Surfin USA

Since moving to California I've spent a lot of time listening to the Beach Boys as I drive around checking out the surf. The song Sunfin USA, written by Brian Wilson and released in 1963, makes numerous references to Californian breaks that would have been surfed by Wilson's friends and band mates who would have told him the names of spots as he himself did not surf. I get a huge buzz, seeing for the first time, the freeway turn off signs to beaches mentioned in the song I've been singing since I was 10 years old.
But, by 1963 none of the beach boys had been to Australia so it got me thinking, where did the reference to Australia's Narrabeen come from?

North Narrabeen

Narrabeen 1962

The lyrics go-
You'd catch 'em surfin' at Del Mar (been there)
Ventura County line (yep)
Santa Cruz and Trestles (cold and crowded)
Australia's Narrabeen (that's odd, thats not in the USA)
All over Manhattan (what!?)
And down Doheny Way (nice place)

Everybody's gone surfin'
Surfin' U.S.A.

We'll all be planning that route
We're gonna take real soon
We're waxing down our surfboards
We can't wait for June
We'll all be gone for the summer
We're on surfari to stay
Tell the teacher we're surfin'
Surfin' U. S. A.

Haggerties and Swami's (my local)
Pacific Palisades (good set up but $$$$)
San Onofre and Sunset (nice place for the family)
Redondo Beach L. A. (ummm, so so waves)
All over La Jolla (heaps of good reef breaks)
And Wa'imea Bay. (well, thats not in California but it is in the USA)

Everybody's gone surfin'
Surfin' U.S. A.

I can imagine a teenage Brian Wilson driving around in 1962 as the song started to form in his head and simply running out of surf spots for the lyrics. So he pulled his car over to a news stand and picked up a copy of Surfer, Surfing Illustrated or Surfing magazine and seeing a feature article on Australia with Narrabeen being mentioned.
So that means we could find the actual article that inspired the lyric if we were to comb the less than 24 issues of Surfer and Surfing from 1962 because Surfing didn't go monthly till 1979.

So I need you to go to the garage, pull out the boxes and look for a mention of Narrabeen in any 1961, 62 or 63 U.S surfing mags.

The next question is what the hell does he mean "All over Manhattan"? Waves in NYC? What am I missing here?


  1. Damo - I think I always figured "All over Manhattan" was a reference to Manhattan beach... right??? So many of the surf legends sewed their roots in the South Bay, it makes sense that the Beach Boys would be buzzing on it. No idea about Narrabeen though...

  2. Manhattan beach in the south bay (next to Hermosa). Photos of North Narrabeen had been appearing in SURFER almost from the beginning and the epic swell of 1963 (at Narrabeen) was very well documented. There are also lyrics in the song concerning Cero Azul in Peru. Brian Wilson and his cousin Mike Love new how to write songs.

  3. Easy one Damion as I am a huge Beach Boys fan... the lyric refers to Manhattan Beach right there in LA's the South Bay.

    The next beach North of Hermosa and just a couple of miles from LAX.

    Obviously you've never cruised Manhattan Beach Blvd?

    When I was Qantas crew we used to stay in Manhattan Beach in the eighties.

    And the name? Back in the early 1900's the original land developer named it after his old home town of Manhattan, New York.

    So there you go... cheers

    Steve Core

  4. Aloha Damion & Happy Memorial Day!
    I just received your Boardcollector email regarding the Beach Boys song..."All over Manhattan (what!?)" ...they were referring to Manhattan Beach, Ca. ...right up from Hermosa Beach...
    Shooots!...have a good one! got small here, probably super crowded anyway being a holiday, so going to go shape for awhile...crucial BBQ plans for later on!
    God Bless the Troops & (Surfin') USA!
    Tim Orr
    Pure Life Surfboards Hawaii

  5. Manhattan Beach, CA. One of the beach cities in Santa Monica Bay. Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach.
    Bryce Rhodes

  6. The break references in Surfing USA apparently came from Brian Wilson's girlfriends brother who was a keen surfer as you correctly mention, Brian didn't surf but wanted to sing about it.

  7. and what about Dale Velzy under Manhattan Pier...? Northern beaches photographer Ron Perrott was Severson's Sydney contact since at least 1961, along with Brookvale-based Barry Bennett so there was plenty of opportunities for info to get passed around. Greg Noll took back movie footage and lots of stories to South Bay after his 1956 visit and Laguna surfer and traveller Dick Metz, a good mate of Bruce Brown, Dave Rochlen, Hobie Alter and others was in Sydney in early 60s on the northern beaches and no doubt had tall tales to tell on his return.

  8. Manhattan refers to Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles. Manhattan Beach is located in Los Angeles County, it's a small beach city located in the South Bay (South Bay is a term used for the small cluster of beach cities such as, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach). The Greg Noll surf shop started in the South Bay, along with E.T. surfboards, Becker, just to name a few. Look on a map, the South Bay is located just south of LAX. Or just goole the term "South Bay California' and you will get additional iformation.

  9. I'm surfing in NYC tomorrow morning...not Manhattan though, waves slightly bigger in Queens ;-)

  10. hey i was just surfing manhattan this weekend. just north of redondo... it was 'meh' but its always good to be out.

  11. Just to clear a few things up-
    *Brian did not write the lyrics to 'Surfin USA', Mike did. Brian wrote the music.
    *Mike did NOT surf, only Dennis did.
    *The whole idea of "Surfing Songs" came from Dennis.
    *Mike was a pretty good lyricist, with the exception of mentioning Australia in "Surfin USA"---he could also be a complete bonehead.
    *the ONLY reason any of the Beach Boys members had any money in the bank, was because of Brian Wilson. He owns all of them.Mike Love would've remained a gas Station attendant if it were'nt for Brian, and he knows it.