The best surfing books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about surfing and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Voyage of the Cormorant

By Christian Beamish, Ken Perkins (illustrator),

Book cover of The Voyage of the Cormorant: A Memoir of the Changeable Sea

Building your own sailboat from scratch, then sailing it from California down to Baja, camping, and surfing along the way: how can that not be a cool story? Christian Beamish manages the perfect blend of introspection and backstory with descriptions of sea, sky, land, and the people he meets along the way.


Who am I?

As an avid trail-runner and mountain-biker who’s done a ton of outdoorsy things, from sailboat racing on the Chesapeake Bay to rockclimbing to backpacking in the Pacific Northwest, I’m convinced that nothing gets you closer to someone’s experience than a well-told first-person account. The best personal narratives make you feel the cold, glow with the exhilaration, and burn with ambition to go, to do, to see for yourself — and can even make you look at the world, and yourself, in a new way. These books, different as they are, have all done those things for me.


I wrote...

A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali: America's Wildest Peak

By Patrick Dean,

Book cover of A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali: America's Wildest Peak

What is my book about?

In A Window to Heaven, Patrick Dean brings to life this heart-pounding and spellbinding feat of this first ascent and paints a rich portrait of the frontier at the turn of the twentieth century. The story of Stuck and his team will lead us through the Texas frontier and Tennessee mountains to an encounter with Jack London at the peak of the Yukon Goldrush. We experience Stuck's awe at the rich Inuit and Athabascan indigenous traditions—and his efforts to help preserve these ways of life.

Filled with daring exploration and rich history, A Window to Heaven is a brilliant and spellbinding narrative of success against the odds.

The Wave

By Susan Casey,

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

A non-fiction deep dive into the power of the ocean and those obsessed with riding the largest waves.

This is a wide-ranging book; exploring a history of wave destruction, some detail on the science of waves; in particular why it is so difficult to predict when freak waves will occur, before giving us a more human story of the big wave riders who constantly push the boundaries of what we think a surfer can do.


Who am I?

I romantically believe that the sea runs in my blood. On the Norwegian side of my family, my grandfather was a boat builder, and my uncle a whaler. I’m a surfer, and I’ve worked in whale and dolphins conservation for many years. So I’m drawn to the ocean and – as work and family duties keep me inland more than I’d like – when unable to get in or on the water, I get my fix with salty tales; some of which I read and some of which I write. The books on this list are all classics, in my view; they all speak to the enigma of the ocean; an ever-changing scape, full of alien life. I hope you enjoy them, and also Girl. Boy. Sea.


I wrote...

Girl. Boy. Sea.

By Chris Vick,

Book cover of Girl. Boy. Sea.

What is my book about?

A British boy narrowly survives the sinking of his yacht in a huge storm off the coast of Morocco. After days alone at sea in a tiny rowing boat Bill rescues a girl clinging for her life to a barrel. Aya, from the nomadic Berber tribe, was escaping to Europe when her migrant ship was destroyed in the same storm. Aya tells Bill about The Arabian Nights, and Shahrazad, who told 1001 stories to save her life. As hope of rescue begins to fade, they find strength in these tales of magic, brave heroes, and courageous girls.

When they land on a desert island, they're surprised to be confronted by a stranger who is not what he seems... and back out on the waves once more in the dark deep, a shadow follows...

Saltwater in the Blood

By Easkey Britton,

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

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. 


Who am I?

The moment I rode my first wave 25 years ago, I fell in love with the raw energy of that swell that traveled all the way across the ocean to share the last bit of its journey with me. My love of surfing became an all-consuming passion. I abandoned graduate school and reorganized my life to spend every possible minute in the water. Hours a day, I sit on my board, watching the horizon for the next wave, anticipating that sublime connection, when wind and water unite with my breath and blood. Out of the water, I seek a similar kind of transcendence in the stories I write. 


I wrote...

The Song of All: The Legacy of the Heavens Book 1

By Tina LeCount Myers,

Book cover of The Song of All: The Legacy of the Heavens Book 1

What is my book about?

On the forbidding fringes of the tundra, where years are marked by seasons of snow, humans war with immortals in the name of their shared gods. Irjan, a ruthless human warrior, is a legend among the Brethren of Hunters. But even legends grow tired and disillusioned. Scarred and weary of bloodshed, Irjan turns his back on his oath and his calling to seek a peaceful life as a farmer, husband, and father. When his bloody past is revealed, Irjan’s present unravels as he faces an ultimatum: return to hunt the immortals or lose his child.

With his son’s life hanging in the balance, Irjan enters the world of the immortals, seeking not death, but the magic of life.

Saltwater Buddha

By Jaimal Yogis,

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

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?” 


Who am I?

The moment I rode my first wave 25 years ago, I fell in love with the raw energy of that swell that traveled all the way across the ocean to share the last bit of its journey with me. My love of surfing became an all-consuming passion. I abandoned graduate school and reorganized my life to spend every possible minute in the water. Hours a day, I sit on my board, watching the horizon for the next wave, anticipating that sublime connection, when wind and water unite with my breath and blood. Out of the water, I seek a similar kind of transcendence in the stories I write. 


