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Surf’s up, dude!

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Ever since I heard Susan Casey (the author) interviewed by Jon Stewart, and surfer Laird Hamilton (the book’s real-life character) grilled by Stephen Colbert, I knew that The Wave: in pursuit of rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean was a must-read for me.

While vacationing in Southern California or parts of Southwest Mexico, I remember encountering some 10 to 15 foot waves. For a good swimmer (which I consider myself as being), these don’t appear too daunting or intimidating. But they can and do come in succession of three or more at a time. If one knocks you down, another one is sure to quickly follow and it can be difficult to catch your breath and equilibrium by the time the next wave arrives. I remember meeting a particularly nasty little set of waves off the Malibu coast, that produced such a tremendous force that they left me completely discombobulated, disheveled, and practically disrobed! I was barely able to keep my bathing suit on as I struggled to swim. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I now appreciate what wiser Pacific Coast beach residents say, “Never, ever turn your back on a wave.”

In this tautly structured page turner, author Susan Casey examines giant, no make that humongous monster waves from three points of view:

  • — The scientific by interviewing wave scientists who study them;
  • — The practical by talking to mariners who have come across them in their voyages, and;
  • — The playful/suicidal by spending time with the adrenaline junky extreme surfers who travel the world searching out these behemoths in the hopes of catching a ride, chief among them being Laird Hamilton.

At one time not so long ago, reports of 100 foot waves encountered by ships were dismissed by the scientific community based on the belief that such phenomena are counter to the theories of ocean physics. However, it turned out that it was the theories that should have been dismissed and not the reports, after a British research ship chock full of scientists ran into a North Sea storm about 10 years ago. Its research data collection equipment documented 90+ foot waves, and the existence of the giant wave phenomenon was confirmed. Later on, tracking satellites were able to determine that these rogue waves appear consistently and with greater frequency than was previously thought across all oceans.

This is also a story of personal obsessions, and some might say death wishes. These descriptors of course refer to the extreme surfers who seek out the rogues in an attempt to achieve hang-ten heaven. To gain their perspectives, Casey tags along with premier surfer Laird Hamilton, as he jet-sets across the globe in pursuit of this dream.

But watch out while reading this book! Because just like a strong rip current, Casey’s tale will easily pull you in, and before long you’ll find yourself powerless to resist this great watery read.


The Wave: in pursuit of rogues, freaks and giants of the ocean

Posted by Teresa Rakowsky at 09/22/2011 01:11:53 PM