The Best Books for Surfers

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For some people, surfing is just a sport, but for others is more than that — it’s a way of life and intertwined into everything we do. Whether you are a beginner learning the basics or a star of the line up, these ten best books about surfing will inspire you.

1. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Barbarian Days are the entertaining and adventurous memoirs of New York journalist, William Finnegan. He recounts a lifestyle that revolved around surfing and the charming people and incredible places that the waves took him to. Finnegan began surfing at a young age and chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. In this book, he opened the door to his adventures as a child, first falling in love with surfing and then with the people he meets. One of the best parts of this book is getting a chance to read about some of the world’s most iconic waves before the mainstream surf scene discovered them.

Barbarian Days stokes a sense of nostalgia, similar to vibes you get while watching The Endless Summer.

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2. The History Of Surfing

You are not truly a surfer if you don’t know your roots. Matt Warshaw, the former editor of Surfer Magazine, spent over five years researching and writing a comprehensive (and marvelous) piece of surf history and culture. The research is based from early beginnings when man first harnessed the power of water until the present. This book will show you nearly every facet of our favorite ocean sport. Best of all, the book features over 250 rarely seen and shared surf photographs.

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3. Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding

A surfboard no doubt is the most essential piece of equipment to a surfer. Long before the days of epoxy pop-out boards from factories, surfboards were made of wood and shaped by hand.

Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding will take you on a journey through the evolution of surfboard design. You’ll learn about the boards ridden by ancient Hawaiian Alaia to the unadorned boards designed with mathematical precision (built by hand) by Bob Simmons all the way to the store-bought longboards popularized by the 1959 surf-exploitation movie Gidget. By the end of the book, you might feel inspired to shape a surfboard yourself.

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4. Surf Is Where You Find It

Gerry Lopez, an innovator in stand-up-paddleboarding and big wave riding, shares his stories from a lifetime spent surfing. You’ll get an inside look at the mind and history of Mr. Pipeline though 38 short stories and a personal photo collection. Gerry’s book is timeless, entertaining, and historical. If you weren’t a fan of Gerry before this, you will be after reading this.

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5.  Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave

Peter Heller, adventurer and journalist, describes the incredible journey of learning to surf in his book Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave. The story follows Peter and his girlfriend from Southern California down the coast of Mexico. Along the way, this charismatic couple meets people who share insights into the culture and technique of surfing as a lifestyle, rather than simply a sport.

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6. Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth

Chris Dixon, the founding online editor of Surfer magazine, tells us a secret about a lost island 100 miles off the coast of California.

Cortes Bank is home to the biggest rideable wave on earth. He collects stories of people who tried their luck at Cortes Bank and survived to tell of their battles with this giant. You’ll be happy to read these heart-racing tales from the comforts of a beach towel.

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7. Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening

Ever since she was a child, Liz Clark had a vision of traveling the world by sailboat and surfing remote waves. At age 22, Liz met someone who could turn her pipe dream into reality. In Swell, you’ll accompany Liz on her adventure of captaining a 40-foot sailboat named Swell. This journey of surfing and self-discovery will inspire you to follow every dream of your own.

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8. Breath

Tim Winton tells a story about two boys who come of age in Western Australia’s most incredible surf regions, Margaret River. Through love, loss, and surfing, the reader becomes attached to the two characters headed in very different directions. Tim Winton has the ability to describe surfing in such a way that the reader feels as though they are in the water themselves.

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9. Surfing Illustrated: A Visual Guide to Wave Riding

John Robison introduced the world of surfing in a slightly different way. In his book, he illustrates certain techniques to help you master your moves on the board. Surfing Illustrated is a comprehensive guide to wave dynamics, how to read a surf report as well as how to navigate the etiquette of a line-up. As a bonus, the book also has a helpful section on board repairs.

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10. Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspires Millions

This is a little different story from the others in the article. Ricochet is a service dog who knows how to ride a wave and uses her skills to help wounded warriors, people with disabilities, and children with special needs. Ricochet is a golden retriever who found his call and dedicated his life to helping people. This heart-warming tale is the perfect pick-me-up to read about the healing powers of animals and the sea.

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