I wrote...

The Song of All: The Legacy of the Heavens Book 1

By Tina LeCount Myers,

Book cover of The Song of All: The Legacy of the Heavens Book 1

What is my book about?

On the forbidding fringes of the tundra, where years are marked by seasons of snow, humans war with immortals in the name of their shared gods. Irjan, a ruthless human warrior, is a legend among the Brethren of Hunters. But even legends grow tired and disillusioned. Scarred and weary of bloodshed, Irjan turns his back on his oath and his calling to seek a peaceful life as a farmer, husband, and father. When his bloody past is revealed, Irjan’s present unravels as he faces an ultimatum: return to hunt the immortals or lose his child.

With his son’s life hanging in the balance, Irjan enters the world of the immortals, seeking not death, but the magic of life.

Barbarian Days

By William Finnegan,

Book cover of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Another piece of biography, this time by a man who has taken on most of the world’s best waves. A man who has consistently surfed at breaks whose size and nature require complete commitment. Very few of the people that can do this can also write as well as Finnegan (the book won a Pulitzer), and the descriptions he brings back from the wave face ring with a sonorous truth. He captures the moment and the people beautifully, growing up in the 60s in LA and Hawaii, travelling cheap and light looking for waves in the 70s and 80s. If you surf, it will inspire you to get back out there, if you don’t it will inspire you to try it. Or put you off the idea for life.  


Who am I?

I started climbing and running around the hills in my teens, got into boats, became a professional sailor for twenty years, then took up surfing at thirty and snowboarding at forty. There’s something special about playing with gravity, whether it’s sliding down hills or waves, or defying it on a mountain face. All these books capture the thrill and the dangers.


I wrote...

Powder Burn

By Mark Chisnell,

Book cover of Powder Burn

What is my book about?

Sam had given up her Manhattan job and flown off to chase her dream of becoming an investigative journalist. Three months later, alone in a soulless internet café, she’s facing some cold, hard facts; she’s unpublished, unhappy, and broke. And right then, the gorgeous Pete Halland blows into her life – headed for the mythical Powder Burn mountain to write history and blast into legend. 

If she throws in her lot with Pete it could rescue her dreams, but he’s holding back some crucial information – the question for Sam is... what? Soon, Sam is up to her neck in snow and the weather is the least of her problems; lost in a secretive Himalayan kingdom with – what could be – a magic sword and a simmering and potentially bloody revolution.

The Dogs of Winter

By Kem Nunn,

Book cover of The Dogs of Winter

I discovered this book when I had just started surfing, and it blew me away – so there could be great fiction about extreme sports! I loved the grittiness, the foreboding noir feel, and the unusual setting. It was part of the inspiration for Powder Burn, although they are very different books.


Who am I?

I started climbing and running around the hills in my teens, got into boats, became a professional sailor for twenty years, then took up surfing at thirty and snowboarding at forty. There’s something special about playing with gravity, whether it’s sliding down hills or waves, or defying it on a mountain face. All these books capture the thrill and the dangers.


I wrote...

Powder Burn

By Mark Chisnell,

Book cover of Powder Burn

What is my book about?

Sam had given up her Manhattan job and flown off to chase her dream of becoming an investigative journalist. Three months later, alone in a soulless internet café, she’s facing some cold, hard facts; she’s unpublished, unhappy, and broke. And right then, the gorgeous Pete Halland blows into her life – headed for the mythical Powder Burn mountain to write history and blast into legend. 

If she throws in her lot with Pete it could rescue her dreams, but he’s holding back some crucial information – the question for Sam is... what? Soon, Sam is up to her neck in snow and the weather is the least of her problems; lost in a secretive Himalayan kingdom with – what could be – a magic sword and a simmering and potentially bloody revolution.

Second Star

By Alyssa B. Sheinmel,

Book cover of Second Star

Peter Pan has always been a bit of a dark story, I remember as a child being quite concerned about how easy it was to kill Tinkerbell and why Peter needed his shadow stitched back on! Second Star is a modern but dark retelling of this children’s fable, set in sunny California and amongst the surfing community, we follow a 17-year-old Wendy as she searches for her missing brothers. Stepping into a dark world, she finds herself drawn to the Cove’s enigmatic leader Pete but she is also pulled towards his dangerous and drug-dealing nemesis, Jas. This novel shows how a classic can be used as inspiration but the author is still able to make the story their own and I always enjoy reading that.


Who am I?

I have a real love of classic fiction and my first novel The Pretender is a modern-day adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. I discovered this story as a child when a relative gave me a copy to read on the journey home from Scotland. While aspects of the story are frequently copied, the essence of the original novel felt forgotten. It’s such a beautiful story with many of the themes still relevant today that I decided to adapt it so a modern audience could rediscover and fall in love with it all over again. As an author, I draw a lot of inspiration from the classics.


