Surf books: read, explore, and learn more about the history and science of surfing | Photo: Chismorie/Creative Commons

Surf books are an invaluable resource for surfers of all levels and the best way to learn about the rich culture and history of surfing.

"The Surf Riders of Hawaii" is the first-ever surf-inspired book to see the light of day. It was published in 1914.

Since then, the market witnessed the launch of hundreds of quality reading materials focusing on classic surfboards, alternative lifestyles, surfing memoirs, epic tales, surf heritage, and the science of the waves.

They provide an array of information, from tips on improving your technique to advice on board selection to stories of legendary waves and surfers.

For beginners, surf books are handy as they provide a wealth of knowledge on the basics of wave riding, from choosing the right gear to developing the correct form and technique.

For intermediate and advanced surfers, surf books offer in-depth instruction and analysis on wave-riding and board design, as well as inspiring stories about legendary surfers and their incredible feats.

When waves are too small or too big, there's nothing like a cold beer or hot chocolate by the seaside with an exciting, good-looking surf book in our hands.

Hundreds of Quality Titles

There's so much to learn and discover in surfer publications that by the time you finish reading them, you'll look forward to getting a new one.

Many such books showcase photographs and illustrations that bring the stories to life, allowing readers to visualize the action and better understand wave riding.

They're usually written by surf historians, pro surfers, surf journalists, or authors who fell in love with the sport.

Surfing publications can also provide valuable insight into the community and culture, as they often contain interviews and stories from surfers worldwide.

Reading about their experiences and motivations can provide inspiring stories of courage and perseverance that can help motivate and encourage any surfer to strive for greatness.

More than the usual surf industry propaganda, books about surfing always have something new to reveal - a secret wave, a hot surf destination, a hidden wave peak, the transformation of coastal regions, wave-riding stories, and the lives of surf legends.

In addition, surf books can serve as a valuable source of entertainment and escapism, transporting readers to distant shores and immersing them in the thrill of riding a wave.

Surfing has been building an outstanding book legacy through time, and new publications are released quite frequently.

SurferToday has carefully curated a comprehensive list of the books every surfer should read and add to their library. And yes, we read them all.

Discover the 25 best saltwater titles for your pre or post-surfing sessions.

 

The Encyclopedia of Surfing

The Encyclopedia of Surfing

"The Encyclopedia of Surfing" is probably the most important surf book ever published and the ultimate guide to the sport of surfing and its culture.

It features 1,500 alphabetical entries and 300 illustrations and is the most comprehensive review of the people, places, events, equipment, and lively surfing history.

Featuring over 500 pages of information, this comprehensive resource is the definitive source on all things surfing.

Covering everything from wave mechanics and surfboard design to the history of surfing and its stars, readers will get an in-depth look at the sport from its ancient Polynesian roots to the modern day.

With hundreds of detailed photographs and illustrations, this book is a must-have for any serious surfer or ocean enthusiast.

Author: Matt Warshaw

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

"Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life" by William Finnegan is an award-winning autobiography that chronicles a life spent surfing and searching out waves around the world.

In this memoir, Finnegan takes readers on a journey from his childhood in California to his adventures in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and more.

Through stories of his early days as a surfer and his time as a journalist, readers get an insight into his life and how his passion for surfing has shaped his life.

Finnegan gives readers an honest and candid look into how his love of the ocean has been a major part of it.

The staff writer at The New Yorker shares his experiences of the waves, the people he's met, the places he's been. and his search for transcendence.

It's an inspiring story of a life well-lived and a reminder of the power of passion.

It has received critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

The book is described as a "mental and physical study" and has been praised for its beautiful writing and evocative depiction of the surfing experience.

Finnegan has been a journalist for many years and has won numerous awards for his writing, including two Overseas Press Club awards.

Author: William Finnegan

Buy: Amazon.com

 

The History of Surfing

The History of Surfing

"The History of Surfing" is a great book for those wishing to learn how surfing was first seen by James Cook in 1778 and evolved into the 21st century.

At nearly 500 pages, with 250,000 words and more than 250 rare photographs, this is a publication all surfers should feature in their home library.

It is a comprehensive exploration of the global surfing culture. From its ancient roots in Polynesia and Hawaii to its modern ubiquity, this book examines this iconic sport's history, impact, and evolution.

It explores how surfing has been embraced by different cultures, the fashion and style that have developed around it, and the technology that has revolutionized the sport.

