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Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing Hardcover – November 19, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut effort from Smith, a war correspondent turned surfing journalist with a cruel, sometimes witty eye, is a mix of reportage and gonzo journalism for the surfing set. Mixing shameless, fey bluster that he dubs Trash Prose and occasionally trenchant observation, Smith delves into the scene surrounding the big-money surfing contests on Oahu, Hawaii's legendary North Shore. As the pro circuit arrives for the winter wave season, Smith sketches an exposé of the tensions between local Hawaiian surfers and low-level gangsters and the established surfing professionals, surfwear brand representatives, and out-of-towners during this seasonal demographic change. Smith's favorite subject, however, is himself: he sees himself as an outlaw raconteur whose articles garner so much resentment he gets roughed up at a party. He also provides endless descriptions of his wardrobe—he calls his style his version of Island Dandy, which is purposefully at odds with everything Oahu's North Shore stands for. If Hunter S. Thompson circa Hell's Angels merged with a fashion critic to write about surfing for Maxim, the result might be similar. Smith's approach is myopic, writing for an audience that already knows the sport and the names. There are some astute observations (particularly his analysis of why surfing is essentially a lonely sport), but ultimately the book fails to reveal much beyond the author's considerable self-regard. Agent: Ryan D. Harbage, Fischer-Harbage Agency (Dec.)

From Booklist

Surfing journalist Smith grabs us with his first sentence: “There is a gun pressed to my temple.” This was in 2006 in Beirut, the result of Smith’s post–9/11 urge to become a globe-trotting adventure journalist. After that incident (it involved Hezbollah), Smith decided to dial it down a bit and, being a longtime surfing fan, turn to writing about surfing. This exciting and revelatory book focuses on Hawaii’s North Shore, one of the major hot spots of competitive surfing, with side trips into the history of Hawaii, a history speckled with blood (Captain Cook, among others, met his demise in the island paradise). Smith explores not just the allure and popularity of surfing, but also the business side of the sport—the sale of surfing gear is a multimillion-dollar industry—and the drugs and violence that sweep into the North Shore when the surfing competitions come to Hawaii. Told in an energetic, first-person style that one of Smith’s magazine editors dubbed “trash prose,” the book is a sure-fire hit with fans of surfing literature. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: It Books (November 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062202529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062202529
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B_W on February 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After building a large pile of rejected reads on my bedside table this past month, finally I was gripped by Welcome to Paradise.

I loved the fast paced, wry style that kept me alternately laughing, thinking, questioning, and cringing throughout my marathon reading session.

I loved the twisting blend of history, surfing education, and adventure story. I loved being thrown into a world so unfamiliar to me and coming out the other side feeling an unearned intimacy. I loved having my illusions of Hawaii burst and being reminded that EVERYTHING, even paradise, has a seething, raw, underbelly feeding it.

As someone who prefers to take her danger in literary form, I'm grateful for this virtual wild ride into unchartered territory.

Couldn't put it down.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subtitle of this book is 'A True Story...' and it likely is mostly true. I think the author took some liberties with time and events but likely not in a way to alter it much.
Any surfer has more than a passing familiarity with the North shore even if he has never been there for it is surfing's most sacred ground. All who have surfed there, or attempted to, or who have kept up with the scene are also aware of its peculiar form of unofficially sanctioned frontier justice. Some would call it localism, but this is a far more highly evolved system of justice, retribution and surf socialism that has evolved around the world's most iconic waves in one of the world's most iconic tropical paradises, and Chas Smith has come to town to break it down for the lay reader....and does a really good job of it.

After giving us a taste of who he is: Thrill seeker, Journalist, Crap stirrer, Dandy, Surfer, World Traveler, and so on,the author proposes to take us on a journey through the labyrinthine inner workings of North Shore's high stakes, big wave surf scene.

The problem is one of a finite resource, the world's best waves; a discrete area, seven miles of prime surfing; a near-infinite source of filthy lucre, corporate purveyors of globally consumed surf-themed goods, a put-upon minority with huge muscles, steely nerves, amazing physical skill and few compunctions about resorting to violence; the self-proclaimed rulers of their beloved, besieged surfing kingdom.
The solution is an unarmed mob, roughly organized into an elite cadre of enforcers meting out justice based upon a rough calculus that takes into account the respect one has earned on the North Shore, surf-cred, corporate sponsorship, indigineity, the ability to take it and dish it out, and social connections.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book exposes so much violence, I am almost afraid to review it, but here goes.

Chas Stevens is an adrenaline junkie. He moves from covering rebels in Yemen to the ambiguous dangers of being a loud-mouthed, opinionated haole on Oahu's North Shore.

Stevens writes with a sense of awe at his own willingness to risk his life by going to places he is not wanted and saying things people will read and react to. Someone always has Chas on their chopping block.

For all the swagger, WELCOME TO PARADISE, NOW GO TO HELL captures the inside game of the surfing circuit. The power structure among surfers shifts with every wave attempted, completed, or wiped out on. The power structure of the economy surrounding surfing is equally cut-throat. Companies come and go with the vagaries of what's cool to the young surfers. Corporate sponsorship is both a goal and a weight around one's' neck.

At the same time, Stevens explores the blatantly racial nature of the surf gangs in Hawaii, with the locals not happy about foreigners on their turf, vying for their waves. The surf language is raw, peppered with expletives and pidgeon English. Stevens himself knows the ropes, the alliances and insults. He has been slapped and cracked and he comes back for more.

At the heart of the pink-shirted, skinny jeans wearing writer, Chas Smith is a tough-talking Dylan Thomas. He voice rings out with awe at the power and beauty of the waves, the colors of the sunsets, the crispness of a cocktail. But always, always, Chas returns to the majesty of the ocean itself with the boom of the big sets rolling in.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a surfer. This book is mostly surfing education and history, Hawaiian history, and a tour of the North Shore. Unfortunately, I know these topics, so it is a better book for non-surfers. The only interesting investigative journalism is the interview with Eddie Rothman, but that is enough for an article not a book. Other than that, pretty dull. Basically, I read the whole book waiting for it to get better.
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with in the first few chapters I wonder if I bought the right book! Chas comes off like a effeminate a hole. He seems more concerned with his attire description, then giving you a feel for Hawaii and the North Shore.
His interviews with Eddie and Kaiborg were kinda funny but he is hard to take seriously. He seems more interested in painting himself as a chaser of danger no matter where. If you can get past his constant description of his attire, and what car he picks to rent there is some facts that are researched fairly well.
I got this book cheap so it was ok, but I think really his best trait is how he alienates most people in the industry he trys to be a part of.
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