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Book makes waves by giving Florida’s rich surfing history its due

When you examine the sport of surfing and its surrounding culture, Florida is sometimes overlooked while hot spots such as California and Hawaii grab the spotlight. A new book released in May could go a long way toward changing that perception.

Surfing Florida: A Photographic History, by Paul Aho, 272 pages, $31.95, University Press of Florida. Also available via Amazon, at regional surf shops and local book stores. See also: Facebook page

Surfing Florida: A Photographic History

The book follows an impressive gallery exhibit, also called Surfing Florida: A Photographic History, that debuted at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton in March 2012. The exhibit of rare photos, surfboards, video, music and interviews made the rounds of galleries throughout the state in 2012 and 2013 to much acclaim.

The exhibit will become a permanent part of the Palm Beach County Surfing History Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, documenting and exhibiting the history of Florida surfing. The group’s website says the expansive displays will be available only for non-profit, educational purposes, so donations are encouraged.

Past Atomic Grog coverage
* Surfing rides new wave of interest thanks to FAU exhibit
* FAU’s surfing exhibit closes with a splash
* Florida at forefront of surf rock’s contemporary renaissance

If you missed the exhibit and/or wish to take a deeper dive into Florida’s colorful surfing scene (past and present), the book is highly recommended. It goes into much more depth and includes a broader and more detailed look at the men and women who make the scene unique. It’s loaded with great stories and photos by many contributors including some of surfing’s top photographers.

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Minimalist Tiki

Dick Dale: The most interesting man in rock ‘n’ roll

Most people know him as the “King of the Surf Guitar,” and for his enduring hit song Miserlou, popularized in the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. But there’s a lot more to Dick Dale, the seemingly indestructible rock ‘n’ roll legend who will be making his SunFest debut this year at age 77 on Wednesday, April 30.

Dick Dale
Legendary guitarist Dick Dale performs live on his 2013 tour at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013.

March 2013 interview: Cancer survivor, rock legend Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’

Dale is still battling the ravages of cancer that sidelined him for several years. But he’s made an amazing comeback, touring relentlessly and hitting South Florida clubs for the past three years. Now he finds himself on the main SunFest stage opening for Kid Rock.
[See the April 30 schedule].

But if you know anything about Dick Dale, his resilience should come as no surprise. Over the course of nearly 60 years in the music business, he has established himself as a renaissance man determined to live life to the fullest, without drugs and alcohol. You probably know that Dale invented surf music and helped Fender develop the modern guitar amp, but here are a few more fascinating facts about a fascinating man:

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Surf guitarst Laramie Dean, inspired by mentor Dick Dale, overcomes similar hurdles

Updated July 25, 2013
Photos: Laramie Dean and Jimmy Dale in South Florida

Laramie Dean with Jimmy Dale: Friday, July 19, at Churchill’s Pub; and Saturday, July 20, at The Mai-Kai and Mickey’s Bar. Click here for full info
Previous story: Laramie Dean returns to South Florida for surf-punk party

Laramie Dean, who cut his teeth as a surf guitarist in the South Florida music scene for five years before settling in Los Angeles, returns this weekend for his first area shows in more than two years. When we last saw him, he was opening for his idol, the legendary Dick Dale, in June 2011. Why the extended absence?

Laramie Dean at Churchill's

Like Dale, who has battled cancer for the past five years, Dean has had his own health issues. Luckily, both are back on the road this summer. While Dale tours the Northeast, Dean has hooked up with Dick’s son, Jimmy, for a July jaunt from California to Florida and back.

While Dean likes to emulate the 75-year-old “king of the surf guitar,” his illness was an eerie and unintended direction. “I had a staph infection, not cancer,” Dean said by phone just before hitting the road. “It’s like a blood infection. It just kills your body.” And it put a serious crimp in his musical ambitions for the better part of the past two years.

Dean, 32, first came down with an infection in Europe while on tour with Agent Orange in 2009. He thought it was gone when he embarked on his lifelong dream, a summer tour with Dick Dale in 2011. [Story | Review/photos] But the infection came back, and it got worse during a subsequent two-week stint opening for roots-rock guitarist Deke Dickerson.

“I was in the hospital for 42 days, and it was pretty bad,” Dean said. “I was paralyzed on the right side of my body. I had seven surgeries just to clean up the infection. But it’s been about eight months with no infection now.” Dean’s last operation was one year ago, in July 2012, and he recently got an MRI that gave him a clean bill of health. “Everything looks good now,” he said.

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Cancer survivor and rock legend Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’

Dick Dale: performed April 25 at Grand Central in Miami with Gold Dust Lounge and Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays. See below: Photos from the show

Rock ‘n’ roll icon Dick Dale is in the midst of a career resurgence at age 76, despite battling cancer and other serious health issues that would have derailed musicians half his age. He’s graced South Florida with three tours in the past three years, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s in no mood to let anything slow him down.

Dick Dale
Legendary guitarist Dick Dale performs live on his 2013 tour at Grand Central in Miami on April 25.

Dale rarely does interviews anymore, preferring to let his music and legacy of a staggering 58-year career do the talking. But I was privileged to catch up with him via phone from his ranch in California before he set out on his latest tour in March. I promised to limit my questions and keep it brief, but Dale took the conversation in a dozen different directions, as he is known to do, and our talk lasted nearly 45 minutes. It was a fascinating glimpse into the world of not only one of the great guitarists of all time, but one of the most independent and strong-willed musicians to ever take the stage.

His Miami appearance in April showed once again how expertly Dale channels his talent and strength (with impeccable assistance from bassist Sam Bolle and drummer Dusty Watson) into his live shows. The band blasted through all of Dale’s instrumental hits, from Nitro to Miserlou. And when he grabbed the mic to sing a few songs, such as House of the Rising Sun, he quickly had the audience enthralled and singing along. Check out the photos below.

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Florida at forefront of surf rock’s contemporary renaissance

Since its birth in the early 1960s, surf music seems to arrive in waves roughly every 15 years. And just as Florida surfers have played second fiddle to California, so have the Sunshine State’s surf bands. But it’s surely not due to lack of talent or effort.

Dr. James E. Cunningham talks surf rock
Dr. James E. Cunningham talks surf rock. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

As a fourth wave washes over us, music scholars are beginning to examine the history of this phenomenon that never seems to die. During the climax of an exhibit of surf culture at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton this month, an ethnomusicologist put Florida’s role into perspective during an hour-long lecture, “Surf Rock and the Music of the ‘Right’ Coast.”

“Surf rock isn’t just some fad that appeared and has lasted through the years,” said Dr. James E. Cunningham, an associate professor in FAU’s Department of Music. “It’s followed trends in technology throughout its existence.”

Cunningham floated his theory that surf rock’s peaks in popularity, and its so-called revivals, also coincided with breakthroughs in technology. He points to advances in surfboard technology, guitar and guitar amp technology, and even the media (radio, television, the Internet) that paralleled the music’s booms.

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