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The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfingby Peter Westwick
Synopses & Reviews
The thinking-person's guide to surfing and the world it has created.
Among the most popular courses at the University of California at Santa Barbara is a team-taught lecture series on the history of surfing that immerses students in the cultural, political, economic, and environmental consequences of surfing's evolution from a sport of Hawaiian kings and queens to a billion-dollar worldwide industry. Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul bring more than sixty years of experience in the water to the class and are not surprised by the class’s popularity – UC Santa Barbara is, after all, a surfing school. The real surprise is that their non-surfing students outnumber the surfers. There is something about surfing that people yearn to understand – and this is the book that examines the enduring worldwide appeal of the sport both in myth and reality.
Drawing on the authors' expertise as, respectively, a historian of science and technology and a historian of environmental history, The World in the Curl brings alive the colorful history of surfing by drawing readers into the forces that have fueled the sport's expansion: colonialism, the military-industrial complex, globalization, capitalism, and race and gender roles. In a highly readable and provocative narrative history of the sport's signal moments – from the spread of surfing to the US, to the development of surf culture, to big-wave frontiers, to the reintroduction of women into the sport – Neushul and Westwick draw an indelible portrait of surfing and surfers as actors on the global stage.
"Historians (and surfers) Westwick and Neushul provide a sweeping, measured overview of surfing, from its origin in the Hawaiian Islands to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry that somehow maintains an outlaw allure. Along the way, the authors examine just about every element that affects the sport — water pollution, board evolution, turf wars, surfwear marketing, racism, and sexism, and of course the enduring mystique. Westwick and Neushul's focus on the cultural and socio-economic illuminates hidden forces that are rarely discussed by even the most knowledgeable surfers. In a field driven by personalities, their approach is unique. The book grew out of a course at the U.C. Santa Barbara and in places reads like a textbook (there are only so many times you need to hear how technology has been both a blessing and a curse for surfing before stifling a yawn). However, the writers have plenty of big-wave bravado, and they're not afraid to challenge received wisdom; for instance, they suggest that a (mostly) white guy named George Freeth was as essential to the early-20th-century surfing revival as the legendary Duke Kahanamoku. For every enthusiast killing time before the next big swell, the authors provide a satisfying immersion into the story of how a near-extinct Polynesian pastime came back to conquer the beach. Agent: Andrew Stuart, the Stuart Agency. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A definitive and highly readable history of surfing and the cultural, political, economic, and environmental consequences of its evolution from a sport of Hawaiian kings and queens to a billion-dollar worldwide industry
Despite its rebellious, outlaw reputation, or perhaps because of it, surfing occupies a central place in the American – and global – imagination, embodying the tension between romantic counterculture ideals and middle-class values, between an individualistic communion with nature and a growing commitment to commerce and technology. In examining the enduring widespread appeal of surfing in both myth and reality, The World in the Curl offers a fresh angle on the remarkable rise of the sport and its influence on modern life.
Drawing on Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul’s expertise as historians of science and technology, the environment, and the Cold War, as well as decades of experience as surfers themselves, The World in the Curl brings alive the colorful history of surfing by drawing readers into the forces that fueled the sport's expansion: colonialism, the military-industrial complex, globalization, capitalism, environmental engineering, and race and gender roles. In an engaging and provocative narrative history – from the spread of surfing to the United States, to the development of surf culture, to the reintroduction of women into the sport, to big wave frontiers – the authors draw an indelible portrait of surfing and surfers as actors on the global stage.
About the Author
PETER WESTWICK is an assistant research professor of history at the University of Southern California, the director of the Aerospace History Project at the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, and the author or editor of three books.
PETER NEUSHUL is a visiting senior associate researcher in the Department of History at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has written extensively on defense industries, history of oceanography, and on environmental history.
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History and Social Science » World History » General