Reading Giants

A comprehensive history of surfing.

Nov 12, 2010
Outside Magazine

The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw   

Meticulously researched, smartly written, beautifully laid out. Also very, very heavy. At 496 large-format pages, Matt Warshaw's The History of Surfing (Chronicle Books, $50) is a coffee-table crusher. But it's not dense. Warshaw, the last word on wave-riding trivia since his Encyclopedia of Surfing was published in 2003, has a knack for entertaining by way of detail. For him, it's the lesser-known moments that shine the brightest: surfing's "grand patriarch," Duke Kahanamoku, escaping his money problems on a sojourn in Australia; the rowdy, pre–Endless Summer surf-film screenings, where "firecrackers were lit and rolled across the floor." Mining for such tales demands an obsessive spirit and lots of time. (Warshaw was three years late with his manuscript.) For modern surfers with only a hazy sense of their heritage (i.e., most of them), the result is required reading. Just lifting the thing builds strength for those longer paddle-outs.

Filed To: Books, Surfing

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