Greatest Misadventures. Ed: Paul Diamond and Tyler McMahon, (Casagrande
Just like it says: a global collection of the mishaps, the misconstrued,
the mislaid, and the misplaced efforts that constitute what you
shouldn’t do when you go surfing. The book is laid out in
a series of chapters; shark encounters, big wave difficulties
and surfaris gone wrong. In each collection there are a number
of short stories, some really short, others about 20 or 30 pages
long. The writers of each ‘misadventure’ are the people
involved at the time, among them surfing luminaries like Buzzy
Kerbox, Carlos Burle and Steve Pezman (now Editor of the impeccable
Surfer’s Journal). At other places though, miles away from
glossy mags or surf industry glamour, there’s the local
surfer’s story too. Indeed, its up to Oregon at one stage,
and who should feature only Mark “Finger” Taylor,
a regular on this very surf community. If you want to know how
Mark got the nickname, buy the book.
In an age of goof-up tv shows and a broader cultural zeitgeist
of lampooning and exploiting the individual (anyone else ready
to thump Jeremy friggin’ Kyle?), I came at this book with
a some apprehension. Would it be just more goofy, mostly Stateside
stories of the Biggest “Whoooooaaaa” Wipeouts and
the Biggest Waves Stories told with too much gusto and a not inconsiderable
dollop of surf-chat hyperbole? The first few stories put paid
to that notion. Shark attacks tend to do that, when written as
well as this. In fact, I assume many of the writers here are journalists.
The writing is really good – factual, even Spartan - and
would pull anyone in, such is the drama, the risk and the knock
on effect that one simple thing like an engine failure can have
on a person’s life.
Who's This One For?
I genuinely found this book helpful. When you see the title on
the cover, it actually betrays a whole collection of stories which
are disparate in their scope. There’s a window on the States,
yes, but also Africa, Indonesia and Laird Hamiltons effort to
surf-swim from Corsica to Elba here in Europe. At times you’re
laughing at the thought of a young Steve Pezman playing cops and
robbers on Trestles Beach back in the 60’s when it was governed
by the military and you weren’t meant to surf there. His
final comment holds true poignancy on modern surf-sploitation.
The next minute, youre gutted that some stories here have no happy
ending. There are fatalities, and some of the accounts of the
‘men in grey suits’, that is, our toothed friends,
The problem with any collection like this might be that you have
over 30 different authors competing for your attention. On the
whole though, the writing is engaging and informative.
For surfers who feel the pull towards an understanding of early
surf culture, there are some real nuggets. Bruce Savage remembers
1960, old California and the Alpha male rivalry of Miki ‘Da
Cat’ Dora and Greg Noll. This was the stuff of legend, as
Dora endeavours to infiltrate, then ruin Noll’s fancy film
The book also works as a sometime read. You can read a quick
story, then come back a day or a week later and not feel like
you’ve forgotten the thread. Lazy yes, but that’s
probably why its taken me so damn long to review, [and probably
why other such ‘loo-books’ sell so well].
Irish people appreciate good storytelling. Over here, its an
art form around the fire where wisdom is passed on to the young.
Here too - for those of you who aspire to surf more, travel more
and maybe take a risk with pushing up your surfing ability and
scope – there is wisdom to be found. A lot of the writers
are older, and should be heeded when they remember the stupid
things they did back-in-the-day. This book educates in the practicalities
of surf travel and good preparation. More importantly though,
it serves to remind us that this pull of ours toward the ocean
to ride waves can be a real leveller in terms of lost dreams and,
at times, lost lives.
Well worth the ride all the way through.
And Who Not?
A lot of surfers don’t really want to think about the boat
going down, getting whacked in the shark attack or engaging with
the wipeout that takes you within an inch of your last breath.
I think its good to know this stuff. But if its nice waves, general
order and perfect peeling beach breaks that make your world go
round, forget this one. Some of the images in the book are genuinely
disturbing, and a salutary lesson that surfing is a pursuit that
can so easily go so badly wrong.
Available in the UK from www.cordee.co.uk
Sterling cover price is £11.99 or order from your local
book shop – ISBN is 0976951606.
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