Book Surfing ( a return to the sea)
June 27, 2012

As I sit down to write this, I can’t help but wonder if, when my reading tangents begin they never really end so much as their primacy ebbs and flows? I’ve returned to the sea in my reading choices and it occurred to me that I had been here before not to long ago, right? Right? I looked up my last blog on books about the sea…December 2009. Daumn. Just so we’re clear, in my reading mind I was just there! JUST there, reading histories of the Caribbean, Treasure Island and Under the Black Flag. Hemingway. December 2009, really?

Well, whatever. In June 2012, I can say, I’ve returned to that sea tangent albeit from a slightly different take. The ‘call’ began with Susan Casey’s The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean. This particular book while coming at waves from a myriad of perspectives, scientific, cultural, sporting, etc, introduced me to big wave surfing. For the record, I think big wave surfing is insane. I still want to see it, though. Maybe, I would want to try it too…? Here’s the thing, I take great comfort in knowing that there are boys and girls around the world, watching the weather and willing to drop everything and head out into the middle of the ocean on the off-chance that they will get to ride a stories high wall of water, that might kill them or might set them free. So I’m not among them, I still feel better knowing their out there.

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The ethos of surfing appeals to me, so does the courage and the athleticism. My distinction between the ethos and the courage inherent in surfing is not arbitrary. Among the surfer stories that I have read the ‘ethos:’ the mindset and belief system attached to surfing speaks to an intelligence, flexibility, attentiveness and a faith but very few surfers make mention of their own courage. From where I sit, courage is a huge part of this cultures make up. Beyond faith and an undeniable skill set the men and women who take to the waves whether in the middle of the Pacific or just a few hundred yards from the shore line excercise a reserve of courage not often witnessed in folks sporting activities. I kick box and run, take the occasional yoga series and dance classes, there is no danger inherent in any of those sports/leisure activities. Can I get injured? Sure. Am I going to drown? Am I at the mercy of the elements? Am I banking on my ability to safely negotiate THE OCEAN? Nope.  My awe of the courage of surfers grows as I make my way through the stories in Clint Willis’ Big Wave: Stories of Riding the World’s Wildest Water.

On deck in my surfer books is Laird Hamilton’s Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul, And, of Course, Surfing, I expect, though I can not yet be sure, that Hamilton’s book will only reinforce my admiration of surfing culture. As for the athleticism inherent in surfing? One need read no further than Kelly Slater’s Pipe Dreams: A Surfer’s Journey. Slater’s story details his rise to world champion…oh…six times over. Though I have no illusions of professional surfing, Slater’s story more than any other has fueled my more than passing interest in getting up on a surf board. (Heal, stupid ankle, heal!!) If a world champion can start surfing on a body board, the least a woman can do is enroll in a surf boot camp (with an instructor, wet suit, and an actual surf board) and TRY.

Lest you think that my current tangent is bereft of any broader oceanic interests, let me be clear, my inner history nerd is alive and well. The TOME I am currently entrenched in is Walter R. Borneman’s The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King–The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea. My initial concerns that the span of this book could not possibly be covered in the biographies of four men (They won the war at sea (WWII), really?) have been entirely allayed. I had no idea. The scope of the impact these four men had on naval history is staggering. To the degree that this book and the inevitable direction this book is sending me deserve a post unto themselves. Maybe I will even write one!

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