Surf originated in the late 50's by artists like Link Wray and the Ventures. But it was Dick Dale that made it is what it is today. He used a clean guitar tone with maximum reverb, tremelo riffs and heavy use of the whammy bar. His style included melodious guitar lines and incorporated elements from Middle Eastern and Mexican music. Sometimes a saxophone would carry the melody; an electric bass and drums made up the rhythm section.
The first true surf hit was his "Lets go Trippin'" from 1961 which became a regional hit in SoCal. Soon the trend became a national fad with both The Chantays and The Surfaris making the top 10 in 1963 with "Pipeline" and Wipe Out" respectively. Soon surf bands started popping up around the country in such as the quiet beachside communities of Boulder, Colorado (The Astronauts) Minneapolis, Minnestota (The Trashmen) Baltimore, Maryland (The Fender IV, featuring future Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden) and Sydney, Australia (The Atlantics). There was also a surf scene in Japan.
Surf rock began to decline in poularity in the mid-60's with the rise of the Beatles and other British invasion crap. But it never really died in the hearts of the true fans, and guys like Dick Dale managed to hold on in the Dark Ages.
More recently with the release of Pulp Fiction and the internets surf rock is experiencing something of a revival, much like psychobilly and kiddie thrash. Much like psychobilly and kiddie thrash there is some element of dressing up, but fortunately surf rock fashion isn't nearly as bad as those genres, mostly just Hawaiian shirts. The clean cut look has died along with shitting out a pop song with a singer.
Heres a list of some of my favorite current surf bands:
The Aqua Velvets
Man or Astro-Man?
One of the higher profile revival bands, they started off as fairly trad surf, but gradually became more abstract.
Not exactly a true surf rocker, he started out as a heavy metal shredder. He tried out for Ozzy in 88 but lost to Zakk Wylde. He did some solo type shred stuff in the 90's. In 2005 he released Monster Surf, a collection of hard rock covers of classic surf songs, pretty fuckin rad if you ask me, even if he is an Affliction tool now.
There are plenty of other good surf bands out there, just search myspace, youtube and bandcamp.
Unfortunately, the surf rock community has not figured out MediaFire and stuff like that, and there is almost nothing out there to download, and no surf mp3 blogs. Anyhoo, here's The Secret Samurai's first album, Gun Sho Gun:
Metal and surf rarely come into contact, but it does happen. Examples: the aforementioned Gary Hoey, Satch's Surfing With the Alien (not metal, but close enough), the intro to "Craving Illness" by Deceased and Agalloch's "Our Fortress is Burning... I" sounds pretty surftastic to me.