Surf music: 7 surfers who strum (successfully)

surf music
Donavon Frankenreiter taking this surfer-musician thing to the next level. Photo: Courtesy of Billabong
While surfing and guitars have always gone together, very few top-notch surfers have made the grade as professional musicians. We look at seven pro surfers who have made surf music into more than just a hobby.

Donavon Frankenreiter

With a 20-plus-year career as a professional freesurfer running alongside that of a musician, no one has cross-pollinated surfing and music as successfully as Donavon Frankenreiter. Starting off in the band Sun Child, it is his solo act over the last 10 years that has put him on the musical map.

“I play at night and surf through the day,” Frankenreiter told GrindTV, “and please don’t ask me to choose between a guitar and a surfboard. I refuse to answer that question.”

Makua Rothman

<iframe width=”612″ height=”412″ src=”//” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> Thirty-one-year-old Rothman rates the recording of his debut album “Sound Cloud” as an achievement as big as riding the 66-foot wave that won him the Billabong XXL Biggest Wave award in 2004 as a 17-year-old. The Hawaiian big-wave rider has been playing his ukulele since he was 2 and has now turned his passion, prowess and songwriting skills into a successful music career. Check out his single “Lovely” above.

Jack Johnson

Heard of him? With six studio albums, sales over $15 million worldwide and a solid reputation at his home break of Pipeline, the world’s most dangerous wave, it’s easy to see why Jack Johnson has cornered the surfers-who-make-music market.

Tom Curren

<iframe width=”612″ height=”412″ src=”//” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> The three-time world champion surfer’s incredible musical talent was only fully exposed once the Californian retired from full-time competition in 1991. Since then Curren has toured the world professionally as a musician, his drumming, guitar playing and vocal talents producing three albums and countless sold-out shows.

Brad Gerlach

<iframe src=”//” width=”612″ height=”710″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” allowtransparency=”true”></iframe> The former world No. 1 surfer turned big-wave guru has always craved good times and attention in equal measures. Music, then, was a perfect outlet for both. Gerlach played in a range of bands after retiring from competition, but it wasn’t until 2011, when he joined California band Musket, that he started taking it seriously.

He is now doing solo gigs. “My grandpa’s urge to play, sing, write and perform is alive and strong in me,” Gerlach once wrote in a photo caption of a gig. It seems it runs in the family.

Kelly Slater

Freakily gifted at almost anything he puts his hand on, the 2-handicap golfer and quite-good surfer has been playing the guitar since his early teens. Slater formed a band called The Surfers in the 1990s and he has played alongside good friend Eddie Vedder many times.

“The man can handle himself on a big rock stage,” Vedder said in an interview with Outside, which is all there is to say, really. He also dropped a rather good single last September.

Alex Knost

Alex Knost
Alex Knost playing in Tomorrow’s Tulips. Photo: Courtesy of RVCA
The retro-styled pro surfer, surfboard shaper and artist from California also carved a music career with lo-fi surf slackers Japanese Motors and then with his girlfriend in the duo Tomorrow’s Tulips. Never one to trumpet his own technical musicianship, Knost still landed record deals and a cult following on the West Coast.

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