Most of us have some extra time on our hands, and there is a finite number of times you can read the COVID-19 stats on your phone before you will start losing perspective. Plus, no reason why we can't generate a bit of escapism while we all wait to travel again. So we hunted down a few diverse books, surf and partially surf, that we think you will enjoy.
And sure, we could recommend you William Finnegan's excellent Barbarian Days, but you've probably read it so let's just leave it up here as a reference.
West Of Jesus by Steven Kotler
This is a strange but totally enthralling read about a man and his belief in surfing. Steven Kotler spent two years in bed with Lyme Disease and went through some unusual changes in thoughts and feelings.
Changes that he couldn't quite fathom. As part of his recovery, Steven set out on a journey of surfing around the world and discovering more about himself and the surfing universe than he thought possible. He found the nature of belief and why his thoughts on surfing were so overwhelming and encompassing.
It is a challenging read, and while a surfing book at heart, it is cerebral and takes quite a lot of effort to get through it. Having said that, it is gratifying, and it helps in some small way to teach us more about ourselves and the sport and pastime we love so much. You won't finish this one in a day, so it is worth a dive-in during these times of lockdown.
Stealing The Wave – the epic struggle between Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo by Andy Martin
This book is brilliant. Part adventure, part big wave fable and part tragedy, Martin's words encompass the journey of Mark Foo and Ken Bradshaw over the years.
Both relentlessly driven big wave surfers with vastly different agendas, it was inevitable they these two larger-than-life characters, both living in the relatively small neighbourhood of the North Shore of Oahu, would end up clashing, would end up as bitter rivals.
Their competitiveness made them both strive for more significant results, for bigger waves, and ultimately for more media coverage. They both loved the limelight. It took quite a long time for them to become begrudging friends, and when they finally decided to embrace each other for what they were, this very path of unity led to the untimely death of Foo.
There are some shocking truths in this book and some bits that are absolutely engrossing but hard to read. Some people still hold Bradshaw responsible for Foo’s death and refuse to forgive.
It's an exciting read, the big wave sections are riveting, and the character descriptions of the two surfers are spot-on and reveals the drive that some surfers have to make them want to surf giant waves.
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
This novel by the brilliant English writer Matt Haig is quite a strange inclusion to this list of great surf reads, but read on, and you'll find out why.
The story is about immortals or people who live for a very long time. Called 'alba's (albatrosses) they live for centuries, and the narrator of this book is about 400 years old.
That makes him old enough to have seen one of Shakespeare's plays, to have met F Scott Fitzgerald, and even have an encounter with Captain Cook. In stories that play with time and longevity, there are always pesky biotech innovators. This time they want to steal stem cells from the ‘albas’ to recreate longevity. There is also lost love. If you live forever, and your wife doesn't, it's not going to end well.
The book is lovely and full of descriptions of previous time and civilisations, and you read his words in wonder of the possibilities of it all.
As the book approaches the final quarter, a new hero emerges. His name is Omai, he is also an 'alba,' another person who is going to live forever.
The only difference is that this guy took his time to learn how to become a great surfer, one of the greatest surfers of all time. He is young (always), fit and handsome, and he wins contest forever and ever. The only thing is, people are starting to notice that he is not ageing. No one can be that good at surfing for so long, and not age at all. Who is the mysterious surfer who wins contests and doesn't age?
Haig gets the surfing right, he gets the terminology and excitement right, and the similarities to Slater – doesn't age, wins contests at will - are eerie as well as wryly funny, even if they are unintentional.
Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn
The original surf-noir novel, Tapping The Source, was published in 1984, long before mobile phones and social media, but it fails to lose value over the years and is a great book to return to in times of boredom and strife like now.
Set at Huntington Beach, it is at heart a surf story, but it involves hard parties, pornography and murder, and is a chilling tale of how the gonzo surf lifestyle can quickly lose it's glamour and charm when things start getting too heavy.
With a cast of stoned surfers, crazy Vietnam vets, drug dealers, surf gangs members and other wild people, this story has twists and turns and is a page-turner filled with all the delights of living the dream gone wrong.
Our hero Ike Turner is searching for his sister, who might have been murdered. His search goes nasty pretty quickly when he bumps into the wrong people who make money out of hurting other people and filming it. It might be porn, it might be snuff, but the people orchestrating the film shoots are the rough type who do not value human life.
Amongst it all, there is surfing, sex, and the beach lifestyle that we all dream of.
Surf Science by Tony Butt
Want to improve you knowledge about all things surf? MSW forecaster Tony Butt wrote the book on it and it is an excellent resource for expanding your knowledge about the hows and whys of surfing. It is the right blend of readability and stone cold facts that makes it so compelling and should be an important tool for any surfer's understanding of the ocean and her ways. No better time to brush up on the science of our most humble of sports than right now.