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. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
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
"[A]n engrossing set of stories.... In the end, you gain a healthy respect for the power of these waves and the people who surf them, and for the challenges facing those trying to understand them." Los Angeles Times
A New York Times Book Review Editorand#39;s Choice
and#160;An Amazon Best Book of the Month
Scientific American Recommended Read
iTunes Top 20 Books of the Month
Christian Science Monitor Editorsand#39; Pick: 10 Best Books of July
BBC Book of the Week
The Week Book of the Week
andldquo;The deeper the book ventures into the ocean, the more dramatic and unusual the organisms therein and the people who observe themandhellip;Throughand#160;[Nestorand#39;s] eyes and his stories, itandrsquo;s a journey well worth taking.andrdquo;
andmdash; David Epstein, New York Times Book Review
and#160;andquot;Fascinating, informative, exhilarating book, and, I wager, it will at the very least have you testing how long you can hold your breath.andquot;
andmdash;Wall Street Journal
andquot;An engaging exploration of the depths of the worldand#39;s oceans and the human connection to the rapidly changing world below. This is popular science writing at its best.andquot;
andmdash;Christian Science Monitor
andquot;Rich and illuminating ... A passionate celebration of the possible and the unproven ... [Deep] will certainly enrich the thinking of anyone planning to spend time at the beach.andquot;
andquot;Truly breathtaking ... Nestor gets right in with the competitors and rogue scientists who are unearthing mysteries of the deep and its inhabitants that we canand#39;t even imagine, in a book thatand#39;s engaging and eye-popping.andquot;
andquot;Nestor is crisp with his fun, seafaring facts; he is sober with his sprinkling of environmental bulletins. The book never preaches, and itandrsquo;s a zippy read.andquot;
andmdash;Los Angeles Times
andquot;Freediving, the sport that harnesses the mammalian dive reflex to survive deep plunges, can be a boon for marine researchers, avers James Nestor. We meet a salty cast of them, such as the and#39;aquanautsand#39; of Aquarius, a marine analogue of the International Space Station submerged off the Florida Keys. Equally mesmeric are Nestorand#39;s own adventures, whether spotting bioluminescent species from a submarine in the bathypelagic zone, or freediving himself andmdash; and voyaging into humanityand#39;s amphibious origins in the process.andquot;
andquot;Put Deep at the top of your reading list. This book will do for the oceans what Cosmos did for space. Itand#39;s mind-bending, intrepid, and inspiring.andquot;
andmdash; Po Bronson
andquot;With verve and humor, the author describes his own risk-taking attempts to understand the oceanand#39;s ancient secrets and future potential and the daring and brilliant people who have dedicated their lives to probing deeper ... [Nestorand#39;s] writing is sharp, colorful, and thrilling ... Bring[s] the ocean to life from a research perspective as well as a human one. An adventurous and frequently dazzling look at our planetand#39;s most massive habitat.andquot;
andquot;A thrilling account, made timely by the rapidly changing state of earthandrsquo;s most expansive environment.andquot; andmdash;Publishers Weekly
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.
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 100-foot 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.
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.
The deep sea remains Earthand#8217;s final frontier. And as James Nestor reveals, adventurous scientistsand#8217; current quests to solve the mysteries of the ocean are transforming not only our knowledge of the planet and its creatures, but also our understanding of the human body and mind. Over the course of the book, Nestor journeys from the oceanand#8217;s surface and#8212; where the extreme sport of freediving pushes the boundaries of human physical endurance and#8212; to its greatest, most otherworldly depth, 35,000 feet below sea level at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Along the way he finds and#8220;telepathicand#8221; corals that synchronize their blooming even though theyand#8217;re hundreds of miles apart, octopus species that thrive in 300-degree water, sharks that swim in unerringly straight lines through pitch blackness, and, most illuminating of all, the human pioneers whose discoveries 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, undiagnosedand#160;for most of his youngand#160;life, with Aspergerand#8217;s syndrome
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.
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.
About the Author
JAMES NESTOR has written for Outside Magazine, Menand#39;s Journal, Dwell Magazine, the New York Times, San Francisco Magazine, Interior Design, the San Francisco Chronicle, and numerous other publications. His longform piece andquot;Half-Safe,andquot; about the only around-the-world journey by land and sea in the same vehicle ever attempted (and completed), was published by The Atavist. Nestor lives in San Francisco and is a member of the San Francisco Writersand#39; Grotto.
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
From Susan Casey, the bestselling author of The Devil’s Teeth, an astonishing book about colossal, ship-swallowing waves, and the surfers and scientists who seek them out. The following questions are intended to enhance your reading experience and to generate lively discussion among the members of your book group.
Why do you think there isn’t more news coverage on sunken freighters, tankers, and bulk carriers? Do tragedies at sea strike a different chord in the popular imagination than say, a plane crash?
2. What’s the difference between surfing a wave and surviving it? What drives people to extreme situations and how does one draw the line between determination and courting disaster?
3. Many big wave surfers, like Laird Hamilton, are married with children. How do you think they rationalize putting their lives on the line for what many would consider sport?
4. Why do you think the psychological beating is often worse than the physical for surfers? Do you think Brett Lickle’s mishap towards the end of the book helped him see what was really important in life or psychologically cripple him?
5. Surfers and scientists have different methods of judging a wave’s intensity. Is one rubric more accurate than the other?
6. Susan Casey detected a strong female presence in the scientific community that seems to be lacking in the surfing world. Why do you think surfing—and tow surfing in particular—seems to be so male-dominated? How much of it is physical and how much is psychological?
7. Why is respect for the waves so important? What happens if you lose this respect?
8. Many surfers in the book refer to themselves as “watermen.” They’re not simply athletes, or thrill seekers—they almost have a sixth sense when it comes to the water. What can we learn from these watermen in regards to how they regard and harmonize with the ocean? What responsibility, if any, do you think these adventurers have to the ocean and to each other?
9. Geological history has a long memory but humans have largely forgotten devastating natural disasters of the past couple of hundred years like the Lisbon tsunami of 1755. Do you think this ability to forget and move on is part of what makes our species so resilient? Or do these sorts of memory lapses leave us ill-prepared to deal with future disasters?
10. After Susan Casey witnesses a sixty-eight foot wave at Killers, she remembers Laird Hamilton’s assertion—“If you can look at one of these waves and you don’t believe that there’s something greater than we are, then you’ve got some serious analyzing to do…” How has your perception of the ocean—and those who study it and ride its waves—changed after reading The Wave?