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'Surfin' USA'? Not for Beach Boy Brian Wilson: 'I Tried Once and Got Conked on the Head'

 

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson may have created some of the planet’s most enduring songs about surfing, but as a kid growing up in Southern California, Wilson was “scared” of the ocean, he reveals in his new autobiography I Am Brian Wilson.

“You wouldn’t think this,” Wilson, 74, writes, “but I almost never went to the beach as a kid, even though it was only a few miles away.”

Wilson, widely regarded as one of pop music’s most creative and innovative artists, formed the Beach Boys with his brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson, along with their cousin Mike Love and high school pal Al Jardine in 1962. Their songs, which were synonymous with sunshine, surfing and endless summer, have sold more than 100 million records.

Wilson’s new book, released Oct. 11, chronicles his battles with drug abuse, mental illness and his difficult childhood.

In it, he confesses that he wasn’t a big fan of the Pacific Ocean – despite the fact that it inspired so many of the group’s hit songs.

“The first time I went to the ocean I couldn’t believe it,” Wilson writes. “My dad took us and I was scared at the size of it.”

Later excursions to the coast, which was located roughly eight miles from the Wilson family home, were hardly idyllic, according to the book. “I had light skin that burned easily and I didn’t like squinting against the sun for hours,” Wilson notes.

And although he is remembered for such hits as “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfin’ Safari” and “Catch A Wave,” Wilson admits that he only tried surfing on one occasion – and it didn’t go very well.

“I tried once,” he writes, “and got conked on the head with the board.”

Yet despite his early misgivings about the ocean, Wilson admits that he found musical inspiration whenever he stared out at the surf.

“I liked to look at it, though,” he writes. “It was sort of like a piece of music: each of the waves was moving around by itself, but they were also moving together.”