The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing

Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul. Crown, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-0-307-71948-5
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)
Reviewed on: 05/13/2013
Release date: 07/23/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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