While the summer season is starting to wind down, we still have nearly a month left to enjoy the warm water, the beautiful weather and the time-honored tradition of reading great books.
Happily, there is a surprisingly solid selection of fantastic literature with a surf narrative to choose from. No need to wait for a new release — here are five books that continue to withstand the test of time.
“Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,” by William Finnegan
“Barbarian Days” is one of those rare surf novels aimed for a wider general audience — and did it so well that it won its author a Pulitzer. Finnegan’s memoir is a beautifully written story that traces most of his surfing life: as a grom surfing C Street in Ventura, California; his transformative years riding heavy Hawaiian waves during the shortboard revolution; being one of the first surfers ever to discover and surf Tavarua; living and surfing on the Gold Coast of Australia; exploring the South Pacific; and circumnavigating the globe.
Finnegan considers the religious quality of surfing and examines who (or what) is being worshipped. He doesn’t hold back his disdain for the coastal development that has compromised great waves in numerous locations around the world, and he investigates the social injustice that inspired him to become a journalist.
“Tapping the Source,” by Kem Nunn
This suspenseful and highly entertaining novel inspired the movie “Point Break.” Written by Kem Nunn — considered the pioneer of long-form surf fiction and the founder of the “surf noir” genre — “Tapping the Source” follows protagonist Ike Tucker as he evolves from a scrawny landlocked loner in the isolated California desert town of San Ardo to a maturing Huntington Beach surfer in search of his lost sister.
Along the way, Tucker is introduced to some heavy HB locals, learns how to surf and pursues the suspected murderer of his sister in this captivating tale that is the benchmark for every fictional surf novel ever published.
“In Search of Captain Zero,” by Allan Weisbecker
The unofficial sequel to Weisbecker’s debut novel, “Cosmic Banditos,” finds the author packing up his belongings and driving a camper with his dog from New York to Central America in pursuit of his long-lost friend — nicknamed Captain Zero — who has gone missing. Along the way, Weisbecker meets new friends, encounters frightening enemies and finds amazing waves in a captivating memoir filled with adventure and self-discovery.
Weisbecker, a former scriptwriter for the original “Miami Vice” television series, is great at keeping your attention in this fun, page-turning book that will leave you wanting more.
“Tijuana Straits,” by Kem Nunn
In addition to “Tapping the Source,” Nunn has authored two other fantastic surf noir books: “Dogs of Winter,” set in a fictional coastal town near the Lost Coast of Northern California, and “Tijuana Straits,” which focuses on a former surfer who finds a beaten women stranded on the beach near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Tijuana Straits” follows the protagonist, Fahey, who no longer surfs the polluted big waves of the Tijuana Sloughs, as he works through his conflict in determining how to help the injured woman while rediscovering his passion for surfing.
“Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey,” by Kelly Slater & Jason Borte
Kelly Slater published this autobiography way back in 2003, prior to coming out of retirement when he was a mere six-time world champion. Slater’s legendary rivalry with Andy Irons and five more world titles that truly added to his mystique and lore as the greatest surfer ever are probably going to be included in the sequel to “Pipe Dreams,” which traces his roots as a Florida surfer, his family upbringing, transitioning to big waves, managing money and his celebratory days as a world-champion surfer starring on TV shows and dating Hollywood models and actresses.
If you love Kelly Slater, you’re going to love this revealing book that delves into his very personal side. If you don’t love Kelly Slater, yet love surfing, this is still a very entertaining read with blunt storytelling from the GOAT.
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