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Day of the dolphins

Insect Surfers out to save the vaquita with surf-rocking shark guitars

Friends of the vaquita? Insect Surfers shred blue, shark-shaped guitars.
Friends of the vaquita? Insect Surfers shred blue, shark-shaped guitars.

“Vaquita? Tastes like chicken,” quips Insect Surfers founder David Arnson, who studied marine biology before forming “Planet earth’s longest-running modern surf band” in Washington, D.C.’s mid-’70s alternative-rock scene. After we reconnect at a private Surfers/Sand Devils performance, I catch up with the Los Angeles–based (since the ’80s) guitarist on the phone.

Do you surf?

Video:

"Vaquita"

...by the Insect Surfers

...by the Insect Surfers

“I did more in my East Coast days, especially Carolina’s ‘Outer Banks.’ I had to shift to body boarding after crushing a toe a few years ago.”

What’s with the ‘longest-running modern’ part of your band’s subtitle?

“We use the word ‘modern’ to set us apart from ’60s originators, like the Belairs, Dick Dale, the Surfaris. No other band has gone from 1979 to present. Two of So. Cal’s pioneering, early-’80s surf revivers, the Surf Raiders and Jon and the Nightriders, broke up decades ago.”

The Insect Surfers’ first San Diego booking in a decade transpired when Arnson called Save the Vaquita Day founder and marine-mammal biologist Tom Jefferson to volunteer the band’s services.

“We make dolphin and seagull sounds with our guitars on our song ‘Vaquita.’ Being aware of the porpoise’s plight, I sought out VivaVaquita years ago, to see how we could help. We’ve been playing the song ever since.”

Past Event

International Save the Vaquita Day

  • Saturday, July 9, 2016, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Seaport Village, 849 West Harbor Drive, San Diego
  • Free

Despite Insect Surfers’ clear marine love (Arnson and guitarist Marty Tippens often shred limited edition blue, shark-shaped guitars), I’m trying to find a nice way to ask: When it comes to Surf, how many people know or care whether a surf band is more (or less) modern?

“Surf, as a genre, tends to be overlooked — possibly because it doesn’t currently have an identifiable look or fashion — unlike, say, Rockabilly. Quentin Tarantino gave the form a massive shot in the arm with the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, especially Dick Dale’s ‘Misirlou’ in the opening credits. Surf doesn’t really have an identifiable demographic.

Insect Surfers play Save the Vaquita Day, which is July 9 at Seaport Village.

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Friends of the vaquita? Insect Surfers shred blue, shark-shaped guitars.
Friends of the vaquita? Insect Surfers shred blue, shark-shaped guitars.

“Vaquita? Tastes like chicken,” quips Insect Surfers founder David Arnson, who studied marine biology before forming “Planet earth’s longest-running modern surf band” in Washington, D.C.’s mid-’70s alternative-rock scene. After we reconnect at a private Surfers/Sand Devils performance, I catch up with the Los Angeles–based (since the ’80s) guitarist on the phone.

Do you surf?

Video:

"Vaquita"

...by the Insect Surfers

...by the Insect Surfers

“I did more in my East Coast days, especially Carolina’s ‘Outer Banks.’ I had to shift to body boarding after crushing a toe a few years ago.”

What’s with the ‘longest-running modern’ part of your band’s subtitle?

“We use the word ‘modern’ to set us apart from ’60s originators, like the Belairs, Dick Dale, the Surfaris. No other band has gone from 1979 to present. Two of So. Cal’s pioneering, early-’80s surf revivers, the Surf Raiders and Jon and the Nightriders, broke up decades ago.”

The Insect Surfers’ first San Diego booking in a decade transpired when Arnson called Save the Vaquita Day founder and marine-mammal biologist Tom Jefferson to volunteer the band’s services.

“We make dolphin and seagull sounds with our guitars on our song ‘Vaquita.’ Being aware of the porpoise’s plight, I sought out VivaVaquita years ago, to see how we could help. We’ve been playing the song ever since.”

Past Event

International Save the Vaquita Day

  • Saturday, July 9, 2016, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Seaport Village, 849 West Harbor Drive, San Diego
  • Free

Despite Insect Surfers’ clear marine love (Arnson and guitarist Marty Tippens often shred limited edition blue, shark-shaped guitars), I’m trying to find a nice way to ask: When it comes to Surf, how many people know or care whether a surf band is more (or less) modern?

“Surf, as a genre, tends to be overlooked — possibly because it doesn’t currently have an identifiable look or fashion — unlike, say, Rockabilly. Quentin Tarantino gave the form a massive shot in the arm with the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, especially Dick Dale’s ‘Misirlou’ in the opening credits. Surf doesn’t really have an identifiable demographic.

Insect Surfers play Save the Vaquita Day, which is July 9 at Seaport Village.

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