Good Vibes Come in Many Forms: Finding Your Surf Film Soundtrack

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How many sports can claim to pit you against mother nature? For many, surfing is nothing short of a spiritual undertaking: a communion with the sea herself at its most romantic, a fun time catching some sick waves at its least. It’s easy to soak in the good vibes of a great session in the moment, but it can be a bit more challenging to capture that experience on film.

We reached out to well-known surf merchant and surf film savant Steve Mara (that’s Ho Stevie! to you) to get some insight into what it takes to make surf videos that put the viewer right there on the wave with you. What he told us had little to do with fancy camera equipment and everything to do with adapting to those unique intangibles that every individual outing possesses. A good eye is definitely important here, but, according to Steve, a good ear is nothing short of invaluable.

All music is surf music

Steve put it concisely: “Music is everything”.  The question really isn’t whether or not your surf edit will benefit from music, it’s what kind of music will best suit your style as a surfer, videographer, and editor. With the nature of surfing being what it is, that answer can change as quickly as the tide itself. “Surfing, unlike other sports, changes everyday,” Steve says, “Every shoot is different… sometimes it’s a super foggy morning with limited visibility, sometimes it’s a beautiful pink sunset”. The mood of the footage that your music needs to match is just as mercurial. Luckily, you’re far from being limited to Dick Dale and the Beach Boys in 2020 – ‘surf music’ can be anything that makes your films pop. When it comes to preference, Steve says, “I don’t think there is a general ‘taste’ in the surf community. Everyone likes something different.” Let’s look at some of the different categories your surf videos might fall into, and the styles and genres that could fit best.

EDM for videos that are fast-paced, high-stakes, and energetic

Surfing isn’t always about catching huge waves and shredding until you’re exhausted; but, sometimes it is. For the times when you’ve struck gold with some great footage in perfect conditions, EDM is a great and adaptable choice to amp up the excitement of your video and make everyone watching it wish they were out on the water.

This video feels like it didn’t pull any punches on production, and yet anyone can get a drone that shoots amazing images these days, even on a budget. The sleek energy of the song really adds a huge boost to the overall feel of the video, and gives it that extra air of professionalism. Can’t afford Major Lazer’s licensing fees? We’ll talk about how to get an equal effect affordably in just a minute.

Punk Rock for videos that are gritty, unique and a little old school

Maybe striving for a prim and polished video isn’t your jam. If you’re someone who approaches surf filming with a down-and-dirty skate film mentality, a nice dose of punk could fit the attitude just right. You can always adjust toward the poles of more poppy vs. more hardcore to your liking, too. “Raw” is right in the name on this one. What’s interesting here is how something as simple as some anonymous heavy guitars manage to evoke that sense of a bygone era and set such a vivid tone.

Hip-hop for videos that are laid-back but still have some flair​

‘Rap’ and ‘surf’ aren’t necessarily words you’ll find in the same sentence all that often, but you’d be missing out if you never considered putting the two together. Hip-hop is one of the most diverse genres you could choose to accompany your surf videos, with anything from a lo-fi boombap beat to some clattering trap available as options. You can almost feel the sun on your face watching this one. The song adds such a relaxing element to the video, while still having that swaggered edge to compliment the pretty insane surfing that’s taking place.

Acoustic and Reggae for videos that are as chill as humanly possible

Nothing quite conjures up beach vibes like an acoustic guitar or a nice accent on the up beat. Steve made a great point about all this mood-matching we’re talking about when he said, “If you have big, fast, heavy waves, you don’t want light jazz in the background. And, if you’re making a video of longboarding on a 1-foot day, EDM with big drops isn’t going to be the right choice either”.On the calmest end of the spectrum, you can’t go wrong with some acoustic singer-songwriter or heavy-eyed reggae. A dark stormy day might seem like a bust for shooting some surf clips, but Steve managed to turn this one into a video that’s off-beat and interesting. That Reggae flip of Three Dog Night’s “One” does an amazing job of complementing the subdued, grayish feel of the setting while still keeping your foot tapping.

Jazz or Classical for videos that are stylized or a little experimental

You’re not going to find a ton of surf edits on YouTube set to Coltrane or Chopin, but that’s not to say some unexpected music won’t have a compelling effect to make your video really stand out. This clip has some amazing stylization going on, between the filmic look of the imagery and the wild jazzy instrumentation behind it. For those surfers more interested in exercising their creativity and producing something that feels more like art than an action reel, it’s worth considering diving into these sorts of genres.

All the wavy music for all your wave-y videos

Ultimately, Steve’s advice for a surf cinematographer at any stage of the game came down to this: “Create. A lot. Don’t try to perfect everything and then only put out one video a month”. A lot of surfing sure doesn’t sound too bad, but you’ll need a lot of music to accompany that footage. It’s tempting to just pull some of your favorite tunes off of SoundCloud or YouTube, but that’s a good way to put your channel at risk, not to mention kissing the potential for being monetized goodbye. Regardless of which genres you want to have scoring your surf into the sunset, Jambox has it covered. A well-organized library with everything from sax trills to bass drops means that every vibe for any video is always at your fingertips, while an affordable subscription model means plenty of money left over for fish tacos. We love making kickass music for kickass creators, and we’d love to be a part of your adventures out on the water. Give us a try at Jambox, and feel free to hit us up any time with any questions you might have.

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