The Wave

Susan Casey

Buy local: Lyon Books

It’s obvious that as beautiful as the oceans are, they can be hella dangerous, too. Waves can smash surfers, sink ships and erase coastal populations. Susan Casey’s The Wave (recently released in paperback) provides the views of an eclectic, edgy array of people spending much of their lives working and playing in (and trying to understand) extreme surf conditions. Casey treads a lot of water with her manifold approach to the subject of big waves—from accounts of a third-of-a-mile-high tsunami that hit a section of Alaska in 1958 (several boaters survived the maelstrom), to getting out in rough seas to witness maniac surfers—such as the widely known Laird Hamilton—risk life and limb to ride 70-foot waves (“As for stitches, Hamilton ‘stopped counting at 1,000’”). Spending five years researching and writing the book, Casey accrued a wealth of data and information showing that the effects of ocean warming are making for more turbulent seas—“wave heights have been rising steadily, by more than 25 percent between the 1960s and 1990s.” According to scientist John Marra, “there is no normal anymore. But that’s all the more reason to surf!”—and to surf this book, too.