The Wave: In Pursuit of the Oceans' Greatest Furies by Susan Casey

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The Wave: In Pursuit of the Oceans' Greatest Furies by Susan Casey

Category: Sport
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw
Reviewed by Chris Bradshaw
Summary: If you've ever wondered what makes people risk life and limb in search of the perfect wave then Susan Casey will enlighten you in this thrilling look at big wave surfing.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099531760

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They're powerful enough to capsize unsinkable ships, wrench oil rigs from their moorings and can destroy vast swathes of coastal regions, flattening everything in their path and killing thousands of people in the process. So what is it that makes some men, and it is mostly men, go in search of these oceanic monsters? That is what Susan Casey tries to find out in this engaging, often awe inspiring and sometimes terrifying look at the world of big wave surfing.

The focus of The Wave, other than the ocean itself which makes a pretty compelling case to be the star of this and any other water centred book, is Laird Hamilton, a man who has devoted his life to the pursuit of the perfect break. From Hawaii to Mexico, South Africa to Tahiti, Casey follows Hamilton and a small band of big wave junkies scouring the seas for the supreme swell.

Thanks to jet skis, surfers can now attempt to ride waves considered impossible just a decade ago. Bigger waves waves have turned surfing into big business ($7.5billion by some estimates) complete with multi-million dollar sponsorship contracts, wave riding contests and even an Oscars style awards ceremony. That Hamilton has turned his back on the undoubted riches he could make if he joined the surf circus makes his feats all the more impressive. He surfs because he loves it, not because he's out for a fast buck. The pure surfer doesn't have to tangle with Schrodinger's Wave. “Like the proverbial tree falling down in a forest, if you ripped down a 100-foot wave and there was nobody to take a picture did you really surf it?”. The knowledge that you did it is satisfaction enough.

This purity of purpose shines through and Casey provides some real insight into the desires of the big wave surfer. Despite the dangers of death, and that danger is ever present, even in surf that doesn't seem especially dangerous, Hamilton and co make jumping down an 80ft wave seem seem perfectly natural.

Dotted amongst the jaw dropping accounts of the big wave surfers are a number of chapters that look at the science of the wave. These accounts make a nice change of pace from the adrenaline fuelled antics of the surf junkies even if the interviews with the climate scientists and salvage experts are as terrifying as anything the surfers can throw up.

Nobody can precisely predict just what will happen to sea levels or to the frequency and height of rogue waves in the future. What is certain though is the impact that a single massive wave can have, as illustrated by the the destruction of Alaska in 1964 (the book was written before the recent Japanese earthquake). Perhaps most frightening is the fact that nine of the world's ten largest cities are located on low lying land.

Anyone picking up The Wave and hoping for a comprehensive scientific examination of waves will be disappointed. The Wave is basically a surf book with some interesting meteorological background thrown in and a very enjoyable one at that.

The last word should go to Casey herself who sums the thrill of the wave up rather nicely. “Inside the barrel, a place that surfers regard with reverence, light and water and motion add up to something transcendent. It's an exquisite sensation of all things mundane, in which nothing matters but living in that particular instant. Some people spend 30 years meditating to capture this feeling. Others ingest psychedelic drugs. For big wave surfers, a brief ride on a mountain of water does the trick.”

Quite.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Breath by Tim Winton

Buy The Wave: In Pursuit of the Oceans' Greatest Furies by Susan Casey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wave: In Pursuit of the Oceans' Greatest Furies by Susan Casey at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Wave: In Pursuit of the Oceans' Greatest Furies by Susan Casey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wave: In Pursuit of the Oceans' Greatest Furies by Susan Casey at Amazon.com.


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