It also features detailed stories involving some of the world's most renowned surfers, giving readers an inside look into the lives of these extraordinary athletes.

With stunning photography and detailed coverage of surfing's various subcultures, "The History of Surfing" is an essential read for anyone interested in the history and culture of this beloved activity.

Author: Matt Warshaw

Buy: Amazon.com

 

The World Stormrider Surf Guide

The World Stormrider Surf Guide

"The World Stormrider Surf Guide" is the most detailed surf spot guide ever published.

It's the definitive guide to wave-riding sports, bringing together the best destinations from around the globe with detailed descriptions and maps of the best spots.

The book explores the most famous surf peaks by adding descriptions, photos, swell and wind patterns, ocean floor characteristics, and surf statistics.

It also includes information on weather, wind, tides, and safety. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced wave rider, this publication is an essential resource for discovering and exploring the world's greatest waves and winds.

Author: Bruce Sutherland

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surf Is Where You Find It

Surf Is Where You Find It: The Wisdom of Waves, Any Time, Anywhere, Any Way

"Surf Is Where You Find It: The Wisdom of Waves, Any Time, Anywhere, Any Way" is a book written by the legendary Hawaiian surfer and Pipeline Master Gerry Lopez.

The book is a collection of stories that recount Lopez's personal experiences with surfing, including harrowing waves, epic wipeouts, and encounters with heroes.

It explores the intimate and personal nature of surfing and offers insights into the wisdom and lessons that can be gained from the sport.

Author: Gerry Lopez

Buy: Amazon.com

 

The Surfboard: Art, Style, Stoke

The Surfboard

"The Surfboard: Art, Style, Stoke" is a comprehensive guide to the history and culture of surfboard design.

It dives deep into the history of surfboard construction, from its roots in the monstrous "koa" planks from the ancient Hawaiian culture to its modern-day applications.

It explores the many different styles of surfboard design, from traditional longboards to modern shortboards.

It also examines the art and craftsmanship that goes into surfboard production and the people and personalities that have helped shape its evolution.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history, culture, and artistry of surfboards, and it has every single example of surfboard shapes and formats.

Author: Ben Marcus

Buy: Amazon.com

 

The World In the Curl

The World In the Curl

"The World In the Curl" is an engaging and comprehensive exploration of the evolution of surfing, from its ancient Polynesian origins to its modern-day status as a global phenomenon.

Written by two leading experts in the history of surfing and surfers, Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul, the book looks at the culture, technology, and lifestyle of surfing, as well as its impact on the environment.

It offers readers a unique insight into the development of surfing from its early days as an obscure Hawaiian pastime to its current popularity worldwide.

The authors draw on their expertise to explore the colorful history of surfing and the forces that have fueled its expansion, such as colonialism, the Cold War, and environmentalism.

With its vivid descriptions, fascinating stories, and detailed research, the book is an essential read for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of surfing and its history.

Authors: Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul

Buy: Amazon.com

 

All for a Few Perfect Waves

All for a Few Perfect Waves

"All for a Few Perfect Waves" is a biography written by David Rensin about Miki Dora, a legendary surfer known as the "dark prince of California surfing."

The book is based on Rensin's interviews with Dora's friends, family, and fellow surfers and includes quotes from these interviews throughout the text.

It covers Dora's life and career as a surfer and is described as the "greatest surf story never told."

Author: David Rensin

Buy: Amazon.com

 

LeRoy Grannis. Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s

LeRoy Grannis. Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s

"LeRoy Grannis. Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s" is a comprehensive collection of iconic surf photography by legendary photographer LeRoy Grannis.

Capturing the spirit of the golden age of surfing, Grannis's stunning images pick up the beauty and excitement of the sport, from the world's best surfers to everyday enthusiasts.

This book features over 400 photographs, many never before seen, from Grannis's personal archives, taken from his travels to beaches around the world.

With an introduction by legendary surfer and photographer Jeff Divine, this book is a must-have for any surfing enthusiast or photography lover.

Grannis's photography captures the spirit of the 1960s and 1970s surf culture in both color and black and white and brings to life the vibrant energy and beauty of the ocean.

It is an inspirational look at a golden era in surfing history and a must-have for any fan of the sport.

LeRoy Grannis is one of the key image-makers in the history of surfing.

Author: Taschen

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing

Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing

"Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing" is an inspiring biography of a legendary waterman, Eddie Aikau.

Aikau was a Hawaiian hero and pioneer of big-wave surfing.

