Surf music: 7 surfers who strum (successfully)

Please don’t ask me to choose between a guitar and a surfboard'


Surf music: Donavon Frankenreiter taking this surfer musician thing to the next level. Photo 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 their music into more than just a hobby.


Donavon Frankenreiter
With a 20-year career as a professional freesurfer running alongside that of a musician, no one has cross-pollinated surfing and music as successfully as Donavon. 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
The 29-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 new single “Lovely” above.

Jack Johnson
Heard of him? With five 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
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 he has toured the world professionally as a musician, his drumming, guitar playing, and vocal talents producing four albums and countless sold-out shows.

Brad Gerlach
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 wrote in a photo caption of a recent gig. It seems it runs in the family.


Kelly Slater
Freakily gifted at almost anything he puts his hand on, the two 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 magazine, which is all there is to say, really.

Surf music: Alex playing in Tomorrow’s Tulips. Photo RVCA

Alex Knost
The retro-styled pro surfer, surfboard shaper, and artist from California also carved a music career with low-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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