ASSIST News Service

The surfing hits, Wipe Out and Surfer Joe, are legendary in the annals of Southern California surf music, and now they have come back to life with a CD with Christian testimony called Wipe by the re-formed band, The Surfaris, led by Bob Berryhill, one of the originals.

Bob Berryhill tearing it up

NEW LIFE: Bob Berryhill tearing it up at Glendale Cruise Night 2008.


"In 1971, Bob Berryhill, original guitarist for the band, found hope beyond the accolades. In fact he found what he calls the true meaning of life. Since then, Mr Berryhill along with his wife Gene, and sons, Deven and Joel continue to play the music and tell the amazing story behind the music of The Surfaris."

The Surfaris began their forty plus year career by composing and recording Wipe Out, one of the most popular songs recorded in a generation. Wipe OutSurfer Joe and others captured the sound of the early 1960's.

Initially catapulted by the California surf culture, The Surfaris transcended the local scene into international stardom. After touring with acts such as Roy Orbison and the Beach Boys, The Surfaris began to see there was much more to life than fame and fortune. The original band disbanded in 1966. In 1971, Bob Berryhill, original guitarist for the band, found hope beyond the accolades.

In fact he found what he calls the true meaning of life. Since then, Mr Berryhill along with his wife Gene, and sons, Deven and Joel continue to play the music and tell the amazing story behind the music of The Surfaris.

In an interview with ANS, Mr Berryhill, now 61, explains how the original band began back in 1962 with friends from Glendora High School in Southern California:

"We were friends since Junior High. In 1962, Pat Connolly and Jim Fuller came over to my house to jam one Saturday, and after three hours of practice I was told that we had a gig at Pomona Catholic High School where Pat, our bass player, was going at the time. It was an after-football sock hop in a gym and my Mom and Dad drove us over there because we didn't have driver's licenses yet. I threw my guitar and amps in the car and we met Ron Wilson the drummer there. We played and everybody loved it, so we said, 'Let's do this some more.'

"We started playing the local teen centers for a couple of months and then one night Ron Wilson, the drummer came to me and said, 'I had a dream about a song called Surfer Joe' and so I listened to the words. I started strumming some chords and it sounded pretty good and we helped him finish up some of the lyrics, then polished it up. Our manager said, 'Why don't you go and record it?' So we went out to Cucamonga to record Surfer Joe at Pal Studios, owned by Paul Buff.

"Apparently we had paid for two sides for this 45 rpm record and so we needed a second song. We told Ronnie to hit it, and he came up with a drum cadence. I suggested some drum breaks, we added some chords, a little melody and in a short time, we had Wipe Out written and recorded. 

"Our manager did the crazy laugh intro and we cracked a plywood board over the microphone to make it sound like a busting surfboard and Wipe Out was in the can. One hundred 45 rpm records were pressed and we got the record to a distributor. (One of these DFS 45s recently popped up on e-Bay and sold for over $2,000.)

"He took it to San Bernardino then Hollywood and met some people who got it played on the radio. That was January 1963 and by April 1963, it was number one in Los Angeles and number two in the United States. So by July 1963 we were on a meteoric rise as the song shot up the charts internationally.

Mr Berryhill describes that summer was the "Summer of Surf" - the heyday for surf music.

"We toured the world playing and surfing places like Hawaii and in January 1964, we landed in Australia," he continues. This tour included the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Paul and Paula, and the Joy Boys from Australia. They were also the backup band for Roy Orbison and kept on playing for the next two or three years until the Vietnam War hit and the Beatles came along and changed the music scene.

"Though the surf craze was over, Wipe Out has gone on to have a life of its own," says Mr Berryhill. "This year it is 45 years old and though many people really don't know The Surfaris name, they do know Wipe Out worldwide. Frequently when we play it, people say, Wow, that sounds like the original song."

When asked if it was ironic that the band played surf music, but none of them lived near the ocean, Bob smiles and says, "Well, it's just the way it is in Southern California. You drive to the beach as often as possible. My girlfriend Gene, now my wife, (we've been married for 42 years now) and I went on our first date at the age of 17 by driving the nearly 60 miles to Doheny Beach at Dana Point, California. We went surfing on that Sunday afternoon, and on weekends thereafter, we would wear the car out by driving from Glendora to Doheny Beach to follow our passion - surfing."

1bsurfaris with brian beirn

THEY'RE BACK: The Surfaris with Brian Beirne, Mr. Rock and Roll, attend the Glendal Cruise Night 2008.

Sharing how he found Christ, Mr Berryhill says: "After you have had a number-one song, where do you go from there? You have a hit record, but the music business is not kind. It decides you are not longer hip and so when the Beatles hit, that kind of killed the California beach scene. My wife and I decided to get married and I was going to join the Air Force rather than be drafted. A few months later, we discovered we were going to be parents, so I got a married with child deferment - and was able to go back to college.

"In December 1971, Chuck Girard from The Castells and the Hondells, started a new group called Love Song. He called me up one weekend and said, Hey, Bob, why don't you come for a concert at the Long Beach Auditorium? So I showed up thinking it was going to be some kind of Beach Boys/Hondells concert, but it turned out to be a Jesus concert. So I was there listening to the music by Love Song and they played a song called Welcome Back.

"The Lord tugged at my heart, but at the time, I didn't know who or what it was. Then Chuck Smith came out and said, 'Taste and see, the Lord is good.' Something compelled me to get out of my chair and I grabbed my wife and son's hands and we went forward to accept the Lord that night. It was December of 1971 and since then we've been riding along the crest of the wave with the Lord."

Nearly 20 years ago, Bob reformed The Surfaris with his wife Gene and other surf rock musicians. He still owns the DBA of the name and it has over the past 10 years become strictly a family affair. His wife, a former concert violinist, plays bass, and their eldest son Deven plays guitar. He is also the director of worship music at Calvary Chapel San Diego's Schools in Chula Vista, California. Their younger son Joel is the drummer, and vocalist on Surfer Joe and other hit songs they perform. He currently leads worship at Calvary Chapel South County in San Juan Capistrano.

"For the current Wipe Out CD, we decided to write and record eight new original songs, plus new recordings of Wipe Out and Surfer Joe. The two classics are that not easy to find these days, so we rerecorded them for this CD," he explains.

Mr Berryhill says his vision and mission for the band is to bring families together.

"What I've noticed over the years as we have been doing surf music in a Christian ministry vein, is that people really want to hold their families together," he says. "Parents are looking for anything they can have in common with their sons and daughters. When we play a concert, the high school, junior high and elementary school kids love the music and the parents say, Gee, that's my music. It's simple, straight ahead, and alive. Our kids want to play music and I'd rather have them learn surf music than grunge, or hip hop or some of the other styles.

"What the beauty of this is, I have my two sons and my wife on stage with me. How many guys have the privilege of having their wife and their two sons play with them on stage? So basically, its a family ministry. Unfortunately, there are husbands who can't stand to have their wife and their kids in the same room together, let alone play in a band and write songs.

"God has brought our family together through music, through the Lord and through the power of Christ. His awesome love puts His covering over us and it enables us to stay together as a unit, and that's the center of our ministry, to be an example of God's love and desire to hold families together.

"We are still doing concerts and plan to continue as God empowers and leads."

He concludes by saying, "It has been my desire to build a foundation to help families, to encourage, uplift, and unify. This desire goes beyond playing concerts and benefits where families can attend together and share our joy with surf music. I have noticed for a number of years that people have been encouraged and strengthened with God's blessings through music, and it is my hope that playing The Surfaris' music will continue to grow and work to benefit and nurture the family unit."

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Dan Wooding is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the Assist News Service (ANS).