The book is written by Stuart Holmes Coleman, and it recounts the life and times of Eddie Aikau.

It dives into the Hawaiian culture of the time and how it shaped Aikau's life and career.

It follows his journey from a young boy in Hawaii to a renowned big wave surfer, showcasing his courage and determination in the face of adversity.

The book also describes the development of big wave surfing, its impact on Hawaiian culture, and Eddie's influence on the sport.

It is a celebration of Eddie Aikau's legacy and a story that celebrates the courage and determination of a man who risked his life to follow his passion and blaze a trail for future generations of watermen.

Coleman is a surfer and writer who has published essays and poems in various publications and is also the author of the book "Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Evolution of Modern Surfing."

Author: Stuart Holmes Coleman

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Children of the Tide

Children of the Tide: An Exploration of Surfing in Dynastic China

"Children of the Tide: An Exploration of Surfing in Dynastic China" is a unique book that reveals the Red Dragon's unexpected surfing history.

Through detailed research, the author uncovers the origins of the sport and its fascinating ancient trajectory in the Chinese dynastic era.

Nik Zanella is an Italian surfer who studied Chinese in the late 1980s and worked as an interpreter in the 1990s before running SurfNews magazine and moving to Hainan island to enjoy China's surf scene.

Author: Nicola Zanella

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surf Survival

Surf Survival

"Surf Survival by Andrew Nathanson" is an essential guide for anyone who loves to surf and wants to stay safe in the water.

It was written by Andrew Nathanson, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University with expertise in marine medicine, and Clay Everline, a fellowship-trained sports medicine doctor living in Oahu, Hawaii.

The handbook covers a range of topics related to safety and survival while surfing, including first aid for various injuries and illnesses, tips for staying healthy and hydrated, and advice for dealing with various hazards and emergencies that may arise while surfing.

It also provides an in-depth look at the dangers of surfing, including topics such as ocean conditions, rip currents, shark encounters, and much more.

Nathanson also provides detailed descriptions of basic safety equipment and how to use them properly.

Author: Andrew Nathanson, Clayton Everline, and Mark Renneker

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku

Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku

"Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku" is a comprehensive biography of the legendary Hawaiian surfer, swimmer, and Olympic gold medalist Duke Kahanamoku.

Kahanamoku (1890-1968) was an iconic figure in the surfing world, and his feats on the waves, in the water, and in the pool made him an international celebrity.

This book offers a detailed look into the life of this beloved sports figure, examining his childhood, his rise to fame, his many accomplishments, and his lasting legacy.

Kahanamoku is often referred to as the "Human Fish" and was known for his skills in fresh and salt water.

Through Davis' engaging writing, readers will gain a greater understanding of the man and the many ways in which he changed the world of sports.

Author: David Davis

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Epic Surf Breaks of the World

Epic Surf Breaks of the World

"Epic Surf Breaks of the World" is a book published by Lonely Planet that explores some of the world's most exciting and challenging surf spots.

The informative guidebook features a range of locations around the world, including Namibia's Skeleton Bay and Java's G-Land, and is accompanied by beautiful photographs, maps, and illustrations.

The hardcover coffee table book is a little smaller than A4 size but features stunning photography and detailed descriptions of each location.

It covers all the essential information about the world's most popular and challenging surfing spots, including wave height, water temperature, local culture, and insider tips.

It also provides detailed maps to help you find your way to the perfect break.

Author: Lonely Planet

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Sweetness and Blood

Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread from Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, with Some Unexpected Results

"Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread from Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, with Some Unexpected Results" is a comprehensive, entertaining, and alternative look at the history of surfing and its culture.

Moore takes readers on a journey from the ancient Polynesian origins of the sport to its modern global reach.

He examines the often turbulent relationship between the Hawaiian and Californian surf communities and how they influenced each other's development.

Through interviews with surfing legends and local experts, Moore also dives into the unexpected results of surfing's global expansion, such as its impact on the ocean environment and the development of extreme sports.

Moore's thoughtful and engaging writing style makes this book an enjoyable and informative read, making it an ideal book for any fan of surfing and its history.

The journalist and author was famously kidnapped in Somalia in 2012 while on a reporting trip, being held hostage for two and a half years.

Author: Michael Scott Moore

Buy: Amazon.com

 

The WetSand WaveCast Guide to Surf Forecasting

The WetSand WaveCast Guide to Surf Forecasting

"The WetSand WaveCast Guide to Surf Forecasting" is the ultimate guide to making surf forecasts using simple calculations and publicly available data.

