West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief

Steven Kotler, Author . Bloomsbury $23.95 (261p) ISBN 978-1-59691-051-5

After surviving a battle with Lyme disease, Kotler finds himself searching for a reason to live and turns to his love of surfing. The novelist (The Angle Quickest for Flight ) and journalist travels to Mexico, where he hears a story about a magical being called "the Conductor," who controls the surf. Having heard the same tale eight years earlier while surfing in Indonesia, Kotler decides to seek out the legend's source while researching the inherent mysticism of surfers and their sport. Detailing his journey and findings, Kotler creates a work that combines the most compelling elements of memoir, travelogue and scholarly abstract into an accessible tale of physical and mental adventure. Up for anything, Kotler seeks out big waves, bungee jumping and a risky helicopter ride. He also delves into far-flung topics: surfing's history, Joseph Campbell's work on myths, Jungian psychology, Zen Buddhism, government "weather modification" experiments and the religious beliefs of islanders like the Maori and Hawaiians. The book reaches its peak when Kotler focuses on the inner workings of the human brain. His reasoning of how genetic and biological factors combine with physical and emotional experiences to create the spiritual "funkytown" feeling unique to surfing is both enlightening and inspirational. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 06/01/2006
Paperback - 261 pages - 978-1-59691-344-8
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-59691-835-1
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