Synopses & Reviews
For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, Oahu's paradisical North Shore turns into a fiery hell. Its normal population of sixteen thousand more than triples and this explosion of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans creates one of the most combustible milieus on earth. Waves, like gold and oil, are a limited resource and, as such, are fiercely fought over by the visiting hordes, the surf industry, other Hawaiian islanders, and North Shore residents. The otherwise sleepy North Shore becomes a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca.
It takes uniquely fearless men to paddle into thirty-foot waves breaking over a razor-sharp reef hidden beneath three feet of water. Death and maiming are regular occurrences during North Shore winters. Yet when the sun dips, the fearless become truly scared. You see, the ocean has rules. The men who haunt the land do not. And so they whisper about helter-skelter violence dished out by larger-than-life Hawaiians. They whisper about being choked, slapped, and bloodied for breaking unspoken codes of conduct. About the protection money extracted from the surf brands that want to hold their contests on the North Shore. About drug running, fights, and maybe even murders. And then they return to multimillion-dollar beachfront homes and drown their anxiety with cocaine and booze. But they know they are not safe. Because no one is ever safe here.
The surf world is far more volatile and complex than outsiders know or popular depictions would have us believe, and the North Shore during winter is its most extreme representation. It is downright dangerous but also exhilarating, and this story paints a true picture of what it feels like to be in the middle of it all. It is both a breathtaking and wildly funny tale of beauty, wickedness, and the unyielding allure of ocean waves in all their glory.
This debut effort from Smith a war correspondent turned surfing journalist with a cruel sometimes witty eye is a mix of reportage and gonzo journalism for the surfing set. Mixing shameless fey bluster that he dubs “Trash Prose” and occasionally trenchant observation Smith delves into the scene surrounding the big money surfing contests on Oahu Hawaii’s legendary North Shore. As the pro circuit arrives for the winter wave season Smith sketches an exposé of the tensions between local Hawaiian surfers and low level gangsters and the established surfing professionals surfwear brand representatives and out of towners during this seasonal demographic change. Smith’s favorite subject however is himself: he sees himself as an outlaw raconteur whose articles garner so much resentment he gets roughed up at a party. He also provides endless descriptions of his wardrobe—he calls his style his “version of Island Dandy” which is “purposefully at odds with everything Oahu’s North Shore stands for.” If Hunter S. Thompson circa Hell’s Angels merged with a fashion critic to write about surfing for Maxim the result might be similar. Smith’s approach is myopic writing for an audience that already knows the sport and the names. There are some astute observations (particularly his analysis of why surfing is essentially a lonely sport) but ultimately the book fails to reveal much beyond the author’s considerable self regard. Agent: Ryan D. Harbage Fischer Harbage Agency (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
“Absolutely the most entertaining surf book in years, a breathless adrenalized romp. More importantly, its a jaw-dropping introduction to Smith's greatest — and most promising — literary creation, himself. This man — and this book — are both going places.” Dan Duane, author of Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast
Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell,
is surfer and former war reporter Chas Smith's wild and unflinching look at the high-stakes world of surfing on Oahu's North Shore — a riveting, often humorous, account of beauty, greed, danger, and crime.
For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, swarms of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans flock to Oahu's paradisiacal North Shore in pursuit of some of the greatest waves on earth for surfing's Triple Crown competition. Chas Smith reveals how this influx transforms a sleepy, laid-back strip of coast into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca.
Smith captures this exciting and dangerous place where locals, outsiders, the surf industry, and criminal elements clash in a fascinating look at class, race, power, money, and crime, set within one of the most beautiful places on earth. The result is a breathtaking blend of crime and adventure that captures the allure and wickedness of this idyllic golden world.
About the Author
Chas Smith has spent his whole life surfing. Born on the Oregon coast, he fled to Los Angeles for university and has lived there ever since. For a decade, he wrote adventure/travel stories for a variety of magazines, including Vice, GQ, BlackBook, and the New York Times Magazine. He has covered wars in Lebanon, conflicts in Yemen, dirty oil dealings in Azerbaijan, and fashion in Somalia. In 2006, he decided to turn his attention solely to surf and since then he has become the raconteur of the lavish, partying surf elite. He is editor-at-living-large for America's largest surf publication, Surfing Magazine, and writes for Australia's controversial Stab, a hip icon of fashion, surf, and culture. He has spent five winters on the North Shore.