Endless winter: A kooky search through the perfect wave of surfing books

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It only took a few months for summer to finally arrive in Southern California.

Seriously. Dude. Check it out.

In synch with the start of The Jay at Mavericks Big Wave Invitational as the watch begins today and goes through Feb. 28 (story linked here), we’ve put ourself on a 24-hour notice to catch up with the wave of surfing books that have been cresting on our desk over the last six months.

These are more than just suitable as flotation devices. They’ve captured some essence of the sport, lifestyle and soul of what it’s about.

For starters:

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The book: “Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave”

The author: Peter Heller

The vital info: Free Press, 336 pages, $15 (released in paperback in July).

The curl: The 45-year-old, Denver-based Heller, an adventure writer whose stuff has been in Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure and Outside decides to take his own hell ride along the California coast down into Mexico with his girlfriend Kim and a VW bus called “The Beast” after his best friend has a mid-life crisis and his wife decides surfing may be the best way to cure it. In the process, Heller is hooked, after examining what he (and we) think we know about surfing, how it really exists, and then, what it really means.
And as for the term “kook,” what it really means is a beginning surfer, one who doesn’t know anything about territorial rights, how to avoid putting yourself between the board and the shore, and why taking lessons is essential.
Before digging into this, a good primer might be Steve Kotler’s 2006 “West of Jesus,” Jaimal Yogis’ 2009 “Saltwater Buddah” and Norman Ollestad’s 2009 New York Times bestseller “Crazy for the Storm.”

The excerpts: From page 21: “Surfing is one of the only pursuits on earth that can drub you into numb exhaustion and blunt trauma time and again and give you nothing in return; nothing but sand in your crotch, salt-stung eyes, banged temple, chipped tooth, screaming back and sunburned ears — gives you all of this and not a single stand-up ride. Time and again. Day after day. Gives you nothing back but tumbles, wipeouts, thumpings, scares. And you return. You are glad to do it. In fact, you can think of nothing you’d rather do.”
And on page 71: “I was beginning to understand that what I loved most about learning to surf was the sheer beauty of the wild ocean — turn from the shore, and it was wild — wild, capricious, untamed. It might be dying by degrees, but the pelicans still plunged, the sardines still skipped the surface in panic, the wind still blew the spume off the breaking waves. It thundered and heaved and shuddered. The immense geologic force of the sea was undiminished. Every morning that I waded into the heavy whitewash and jumped onto the board and paddled out into the waves, I felt honored and humbled to take my place among the fishes and the birds.”

Find it: On Amazon and Powells.

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== More:
== A Washington Post review (linked here)
== Peter Heller’s website (linked here)

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