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Nearly six decades ago, a young guitarist who went by the name of Dick Dale began playing dance music at a Southern California seaside venue near Newport Beach that locals called Balboa. Dale's real name was Richard Anthony Monsour, and he and his family moved from New England to California after World War II. Dick graduated from Washington High School in Inglewood in 1954, moved to Orange County, learned to surf, and took up the guitar.

His influences included a new form of music being pioneered by an array of players ranging from Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley; the Arabic scales he learned from his Lebanese American father; a self-taught, rapid-fire picking style that Dale thought captured the rhythms of the Pacific Ocean waves; and amplifier technology he developed with Leo Fender as a way to be heard over the crowds that packed Balboa's Rendezvous Ballroom.

Among those who came to hear Dick Dale perform were Jimi Hendrix, who, like Dale, was left-handed (and sometimes played his guitar upside down), and three brothers -- Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson -- and their cousin Mike Love, who hailed from nearby Hawthorne.

Although Dennis was the only one of the Wilson boys who actually surfed, they named their new group the Beach Boys, and later, after they hit the big time, the band played homage to Dick Dale by covering his legendary 1958 tune, "Let's Go Trippin."

The first, and last, thing to keep in mind about surfing is how dangerous it is; how overmatched a human being on a lightweight board is against the vast strength of an ocean wave. The Beach Boys captured this in their lyrics ("When a 20-footer sneaks up like a ton of lead…" they sang), while Dick Dale sought to do it with his guitar.

"Surfing music is a sound that is copied from the power you get by surfing in the ocean," Dale once said. "It's a machine-gun staccato sound that doesn't break rhythm. Surf music is actually just the sound of the waves played on a guitar."

Years ago, legendary San Diego surfer Skip Frye returned the compliment. "Surfing to me is like playing music," he said. "You play different melodies with different boards."

Frye's passion eventually took a political twist. Bothered by the frequency with which her husband and his fellow surfers got sick from the sewage and pollutants in the Pacific Ocean, Skip's wife helped launch a STOP (Surfers Tired of Pollution). Donna Frye, herself a surfer, also got involved in local politics. Running as a reform candidate interested in open government and environmental protection, she served on the San Diego City Council and was nearly elected mayor.

In my view, we could use more surfers in politics. They are iconoclastic, to be sure; mavericks by temperament instead of given to political posturing; and unpredictable. But they are also egalitarian to the core.

The great Laird Hamilton put it this way: "We're all equal before a wave."

And that's our quote of the week.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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