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The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Oceanby Susan Casey
It has long been asserted that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do the vast seascapes that cover some 70 percent of our planet. Susan Casey's seductive book, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, goes a long way to support this claim. As Casey, award-winning journalist and editor-in-chief of O magazine, traverses the globe in search of the world's mightiest waves, we are introduced to a fascinating cast of characters, including some of the most renowned big-wave surfers, as well as scientists on the forefront of these little-understood phenomena.
Although sailors and seafarers have for centuries claimed encounters with giant hundred-foot waves, they have often been rejected as tall tales and exaggerations. It turns out, however, that not only are such waves more common than anyone could have ever imagined, they are also occurring with increasing frequency.
Much of The Wave centers upon the famed exploits of big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton, with Casey following him around the world in his pursuit of ever more legendary waves (his home turf is the exalted jaws break, Pe'ahi, off the coast of Maui). Throughout the book Casey strives to portray Hamilton and his colleagues as more than mere thrill-seekers, and succeeds in depicting them as humble, graceful individuals who happen to be (after decades of conquest) the best at what they do. Most of the big-wave surfers Casey encounters throughout her travels (especially Hamilton, Dave Kalama, and crew) espouse the glory of surfing for personal (and often spiritual) reward, and roundly reject the commercialization of sponsored surf tournaments and the like. While they may be rightly called legends and pioneers in their respective sport, at no point does this fact seem to inflate their egos.
Other portions of The Wave delve into the historical record, with a particularly unbelievable chapter on the July 1958 megatsunami that struck Lituya Bay, Alaska. Following a 7.9-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing avalanche of ice and rock, a mindboggling 1,720-foot wave devastated the bay and killed two (though it spared a survivor whose first-hand account of the incident is utterly chilling).
The most unsettling parts of the book (if, indeed, anything is scarier than a 170-story wave) deal with climate change and the ever-evolving models of climate science. As the planet warms, ice caps melt, and sea levels rise, most scientists anticipate an increase in oceanic volatility. Earthquakes and tsunamis are expected to become more common, and, thus, also their calamitous effects. While some big-wave surfers may be looking forward to larger waves and gnarlier breaks, the predicted effects on low-lying, densely inhabited coastal areas seem rather foreboding.
The Wave is far from a comprehensive work on the subject, yet it is an eminently readable and fascinating look into a compelling and perplexing realm. Susan Casey's book will arouse even the most stifled and landlocked of imaginations. As they have for millennia past, the sea's mysteries shall continue to inspire, tempt, beckon, and enthrall us forevermore.
Synopses & Reviews
From Susan Casey, bestselling author of The Devil's Teeth, an astonishing book about colossal, ship-swallowing rogue waves and the surfers who seek them out.
For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dismissed these stories — waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet’s waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea — including several that approached 100 feet.
As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean’s most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidally large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of people as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100foot wave.
In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists’ urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves — from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast.
Like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.
"Casey, O magazine editor-in-chief, travels across the world and into the past to confront the largest waves the oceans have to offer. This dangerous water includes rogue waves south of Africa, storm-born giants near Hawaii, and the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of wave (taller than one and a third Empire State Buildings) that blasted the Alaska coastline in 1958. Casey follows big-wave surfers in their often suicidal attempts to tackle monsters made of H2O, and also interviews scientists exploring the danger that global warning will bring us more and larger waves. Casey writes compellingly of the threat and beauty of the ocean at its most dangerous. We get vivid historical reconstructions and her firsthand account of being on a jet-ski watching surfers risk their lives. Casey also smoothly translates the science of her subject into engaging prose. This book will fascinate anyone who has even the slightest interest in the oceans that surround us. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"[Casey's] wonderfully vivid, kinetic narrative only occasionally groans under the weight of too many Wild Surf stories, and she offers a prescient vision of watery perils — and sometimes, bittersweet triumphs." New York Times
"Casey unlocks the mysteries of waves in her fascinating and enlightening book. And like a surfer who is happily hooked, the reader simply won't be able to get enough of it." San Francisco Chronicle
Casey follows a unique tribe of extreme surfers as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100-foot wave. In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Laird Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists' urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves.
Our species is more profoundly connected to the sea than we ever realized, as an intrepid cadre of scientists, athletes, and explorers is now discovering. Deep follows these adventurers into the ocean to report on the latest findings about its wondrous biology and#8212; and unimagined human abilities.
From the best freestyle surfer in the world, an inspiring and moving memoir about his ascendance to the top of the surfing world while struggling, undiagnosedand#160;for most of his youngand#160;life, with Aspergerand#8217;s syndrome
An Amazon Best Book of 2014
While on assignment in Greece, journalist James Nestor witnessed something that confounded him: a man diving 300 feet below the oceanandrsquo;s surface on a single breath of air and returning four minutes later, unharmed and smiling.
This man was a freediver, and his amphibious abilities inspired Nestor to seek out the secrets of this little-known discipline. In Deep, Nestor embeds with a gang of extreme athletes and renegade researchers who are transforming not only our knowledge of the planet and its creatures, but also our understanding of the human body and mind. Along the way, he takes us from the surface to the Atlanticandrsquo;s greatest depths, some 28,000 feet below sea level. He finds whales that communicate with other whales hundreds of miles away, sharks that swim in unerringly straight lines through pitch-black waters, and seals who dive to depths below 2,400 feet for up to eighty minutesandmdash;deeper and longer than scientists ever thought possible. As strange as these phenomena are, they are reflections of our own speciesandrsquo; remarkable, and often hidden, potentialandmdash;including echolocation, directional sense, and the profound physiological changes we undergo when underwater. Most illuminating of all, Nestor unlocks his own freediving skills as he communes with the pioneers who are expanding our definition of what is possible in the natural world, and in ourselves.
From the best freestyle surfer in the world, an inspiring and moving memoir about his ascendance to the top of the surfing world while struggling for most of his young life with undiagnosed Aspergerandrsquo;s syndrome
Clay Marzo has an almost preternatural gift with a surfboard. From his first moments underwater (he learned to swim at two months old) to his first ventures atop his fatherandrsquo;s surfboard as a toddler, it was obvious that Marzoandrsquo;s single-minded focus on all things surfing was unique. But not until late in his teens, when this surfing phenom was diagnosed with Aspergerandrsquo;s syndrome, did the deeper reasons for his obsessionandmdash;and his astonishing gift for surfingandmdash;become clear.
Just Add Water is the remarkable story of Marzoandrsquo;s rise to the top of the pro surfing worldandmdash;and the personal trials he overcame in making it there. Marzo endured a difficult childhood. He was a colicky baby who his mother found could be soothed only with water. Later, as he entered school, his undiagnosed Aspergerandrsquo;s made it tough for him to relate to his peers and fit in, but his relationship with the wave was elemental. Marzo could always turn to surfing, the only place where he truly felt at peace.
Unflinching and inspiring, Just Add Water is a brave memoir from a one-of-a-kind surfing savant who has electrified fans around the world with his gift and whose story speaks boldly to the hope and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
About the Author
Susan Casey, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Devil's Teeth, is the Editor-in-Chief of O magazine, and has also served as creative director of Outside magazine.
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Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Ocean and Marine Biology
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