“Catching A Wave” on Magik Sunrise

Steve Maii, the composer of the classic “Catching A Wave”, shares the inspiration and history behind the song, which was recently released on a compilation called Magik Sunrise by UK duo Psychemagik.

Steve &Teresa "Catching A Wave"

Forgive me, but although I grew up on Oahu I haven’t quite learned how to surf yet. Skateboarding, yes, but surfing is a sport I still need to try.

Regardless, I still get shivers every time I listen to “Catching A Wave” by Steve and Teresa. That song, recorded and released on their eponymous debut LP in 1983, perfectly captures the essence of the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing.

Don’t believe me? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t trust a guy who has yet to catch a wave.

Instead, I’ll let Steve Maii tell you all about “Catching A Wave”. The following description comes from the liner notes of a recently released double LP/CD called Magik Sunrise, a compilation of rare and ethereal music selected by the UK duo Psychemagik. You can still pick up a copy of the Magik Sunrise CD here. The vinyl is sold out.

Psychemagik's Magik Sunrise compilation, released on Leng Records.

Psychemagik’s Magik Sunrise compilation, released on Leng Records.

“I was playing a gig at a hotel in Hanalei Bay, Kauai, 1978. I just got back from a surf session in Hanalei Bay, it was such a nice day, a nice session. Anytime you go surf on a day like that, especially at Hanalei Bay, it’s special.

After that surf session I came back and there was a melody in my head, the chorus. A progressive melody line, “island tradewinds blow, I know where I’m goin”. I wrote the song that day in the hotel.

If you surf, you probably can get more out of it. I don’t know about if you’re from England [laughs]. But I was trying to catch the essence of surfing, the freedom of the feeling, it’s universal. “Doing a dance” is all the maneuvers on the surfboard. I always had this feeling of the ocean being a mother.

Every wave that you catch is always unique. There’s going to be a million waves that you catch, and it’s never going to be the same. You’ll do different maneuvers every time.

“Following an ancient race” is following the Hawaiians who invented surfing a long time ago. Surfing was a king’s sport for the Hawaiians.

It was recorded at Rick Keefer‘s studio. Rick saw us at Pat’s in Punalu‘u. Rick was from Seattle, I think, and he recently finished Heart’s third album and just moved to Hau‘ula with his recording studio, Sea-West.

Rick pushed us to record and within a few days we were at his studio. We did the whole album in three hours. It was all live—acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, and us singing. We did two takes for the song “Catching A Wave”, we knew it so well cause we had already been playing it for a long time.

I wanted to keep the song Hawaiian, too, but it’s also jazzy. I don’t know what genre it is. A little bit bossa nova? The chord changes were emotional, moving. We used open chords to try to get a bigger sound.”

— Steve Maii, November 2012

Read my original post about “Catching A Wave”

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