Written by an experienced surfer, this book provides an in-depth look at reading wave patterns, understanding weather forecasts and tide charts, and learning how to interpret them in order to predict the best times to go surfing.

This guide also covers the basics of wave mechanics, safety tips, and more. With easy-to-understand explanations, this book is the perfect resource for surfers of all levels looking to make the most of their time in the water.

It's definitely one of the best surf science books on the market.

Know the explanation behind waves, winds, water temperatures, tidal swings, etc., and learn how to predict when swells will arrive, how big waves will be, and telltale signs of common hazards.

Author: Nathan Todd Cool

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Fit to Surf

Fit to Surf

"Fit to Surf" is a book that provides surfers with a guide to creating a personal fitness program tailored to their needs.

The book is written by personal trainer Rocky Snyder, who is an avid surfer with two decades of experience riding the waves. It is designed to help surfers build strength and endurance, increase balance and coordination, and minimize the risk of injury.

It is intended for surfers of all levels of experience and is described as a cutting-edge, surfing-specific fitness guide that will prepare your body for a day at the beach.

It offers practical advice on exercises that help prepare your body to take on the waves, tips on techniques to improve your balance and control on the board, and expert advice on nutrition to help you stay energized and fit throughout your session.

With step-by-step instructions on how to warm up, stretch, and strengthen your body, this book is perfect for anyone who wants to make the most of their time in the surf.

Explore the ultimate surfer's guide to strength and conditioning.

Stay fit and learn the best physical exercises before you hit the waves. The book also features sample workout programs for more demanding maneuvers.

Author: Rocky Snyder

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surfer Magazine: 50 Years

Surfer Magazine: 50 Years

"Surfer Magazine: 50 Years" is a commemorative book that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Surfer Magazine, a publication that has captured and defined surf culture for the past 50 years

In this collectible hardback, you'll get an exhaustive overview of the world of surfing over the past five decades.

With vibrant images, behind-the-scenes stories, and exclusive interviews, this book celebrates the spirit of surfing and the sport's history.

From the legendary surfers and their adventures to the passionate writers and photographers who have documented it all, this is the definitive look at surfing culture.

It also includes original behind-the-scenes narratives and previously unpublished photographs.

Get ready to take a thrilling ride through the annals of surfing.

Author: Sam George

 

A Surfer in the White House

A Surfer in the White House

"A Surfer in the White House" by Rob Caughlan is a thrilling political novel that tells the story of a young surfer who embarks on an unlikely and turbulent journey to the highest office in the United States.

Caughlan is a lifelong surfer who has also been involved in politics.

Through a series of unexpected and thrilling circumstances, he finds himself teaming up with the surprise candidate in a presidential election and soon finds himself in the Oval Office.

As Caughlan navigates the complex and often dangerous world of politics, he is forced to confront his own values and beliefs and ultimately rise to the challenges of working with the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

Filled with action, adventure, and a dose of humor, "A Surfer in the White House" is a compelling and entertaining read.

It is a captivating story of an unlikely rise to power, media, lobbying, company strategies, and public relations, and a reminder that anything is possible with a little courage and determination.

Author: Rob Caughlan

Buy: Amazon.com

 

The Surfin'ary: A Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak

The Surfin'ary: A Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak

The Surfin'ary: A Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak, by Trevor Cralle, is the definitive guide to understanding the culture and language of surfing.

This book provides detailed explanations of all the terms, expressions, and slang used in the sport, from classic to modern terms.

It covers everything from the basics of surfing etiquette and gear to the unique terms used in competitive surfing and the jargon of the surf world.

The comprehensive reference guide for surf-related terminology includes over 3,000 alphabetical entries, with each term defined and translated into plain English.

The book is also extremely entertaining and humorous.

Author: Trevor Cralle

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surfing Hawaii

Surfing Hawaii

"Surfing Hawaii" by Rod Sumpter is a comprehensive guide to the best surf spots and the world of surfing in the Hawaiian Islands.

The book covers both well-known and lesser-known waves, including classic surf spots like Honolua Bay on Maui, Banzai Pipeline on Oahu, Magic Sands on the Big Island, and Nawiliwili Lihue on Kauai, as well as more obscure breaks like Tavaras Bay on Maui, Waimea Bay on Oahu, and Manele Bay on Lanai.

