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HOW SURFING INSPIRES ROB MEHL’S MUSIC

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Rob Mehl
Having time with Rob Mehl is a gift. Having him in your home is a treasure and we recently experienced that when Rob came to perform a House Concert in Port Aransas, Texas. There was no way I could allow this marvelous, tropical story teller to be in our house and not talk about one of his great life passions: surfing.

If you have spent much time listening to Rob, you know much of his adolescence was spent in Hawaii. His dad was military and the family was stationed there for several years. Rob’s passion for surfing goes beyond the board and the waves. He learned a great deal of wisdom from the “beach boys,” which were the Hawaiians who congregated in areas on the Waikiki beach, when not out catching the waves. He spent time telling me about how this lifestyle has affected his music.

Rob’s catch word was “freedom.” His early surfing days included no job, no money and no responsibilities. “Those were the days,” he reminisced. “When you’re that free, connection with words and music just happens. Many times, we’re not attached to our (surf)boards and being in the waves is such freedom.”

When I asked if any legendary surfers were influences on him and him music, he was quick to recount those names. There was Skip Fry, a well-known surfboard maker, who could look at the clouds while being inland and tell what the waves were like miles away. Steve Walden, another “surfboard shaper” figured in, as well as Larry Gordon (of Gordon and Smith Surfboards), Bill Castor and Jerry Lopez. Rob also met “Wingnut” of Endless Summer II fame and surfed with him. From these athletes and Hawaiian beach boys, he learned a great deal about respect and character. Character has inspired him to write –  quality of behavior and discipline goes hand in hand with his songwriting.

Many catch phrases in Rob’s song lyrics have been surf-inspired, such as “invisible intersection,” defined as where the sky meets the water as seen from atop a surfboard. An area named Swamy’s is “where the dolphins play” and you’ve heard those lyrics if you’ve listened to his Out of the Blue album. Many times, Rob has been out on a surfboard and starts singing an idea that comes to him. The ideas intrigue him, then begin to grow. “Subconsciously the words will fall out like leaving a trail,” he recalled. “The musical and lyrical elements can fit together without thinking about it.”

Rob has written several new songs and unveiled a couple of them at the House Concert. They were accepted enthusiastically by the listening audience there and Rob hopes to start a new CD project soon. The next time you hear Rob Mehl in person, remember that he sings not only from the heart, but with character and freedom inspired by all those many waves he has surfed through the years.

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Tara Cohen

Saturday 14th of July 2018

Thanks for sharing Rob with us! A adore him and love to read your articles, double bonus!

Scotty Lee Shuffield

Wednesday 11th of July 2018

Cindy - I have always been a fan of yours and love the way you capture the essence of so many artists…I have also been a fan of Rob Mehl for many years. You are so "spot-on" when you talk about his connection with surfing and it's influence on his tunes. I grew up surfing on the Texas Gulf Coast (Galveston to South Padre) back in the infancy of the sport on the Gulf Coast; and over the years, I have surfed the East and West Coasts as well as Hawaii. Rob reminds me a lot of one of my Southern California neighbors (back in the 90's), who was a high school teacher and sponsored/mentored the school's Surf Club. They would meet each morning as the day began to dawn and surf until time to hit their first classes. If this guy could've put into song the adventures and stories of his life in the water, it would be much like Rob's, I'm certain. I didn't take up my own song writing adventure until a few years after this neighbor and I had parted company, but I sometimes wish he and I could "collaborate" on some tunes these days… I think it could be magical. Keep up the good work!

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