I wrote...

The Pretender

By Katie Ward,

Book cover of The Pretender

What is my book about?

Life for Princess Isabella is far from a dream, trapped by tradition, protocol and the stifling burden of inheriting the crown, she longs to escape her shackles. After fleeing her abusive home, Sophia and Isabella meet at the palace gates. Realising how alike they look, they plan to switch places for one week. What could possibly go wrong? What starts out as a naïve plan to follow their dreams soon takes an unexpected turn with events quickly spiralling out of control. As the nightmare continues around them, it’s a race against time to stem the devastating consequences of their actions.

The Silence of the Wave

By Gianrico Carofiglio, Howard Curtis (translator),

Book cover of The Silence of the Wave

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.


Who am I?

The moment I rode my first wave 25 years ago, I fell in love with the raw energy of that swell that traveled all the way across the ocean to share the last bit of its journey with me. My love of surfing became an all-consuming passion. I abandoned graduate school and reorganized my life to spend every possible minute in the water. Hours a day, I sit on my board, watching the horizon for the next wave, anticipating that sublime connection, when wind and water unite with my breath and blood. Out of the water, I seek a similar kind of transcendence in the stories I write. 


I wrote...

The Song of All: The Legacy of the Heavens Book 1

By Tina LeCount Myers,

Book cover of The Song of All: The Legacy of the Heavens Book 1

What is my book about?

On the forbidding fringes of the tundra, where years are marked by seasons of snow, humans war with immortals in the name of their shared gods. Irjan, a ruthless human warrior, is a legend among the Brethren of Hunters. But even legends grow tired and disillusioned. Scarred and weary of bloodshed, Irjan turns his back on his oath and his calling to seek a peaceful life as a farmer, husband, and father. When his bloody past is revealed, Irjan’s present unravels as he faces an ultimatum: return to hunt the immortals or lose his child.

With his son’s life hanging in the balance, Irjan enters the world of the immortals, seeking not death, but the magic of life.

Walking on Water

By Andy Martin,

Book cover of Walking on Water

I loved the book because the author’s love for the sport comes across so plainly. The stories from the spiritual home of surfing, Oahu’s North Shore, are wonderful. It’s an essential text for anyone getting into the sport, capturing its soul better than anything else I have read.


Who am I?

I started climbing and running around the hills in my teens, got into boats, became a professional sailor for twenty years, then took up surfing at thirty and snowboarding at forty. There’s something special about playing with gravity, whether it’s sliding down hills or waves, or defying it on a mountain face. All these books capture the thrill and the dangers.


I wrote...

Powder Burn

By Mark Chisnell,

Book cover of Powder Burn

What is my book about?

Sam had given up her Manhattan job and flown off to chase her dream of becoming an investigative journalist. Three months later, alone in a soulless internet café, she’s facing some cold, hard facts; she’s unpublished, unhappy, and broke. And right then, the gorgeous Pete Halland blows into her life – headed for the mythical Powder Burn mountain to write history and blast into legend. 

If she throws in her lot with Pete it could rescue her dreams, but he’s holding back some crucial information – the question for Sam is... what? Soon, Sam is up to her neck in snow and the weather is the least of her problems; lost in a secretive Himalayan kingdom with – what could be – a magic sword and a simmering and potentially bloody revolution.

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

By Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy (translator),

Book cover of An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good

Maud is a riot – she’s not had the easiest of lives and she is determined to enjoy her later years. If anyone gets in her way or does something to upset her, she has no hesitation in bumping them off – whether on the spur of the moment or with detailed planning. Like me, she loves to travel, and she is a dab hand with the internet. Unlike most crime books, her story is told in short stories rather than as a novel, each perfectly formed, unexpected, and guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. 


Who am I?

I was eleven years old when my father introduced me to my first Agatha Christie mystery, and I’ve never looked back. When the time came to write a crime novel of my own, I knew that I wanted it to be set in Beverley, but I didn’t expect my plot to lead me to write about a pensioner. Perhaps it’s not surprising – older people have a vast knowledge of the world which can only make them more interesting as central characters in fiction. It has inspired me to seek out more books with a pensioner/crime theme – I hope you enjoy the ones on this list!


I wrote...

The Botanist

By Anne Wedgwood,

Book cover of The Botanist

What is my book about?

Retired doctor Lilian Templeton has a dead body in her garden and there is nothing she can do to stop the gas men digging it up. DI Ronnie Twist and her sergeant, Luke Carter, are not fooled by Lilian’s apparent innocence, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as Lilian seeks to hide her murderous past and avoid detection.

What led Lilian to kill? How many murders has she committed? And will she get away with it? Set in the East Yorkshire market town of Beverley, this is the first in the Twist in the Tale series.

Or, view all 16 books about surfing

New book lists related to surfing

All book lists related to surfing

Bookshelves related to surfing