The best books about surfing

The Books I Picked & Why

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

By Susan Casey

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

Why this book?

At the heart of any surfing story is a wave: the perfect wave, the one you missed, the one that held you under. Casey’s story is about waves monstrous in both size and appetite. This is a masterfully written non-fiction book in which Casey manages to weave together science, research, and human stories. It is a gripping exploration of not only the rarified surfers who seek to ride the ocean’s titans but also the watery giants themselves. The waves in this book are breathtaking, life-taking, and a powerful reminder that the ocean is, “…a place where the unknown happens.”


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The Dawn Patrol

By Don Winslow

The Dawn Patrol

Why this book?

The Dawn Patrol is the first in Winslow’s Boone Daniels detective series. It has many hallmarks of a Winslow novel: a Southern California backdrop (San Diego), a host of morally ambiguous characters, a generally good guy trying to do what’s right, snappy writing, and surfing. This book also presents a surf culture we’ve come to recognize from television and movies, with a language, that while not universally shared by all surfers, is understood as the sport’s lingua franca—dude, gnarly, epic, wipeout. Where this book excels, however, is in capturing surfing’s dualistic nature as both a solitary pursuit and a place of a tight-knit community. Main character Boone Daniels is both the lone wolf and a member of a pack, one that can both have his back in the lineup and turn on him on dry land.


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Saltwater in the Blood: Surfing, Natural Cycles and the Sea's Power to Heal

By Easkey Britton

Saltwater in the Blood: Surfing, Natural Cycles and the Sea's Power to Heal

Why this book?

To look at what is written about surfing, it would seem that it’s a “man’s world.” Surfing, like other pursuits and professions, is one where women are often characterized as either anecdotal or exceptional. The truth is so much richer and complex that, as a woman who surfs, I almost don’t want to share our secrets. But Easkey Britton shares some of hers from years of competitive surfing around the world and from the fierce and sustaining waters she calls home on the west coast of Ireland. Britton has surfed waves and conditions that few among us have the desire to tackle. But in discussing all these places and all these conditions, she speaks eloquently about what can be gained through immersion in the ocean that gave birth to our human form and continues to abide by our human trespasses. 


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The Silence of the Wave

By Gianrico Carofiglio, Howard Curtis

The Silence of the Wave

Why this book?

Arguably, this is not a book about surfing. The Silence of the Wave is about an Italian undercover police officer dealing with trauma and guilt. But within this hardboiled story of crisis and the dark and ugly undercurrents of our modern world, Carofiglio beautifully illustrates the lasting impact surfing can have on a person’s life. Like first love, surfing may be in your past, but it is never forgotten and often takes on a mythic quality that at once can feel like a dream and also lead you back to your true self.


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Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea

By Jaimal Yogis

Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea

Why this book?

The surfing safari was immortalized in 1962 by the Beach Boys, and made legendary by Bruce Brown’s iconic 1966 film, Endless Summer. The search for great surf is a pillar of this literary genre. Whether harrowing, aggrandizing, escapist, or prize-winning, surf memoirs have a common theme: a quest. An empty beach, an epic swell, a perfect wave, an adventure, an escape. Surfers are always looking to the horizon—searching. What speaks to me in Yogis’s memoir is his explicit connection between the struggle toward Buddhist enlightenment and the teachings of the ocean, its waves, and surfing. With self-effacing humor and a conversational style, Jaimal Yogis, makes the worlds of both Zen Buddhism and surfing, approachable and human. Yogis, quoting Walt Whitman, reminds us: “Who need be afraid of the merge?” 


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