Suggested reading lists are a pretty subjective thing. And I’m no Oprah Winfrey, but I know a thing or two about stories that capture the greatest parts of being a surfer. We spend enough time day dreaming about our favorite thing/hobby/ritual/practice that it only makes sense to dive into something that lets the mind wander every once n a while, or even something that leaves you with a greater appreciation for it all. This isn’t the once and for all definitive list of surfing tales. We don’t have a bible, but these four books can all give you a solid sense of how and why you start and end every day thinking that next great wave is already out there waiting for you.
All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora
The first time I ever saw a Dos XX commercial with the most interesting man in the world, I immediately thought of Miki Dora. To this day I still can’t watch one of those spots without thinking of surfing’s original asshole, renegade, international man of mystery, con man and all around cool guy. This biography doesn’t always paint the most affectionate picture of Dora, while also making it clear that just as many people really loved the guy. He was so polarizing because he explored every corner of what the surfing lifestyle had to offer. His rise to surfing superstardom paralleled the climb in popularity of surfing in the United States, so this book is as much a history lesson as it is a biography.
West of Jesus
Contrary to the title, West of Jesus isn’t about Jesus. And it’s not all about surfing. It’s not really about spirituality or religion either, but it really is at the same time. Steven Kotler covers all the bases of belief as it relates to our connection with the ocean. All over the globe and throughout every step of recorded history, man has woven his foundation of survival as well as spirituality with the sea. In some cases science has answers to how and why we leave the water feeling better than when we entered. But sometimes the only thing that can explain our attachment to a silly (or not so silly) ritual of riding walls of energy that have traveled thousands of miles only to be met by mere mortals is faith.
If you’re one of those people that constantly thinks about how much you love surfing and even ask yourself why from time to time, West of Jesus isn’t going to give you the answers. Yes, you’ll close the book with a deeper understanding of it all, but you’re going to walk away with a little bit of mind blown-itus and a lot more curiosity.
I loved Shaun Tomson long before he wrote this book. But I love him even more since reading Surfer’s Code. As a group we’re not the best at candidly sharing our life stories and lessons with each other. In fact, it kind of makes the whole pursuit feel that much more selfish knowing there’s no expectation to take this awesome experience and somehow pay it forward. Sure, plenty of people do that. But not many do it as well as Tomson.
The outline is pretty simple. Tomson lays out a direct lesson or rule analogous to surfing, then he dives into the personal story that led him to that lesson, sometimes coming from the vivid memory of a wave, a surf trip, a contest or a wipe out. Here’s a man who followed his dreams around the entire globe. And the things he learned in the water transcended riding waves, opening his heart to new dreams and bringing him to new places. He’s lived through tragedy most wouldn’t wish on their worst enemies and come out of it all with an even stronger urge to give back to the same community that fueled those early dreams: surfers.
Not a surf story. Not even a little bit. At least it wasn’t intended to be a book about/for surfing, so about the only relation it has to anything surf was that its author is Brazilian. But if you’re like me you have a long lists of interests in life that take place out of the ocean. Meanwhile, the fact that you just love surfing so damn much inevitably brings those other interests and passions back into comparisons with surfing anyway. So let the parallel digging begin: A shepherd has a series of recurring dreams that convince him to leave his herd in search of a treasure. The further he travels the more he learns he’s really just chasing his own personal destiny.
Now why in the world would a surfer care about this? Let’s see, how many of us jump on freeways, boats, and airplanes every day with the hope that leaving home will reward us with the best waves we’ve ever seen? Do you ever feel like the quality of the wave waiting at the end of your journey is directly related to how far you have to travel? Trust me, there are a lot of parallels here that will have you feeling warm and fuzzy about your appreciation for getting barreled.