In Matt Warshaw's “The Encyclopaedia of Surfing”, he notes: "Surf music is divided into two categories: the pulsating, reverb-heavy, 'wet'- sounding instrumental form exemplified by guitarist Dick Dale, and the smooth-voiced, multitracked harmonized vocal style invented by the Beach Boys. Purists argue that surf music is by definition instrumental."
This second wave of surf music was led by the Beach Boys, a group whose main distinction between previous surf musicians was that they projected a world view. In 1964, the group's leader and principal songwriter, Brian Wilson, explained: "It wasn't a conscious thing to build our music around surfing. We just want to be identified with the interests of young kids." A year later, he would express: "I HATE so-called "surfin'" music. It’s a name that people slap on any sound from California. Our music is rightfully 'the Beach Boy sound'—if one has to label it."
Vocal surf can be interpreted as a regional variant of doo wop music, with tight harmonies on a song's chorus contrasted with scat singing. According to musicologist Timothy Cooley, "Like instrumental surf rock with its fondness for the twelve-bar blues form, the vocal version of Surf Music drew many key elements from African-American genres ... what made the Beach Boys unique was its ability to capture the nation's and indeed the world's imagination about the emerging New Surfing lifestyle now centered in Southern California, as well as the subtle songwriting style and production techniques that identify the Beach Boys' sound." In 1963, Murry Wilson, Brian's father who also acted as the Beach Boys' manager offered his definition of surf music: "The basis of surfing music is a rock and roll bass beat figuration, coupled with raunch-type weird-sounding lead guitar, an electric guitar, plus wailing saxes. Surfing music has to sound untrained with a certain rough flavor in order to appeal to teenagers. ... when the music gets too good, and too polished, it isn't considered the real thing."
In late 1961, the Beach Boys had their first chart hit, "Surfin'", which peaked at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by "Surfin' U.S.A." (1963) and "Surfer Girl" (1963) which reached the Top 10. In mid-1962, the group released their major-label debut, "Surfin' Safari". The song hit number 14 and helped launch the surf rock craze into a national phenomenon. Breitenstein writes that hot rod rock gained national popularity beginning in 1962 with the Beach Boys' "409", which is often credited with initiating the hot rod music craze, which lasted until 1965. Several key figures would lead the hot rod movement beside Wilson, including songwriter-producer-musician Gary Usher and songwriter-disc jockey Roger Christian.
Wilson then co-wrote "Surf City" (1963) for Jan and Dean, which spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Top 100 chart in July 1963. In the wake of the Beach Boys' success, many singles by new surfing and hot rod groups were produced by Los Angeles groups. Himes notes: "Most of these weren’t real groups; they were just a singer or two backed by the same floating pool of session musicians: often including Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine and Bruce Johnston. If a single happened to click, a group would be hastily assembled and sent out on tour. It was an odd blend of amateurism and professionalism." One-hit wonders included Bruce & Terry with "Summer Means Fun", the Rivieras with "California Sun", Ronny & the Daytonas with "G.T.O.", and the Rip Chords with "Hey Little Cobra", all from early 1964. The latter two hits both reached the top ten, but the only other act to achieve sustained success with the formula were Jan & Dean. Hot rod group the Fantastic Baggys wrote many songs for Jan and Dean and also performed a few vocals for the duo