The author, Rod Sumpter, is an international surfing legend who has won multiple national and international surfing championships, placed in the top ten of the World Surfing Championships, acted as president of the English Surfing Federation, and held several other surfing-related positions.

The book is intended to help surfers plan their trips to Hawaii and make the most of their time on the islands.

It features every aspect of the surfing experience, including the history and culture, the waves and beaches, the equipment and techniques, and the people who make surfing in Hawaii so unique.

With stunning photographs and detailed information on the best spots in the islands, this book is an essential resource for anyone looking to experience the thrill of riding Hawaii's waves.

Author: Rod Sumpter

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Making Mavericks: The Memoir of a Surfing Legend

Making Mavericks: The Memoir of a Surfing Legend

"Making Mavericks: The Memoir of a Surfing Legend" is a captivating autobiography of the legendary surfer and big wave pioneer Frosty Hesson.

It is the story of the friendship between the Mavericks pioneer and wunderkind Jay Moriarty, as told by Hesson.

In the book, Hesson shares his remarkable life and the challenges he faced, including his turbulent youth spent under difficult circumstances with parents who tried to find a positive way to channel his energy.

Hesson also talks about his role in helping Moriarty become a better surfer and the strong father-son bond that developed between them.

The book is described as an inspiring tale of their friendship and the challenges that made each of them into surf legends.

It is more than just a testimony of a Mavericks big wave pioneer. It tells the story behind Jay Moriarity's passion and ambition through the eyes of his mentor.

It has lessons for our lives and careers, and it sure is better than many MBA classes.

The book inspired the film "Chasing Mavericks."

Author: Frosty Hesson

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surf Forecasting for Invasions During World War II

Surf Forecasting for Invasions During World War II

"Surf Forecasting for Invasions During World War II" by John C. Crowell is a comprehensive and detailed examination of the role that surf forecasting played in the Allied invasion of Europe during World War II.

Through archival records, interviews with veterans, and thorough research, Crowell examines the development and application of surf forecasting methods and how they were used to prepare for and execute the D-Day landings.

Crowell joined the Air Corps in 1942 and received training in meteorology at UCLA and the University of Chicago.

He later studied oceanographic meteorology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

In October of that year, he was sent to England to work on wave forecasting for the planned Allied Invasion of Normandy.

The book likely covers Crowell's experiences and responsibilities as a weather officer and his role in forecasting waves for the invasion.

He provides an in-depth look at the techniques and technology used to predict wave conditions and the strategies employed to ensure the successful launch and landing of the invasion force.

This book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of surf forecasting, World War II military operations, or the Allied invasion of Europe.

Author: John C. Crowell

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surfing The World

Surfing The World

"Surfing The World" is a comprehensive guide to 80 of the best surfing spots and waves worldwide.

Through stunning photography, personal stories, and in-depth knowledge of the surfing culture, readers will explore the most popular - and off-the-beaten-path - surfing destinations in the world.

From Australia to California and everywhere in between, Chris and Demi offer expert advice and tips on how to make the most of any surf trip, no matter the skill level.

The book is illustrated with beautiful color photographs and is described as a combination of a practical guide and a coffee table book.

In addition to practical information about the waves and how they work, the book also explores the personalities of the surfers who ride them and the often intriguing histories of the breaks.

It includes tips and knowledge from surfing legends, tales told by surfers, and advice on choosing a board.

Whether you're an experienced surfer looking to expand your horizons or a novice looking to get your feet wet, this book offers an unforgettable journey and an invaluable resource.

Author: Chris Nelson and Demi Taylor

Buy: Amazon.com

 

Surfing The Manual: Advanced

Surfing The Manual: Advanced

Written by an experienced surfer, "Surfing The Manual: Advanced" covers everything from the basics of balance and posture to advanced techniques such as turns, cutbacks, and more.

The best coaching manual for intermediate and advanced surfers. It also covers topics like surfboard selection, weather, and oceanography.

With detailed illustrations and step-by-step instructions, this book provides the reader with the knowledge needed to take their surfing to the next level.

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, Surfing The Manual: Advanced will help you become a better surfer.

Get step-by-step photographic sequences with intuitive training captions covering every maneuver in surfing - a fundamental surf book.

Author: Jim Kempton


Discover our comprehensive list of surf books. Are you a fan of surf science? Take a look at the best surf forecasting books.


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

SurferToday may earn a small commission from affiliate program links in this article - at no additional cost to you. We only review and recommend products that we buy, receive, or select from a carefully curated list.

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