Monday, 23 April 2012


Books about surfing are a small but burgeoning genre, originally consisting of mainly instructional and location guides, it has now expanded to include autobiographies, fiction, historical record and even encyclopedia. I love to read and really love reading about surfing, here are the current Top 10 surf books from my little surf library.

1. MP, The life of Michael Peterson by Sean Doherty


MP recently passed and was honoured around the world, nowhere more so than in Australia, where he has long been regarded as a surfing legend. Former Tracks editor and proud Australian, Sean Doherty used his trusted access to friends and family of MP, along with many interviews with the man himself to produce a detailed and cohesive account of MP's life. Pulling no punches he describes Peterson's dazzling superiority in the famed Gold Coast breaks of Kirra and Snapper, but doesn't gloss over some of his less exemplary behaviour either. Good writing is always easy to read and this biography flows free and easy to reveal the man behind the legend. Easily a contender for best surf book.

2. Eddie would go by Stuart Holmes Coleman

Eddie would go.

The story of Eddie Aikau is a richly coloured account not only of the Aikau family, but of a time when Hawaiian surfers were being forced to adjust to the worldwide commercial interest being focused on the North Shore. Recognised for his cool command of the huge waves at Waimea, and also for his aloha spirit, this book tells the tale of Eddie’s rise through the pro surfing ranks and his ultimate sacrifice and the subsequent coining of the legendary phrase - Eddie would go. A great read if you’re interested in Hawaiian surf history as well as being a vibrant biography of an enduringly soulful character.

3. All for a few perfect waves by David Rensin

All for a few perfect waves.

Mickey Dora is surely regarded as the ultimate rebel icon of surfing, a role he seemed to relish and despise all at the same time. With direct access to Dora and along with many supporting interviews from friends and family, Rensin does an heroic job of chronicling the events that created the myth. Dora himself is as slippery and elusive with the facts as he was when he was cutting a line through the crowds at Malibu. But in recalling a prolonged odyssey that took him around the world searching for the perfect wave he drops his guard occasionally allowing Rensin to paint possibly the truest portrait of Miklos Dora we could expect.

4. Pipedreams - A surfer’s journey by Kelly Slater with Jason Borte


A surprisingly good read, although miles out of date, (being published in 2004 with just 6 World Titles at the time) this gives an insight into the mind of current x11 World Champ, Kelly Slater. 'Surprising' - because my expectations weren’t high, considering Slater is known as a master of disinformation, famously often neither committing or admitting to his World Title ambitions yet regarded as the most focused and competitive surfer to have ever donned a contest jersey. But here he reveals some very frank and clear self-awareness. Along with a seemingly photographic memory of every contest he’s ever surfed in he also talks openly about his daughter, his relationships, his own perceived failings and even about dealing with hair loss at an early age. He also discusses his incredible mind-set and approach to strategy, and of-course there are the many uber-achievements as well. I came away with a sense of an honest and intelligent man, who also happens to be the most successful surfer ever to have walked the planet. Surely it’s time for the next installment..?

5. Chasing Dean by Tom Anderson

Chasing Dean.

Welsh author Tom Anderson has so far published three books, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. But it is his second book, Chasing Dean, which I’ve included here in my Top 10. A classic road trip adventure following hurricane surf along the Eastern seaboard of America, it highlights some quite obscure waves along with the more well-known spots. In particular I enjoyed the author's emerging insights as he negotiates not only friendships but his own desires whilst tracking an elusive swell that could either deliver the waves of a lifetime or fizzle out overnight. The sense of anticipation virtually oozes from the pages, could easily inspire you to chase your own hurricane!

6. Surf is where you find it by Gerry Lopez

Surf is where you find it.

This is really more of a coffee table book than an autobiography, but I really enjoyed Lopez’s mix of homegrown philosophy and solid gold anecdotes delivered in his down-to-earth and humble style. Includes an encounter with Dora, tales of Hawaiian grommethood, and of course stories from the Pipeline. Gerry Lopez is a bona fide legend, his Pipe performances were the definition of grace under pressure and his words seem to effortlessly condense all that experience into simple yet profound stories.

7. North Shore Chronicles by Bruce Jenkins

North Shore Chronicles.

I’m a bit of a sucker for tales of Hawaii, and it seems I’m not alone. Many writers, authors and editors produce their best work when faced with the task of describing the Seven Mile Miracle that is the North Shore of Oahu. San Francisco journalist Bruce Jenkins is a frequent visitor to Hawaii and has amassed an informed and insightful collection about this legendary stretch of coast and the surfers who engage with it daily. An excelllent book for anyone captivated by North Shore Hawaii and what it takes to be a part of it.

8. Surfari by Tim Baker


Tim Baker faces a mild mid-life-crisis and decides to take an extended surf sabbatical traveling around Oz with his family. I have to admit to being slightly put off during the early pages on discovering that he has scored sponsorship for the trip via a free vehicle and caravan and that he has also talked a publisher into coughing up an advance in return for a book about the journey. But I soon realise that early disclosure of the financials is all part and parcel of Baker’s very honest and open style. And within a few chapters I was thoroughly enjoying his candid confessions regarding the dilemma of spending QT (quality time) with his family yet also wanting to chase his dream of surfing some of the iconic Aussie surf spots they visit along the way.

9. In search of Captain Zero by Allan Weisbecker

In Search of Captain Zero.

A book about the search for a long lost friend on a quest from Long Island, NY, heading south through Mexico and Central America to Costa Rica. Weisbecker recounts stories of drug-running, avoiding crack fiends, possibly finding paradise and searching for the elusive perfect right-hander. With echoes of Joseph Conrad, Weisbecker recreates the sweaty, tense insanity that can envelope the unwary in the tropics. An interesting mix of personal anecdotes are woven into the tale, including encounters with local heavys, dealing with the sordid truth of drug addiction and the possibility of finding light at the end of the tunnel. A different slant on the surf book, but one worth following.

10. Bustin down the door by Rabbit Bartholomew with Tim Baker

Bustin down the door.

From a working class upbringing, via intense early rivalry with MP among others, to surfing all over the world with a fierce ambition to be recognised as a professional surfer, Rabbit’s story makes for good reading. He not only managed to bust down the doors and earn a living as a paid surfer, but he subsequently went on to become head honcho of the ASP and create the dream tour of which he himself had dreamed for so long. Rabbit was often outspoken, opinionated and charged with a naturally manic energy and this book romps along with the same buzzing rhythm.


  1. Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast by Daniel Duane

    A wondrous, uproarious, and surprisingly informative account of a year spend surfing, Caught Inside marks the arrival of an exuberant new voice of the outdoors. This remarkable narrative of Daniel Duane’s life on the water is enhanced by good-humored explanations of the physics of wave dynamics, the intricate art of surfboard design, and lyrical, sharp-eyed descriptions of...more A wondrous, uproarious, and surprisingly informative account of a year spend surfing, Caught Inside marks the arrival of an exuberant new voice of the outdoors. This remarkable narrative of Daniel Duane’s life on the water is enhanced by good-humored explanations of the physics of wave dynamics, the intricate art of surfboard design, and lyrical, sharp-eyed descriptions of the flora and fauna of the Pacific wilderness. From Captain Cook and Mark Twain to Robinson Jeffers and Jack London, from portraits of famous (and infamous) surfers to an analysis of Gidget’s perverse significance, Duane expertly uncovers the myths and symbols bound up in one of our most vibrant and recognizably American subjects.

    A great read and an essential for your collection!

  2. Great collection and a few here to add to my list.

    I can also highly recommend any books by Kem Nunn, especially "Dogs of Winter".