you scratch the surface on most great bands and musicians, you will learn more about other music, their influences, history and more. The Beach Boys are no different. Brian Wilson, the lead singer and songwriter is a true musical genius. He heard Revolver, the Beatle's seventh studio album and it made way for the integration of sounds and instruments that defines songs like "God Only Knows," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," and "Caroline, No."
Two Female Mavs
But even before that masterpiece, the Beach Boys had a string of hits. And one that I've always loved is "Surfer Girl" (a small part of me wishes I am the girl they sing about). Once I tell you the song that influenced this song, you'll never hear it the same way. Perhaps it's because Hawthorne is also in Orange County, the birthplace of Disneyland that Wilson would have encountered this Disney hit, but yes "When You Wish Upon a Star" (from Pinnochio) is what gave way to this lovely rock Diddy.

If the Beach Boys were to write a song for surfer girls in Northern California, my hope is that they would honor the Big Wave Surfer Girls. The Mavericks, an event held every winter just off the coast of Half Moon Bay (a town but 15 miles south of SF) now hosts a new event to giver female surfers a chance to shine. I'm sorry it took me a trip to Huntington Beach and back before I honored Surfer Girls. Stay stoked ladies and promote awesomeness.

And thanks Mikey for joining me on the journey: Hawthorne—>Lucy's—>Lucky Strike gym

Photo Credits
Big Wave Surfer
Surfer Girl

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