The book “Born to Run” by Christopter McDougall introduced me to the genre of book that tells a great story on one hand and talks a lot about science and history on the other. “The Wave” fits this formula well. Casey balances accounts of shipwrecks, extreme surfers, and scientists who attempt to unlock the mysteries of the ocean.
Casey talks about how tides, winds, storm systems and reefs on the ocean floor cause some of the biggest waves to break and tells the story of the surfers who chase these storm systems to ride these monsters. She details the risks of big wave surfers including shallow coral reefs, vicious hold downs underwater, and the sheer weight of the breaking wave when caught in the impact zone. I find the lifestyle these surfers lead, the training they undergo and risks these surfers take for this adrenaline rush completely fascinating. I am in awe of extreme athletes and the way they push the limits of the human body.
“The Wave” takes you from Maui where you will find the legendary break called Jaws and the home of Laird Hamilton (above at Jaws) to Alaska’s haunting Lituya Bay (below), where two fishing boats survived a 1,700 megatsunami to the “Graveyard of Ships” off the coast of South Africa where 100 ships have disappeared, potentially from rouge or freak waves.
The only thing I would have liked to hear more about is the science behind these waves. Casey touches on quantum mechanics, and while I don’t pretend to understand multidimensional physics or wave behavior, I was hoping to read a little more about what the brainiacs of the world are finding.
Susan Casey is also the author of “The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks” and was recently named editor-in-chief of O, The Oprah Magazine.