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Radical Reads: 10 Best Surf Books

Unless you live in a year-round wave-rich part of the world and can get away with not working for a living, odds are time spent out of the water will be greater than time spent jockeying through your local lineup. In this case, certain activities come in handy to remain fine-tuned and at your best for when the time does come to enter Big Blue once again. From swimming at the local recreation center to endurance training at the track or on the treadmill, maintaining a certain physique is imperative for not losing your edge out there.

On the flip side, keeping your mind sharp, stoked, and on par with a surfing lifestyle not only helps to clear those landlocked blues, but also serves as a motivational tool for future trips, goals, and overall life choices down the road. Surf books, therefore, are not just a non-fictional escape from reality. Rather, these salty tomes act as memoirs for those who, in the surfer’s opinion, put the art of traveling and waveriding ahead of other more commonplace principles. These are the rebellious few – stories about dedicated surfers traversing the globe, living a life of reckless abandonment, providing some insight into commercialized surf culture or giving us a first-person perspective into the adrenaline-fueled thrill of big-wave surfing. Simply pick your poison, sit back, and open your mind to this aquatic subculture.

Let My People Go Surfing

Yvon Chouinard is a man that needs no introduction. As the founder of Patagonia, he’s been at the forefront of sustainable corporate culture and cutting-edge adventure brands we all know and love. Let My People Go Surfing is Chouinard’s autobiography – a story of a businessman at heart who sought to revolutionize the way large companies operate through altering what’s been categorized as the “culture of consumption” by Naomi Klein who authored the book’s Foreword. Needless to say, with the current anti-environmental sentiments permeating throughout Washington as of late, and Chouinard’s resistance to such, this is one surf book certainly worth your time.

Purchase: $7

Caught Inside

Surfers have a hard time stomaching a standard work schedule. For most, including author Daniel Duane himself, the thought of another year at his mundane Berkeley, CA job was too much to handle. So, he left his job in pursuit of exploration along the California coastline after moving to Santa Cruz – befriending locals, waxing philosophic on their quest for the perfect wave, and the inherent sense of oneness with nature. With such insight, critics have placed his work in the same light as Jack London, Mark Twain, and Robinson Jeffers.

Purchase: $10

In Search of Captain Zero

It’s the story every surfer wishes he could call his own. Selling your worldly possessions, chartering a camper and heading south into the unknown. It’s what author Allan Weisbecker committed to back in 1966 while in search of a long lost surfing companion who had disappeared into the wildness of Central America. Here, we have the story of Weisbecker’s quest to find “Captain Zero” from the beaches of Northern Baja Mexico to Costa Rica where his buddy Patrick is rumored to be living a questionable lifestyle.

Purchase: $11


A coming of age story at heart, Breath offers a detailed look into the human condition through the lens of surfing. It all starts when two kids from Western Australia befriend an older hippie surfing guru who goes by Sando – taking them under his wing and pushing them to bigger and, in all likeliness, more dangerous conditions. It’s the story of thrill-seeking, addiction, the role a sport like surfing can have on the formative years, and the fear of being ordinary in a mundane world. Existential at its core, Breath will not only leave you stoked on the sport, but have you questioning life’s meaning on a grander scale.

Purchase: $11

Barbarian Days

More of a memoir of obsession than an autobiography, this Pulitzer-Prize-winning work of nonfiction is William Finnegan’s magnum opus to the surfing world. Beginning his story in and around Hawaii, Finnegan – an aspiring writer with a thirst for adventure – traverses the globe in search of perfect waves, a meaning to his existence, and subject matter for his writing. Through Finnegan’s elegant prose, we witness first-hand the local school gangs of Honolulu, tripping acid while surfing massive Honolua Bay on the island of Maui, the underground surf culture of San Francisco, and the discovery of Fiji’s now most popular surf spots.

Purchase: $12

The Big Drop

An anthology at heart, The Big Drop features a collection of big wave surfing stories (32 to be exact) from the very hellions who risk life and limb for the ultimate ride. Each story offers insight into different eras of the sport, big wave surf spots, and the legends who pioneered this niche obsession. Both entertaining and terrifying at times, it’s here where we find the sport’s true adrenaline rush.

Purchase: $14

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Recognized at one point as the head honcho of Malibu surfers, Miki Dora lived an eccentric and rebellious existence that consisted of wave hunting, shock-value showmanship, and anti-establishment exercises. This all culminated in his utter disgust of surfing’s sudden Hollywood-infused popularity and the subsequent crowds that soon descended upon his favorite surf spots. What followed was the life of a dark prince, culminating in a global FBI hunt for Dora for seven years across the globe and author David Rensin’s several-year journey to uncover the truth about Dora in this one-of-a-kind page turner.

Purchase: $17

Tapping the Source

As the inspiration behind the cult classic movie Point Break, Tapping the Source is the fictional tale of Ike Tucker – a surfer who infiltrates the seedy counterculture of Huntington Beach, California in search of the men who might have murdered his sister. His journey takes him on a roller coaster ride of highs, lows, seduction, and sadistic intentions by the local surf gangs in true noir fashion. One wild ride and an inside look into the underbelly of a world-renowned beach town, Tapping the Source is quite possibly one of the best surf novels out there.

Purchase: $17

Surf Shack

Suited for lifestyle and home dwelling motivation, this ideal visually-stunning coffee table book details the beach bungalows, cabins, trailers and homes that surfers retreat into after a long day in the water. It contains both vibrant photographs of these dwellings and detailed descriptions of a lifestyle surfers and beach lovers alike all aspire to attain – ranging from selected homes in Malibu to Japan and Australia among others. A worldwide phenomenon, what we have here is a desire for that beach-infused lifestyle adjacent to a world-class break to call your own.

Purchase: $24

Salt & Suits

Ever wonder how the biggest brands in surfing got their start and where their subsequent founders stand today? Well, we don’t want spoil this entertaining read but will say a mix of passion, luck, and all-out hedonism worked in conjunction with one another on both sides of the mighty Pacific Ocean to provide a handful of surf-stoked entrepreneurs overnight success and millions of dollars. We’ll leave the rest to your imagination. What follows here is the true story about how it all began, and where the industry as a whole is headed based on such a one-off past.

Purchase: $43

12 Best Surfboards for Every Rider

When the time comes to get back in the water, be sure to check out this list of the 12 best surfboards for every rider to ensure you make the most out of your time in the water.