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West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief Paperback – May 29, 2007


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West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief + Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea + Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After surviving a battle with Lyme disease, Kotler finds himself searching for a reason to live and turns to his love of surfing. The novelist (The Angle Quickest for Flight) and journalist travels to Mexico, where he hears a story about a magical being called "the Conductor," who controls the surf. Having heard the same tale eight years earlier while surfing in Indonesia, Kotler decides to seek out the legend's source while researching the inherent mysticism of surfers and their sport. Detailing his journey and findings, Kotler creates a work that combines the most compelling elements of memoir, travelogue and scholarly abstract into an accessible tale of physical and mental adventure. Up for anything, Kotler seeks out big waves, bungee jumping and a risky helicopter ride. He also delves into far-flung topics: surfing's history, Joseph Campbell's work on myths, Jungian psychology, Zen Buddhism, government "weather modification" experiments and the religious beliefs of islanders like the Maori and Hawaiians. The book reaches its peak when Kotler focuses on the inner workings of the human brain. His reasoning of how genetic and biological factors combine with physical and emotional experiences to create the spiritual "funkytown" feeling unique to surfing is both enlightening and inspirational. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steven Kotler's novel The Angle Quickest for Flight was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and won the William L. Crawford IAFA Fantasy Award. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, GQ, National Geographic, Details, Wired, Men's Journal, Maxim, Salon, and elsewhere. He has surfed all over the world and lives in Los Angeles, California.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913444
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913448
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

STEVEN KOTLER is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works "Bold," "The Rise of Superman," "Abundance," "A Small Furry Prayer" "West of Jesus," and the novel "The Angle Quickest for Flight." His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His work has been translated in over 30 languages and his articles have appeared in over 80 publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Wired, GQ, Outside, Popular Science, Discover and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes "Far Frontiers," a blog about technology and innovation for Forbes.com and is cofounder of the Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary in Northern New Mexico.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jason Zimmerman on July 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Two friends who happened to be surfers drove their rusted out old car into the outback to chase the rumor of perfect waves on an isolated beach. They rumbled over the bumpy road, turning left, then right, winding around, finally driving off the pavement down pockmarked, dusty lanes, eventually stalling out in a thick muck field just a quarter mile from the ocean. From here they did what any reasonable surfer would do, they untied their boards and started to hike into the beach. Things changed not more than ten feet away from their abandoned car. A blinding light flash and -zap!- a lightning bold charred the car, frying engine and all associated parts.

Miles from civilization, knowing nothing about engines and out of supplies, they did the only sensible thing--they went surfing. When they reached the water they found the surface to be completely flat, no waves to be had. Waiting out most of the afternoon with no change in conditions, they were ready to bail, when again -zap!- another bolt hit the reef and *poof* instant waves. Beautiful surf for hours, they caught waves all day, until suddenly, just as rapidly as they had begun, the waves shut off. Just like that, as sometimes happens.

That's when they saw him. Several hundred yards out was an old man sitting on a surfboard. In his hand was a long white bone. The story is that with this bone he could control the weather, could summon waves, and who knows what other magical stuff.

This is the story of the Conductor. It is the myth who's elusive origins author Steven Kotler seeks in his book "West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Miss Barbara TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't let the "J" word scare you away from this book, or the "surf" word either for that matter. This is a slick and intersting work written by a real smart guy.

The author brings you along on his quest. He's searching for the origin of the "Conductor" lore - the enigmatic chap who controls the weather and the waves and can give a surfer the ride of his life or be the conduit for ending it.

Reading this book is like sitting in an amusement park ride being driven along a path that allows us a peek at Pacific legends, quantum physics, that ol'time religion and psychotropic drug treatments.

I'm a member of a read and release program and can't quite decide if I want to leave this book on a California pier, a roudy fundamentalist church or the local loony bin. But rest assured, anyone who lays claim to this book will find it fascinating. bg
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Debra L. Powless on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Very interesting perspective that deals with a lot of interesting subjects - like out of body experiences, the basis for belief, great story of a personal quest. Often in the book when he touches on an interesting subject he will back it up with previously written data by another author or research that had been done. It was definitely out of the norm of what I usually read and I enjoyed it so much. A friend recommended it to me and I would like to recommend it to you.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robina Galford on February 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I buy many books from Amazon to send to my son who is currently in prison in Texas. He said this is, by far, the best book he has received. He has read it twice and has let other inmates read it as well, who all have loved it. I haven't read it yet, but will be doing so soon.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on September 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This semi-autobiographical book starts with the author having one of those moments where what comes after will not be like what went before. In his case the determining factor was a bout with Lyme disease. He had the disease a lot harder than most people and was basically bed ridden for two years, he was over the disease but left weak and probably depressed. Solution: Go to Mexico and go surfing.

From here Kotler begins wandering, both in the book and in life. He goes to investigate an old surfing folk tale called the Conductor, about a man who has the ability to control the weather, specifically the surf. With the remains of his life rather messed up, Kotler begins to surf around the world seeking the Conductor. He regains his strength, both physically and mentally. But he also begins to develop mystical experiences. He reports on out-of-body experiences, time stoppages, moments of ecstasy.

It was a delightful trip, it's a delightful story. Only I'm left with a wonder about what he's going to do next.
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Format: Hardcover
West Of Jesus: Surfing, Science, And The Origins Of Belief by award-winning author Steven Kotler contemplates the link between neuroscience, spiritual transcendence, and sports. After Kotler reached the low point of his life, having lost his job, his girlfriend, and most other things dear to him, Kotler dared to set out and search the world for the mysterious "Conductor" - the mythical surfer who controls weather and the waves. In spite of his own skepticism, he encountered out-of-body experiences and moments that appeared divine. Contemplating the similarities between his personal senses and the reports of mystics and the findings of neuroscience, Kostler discovered the key intersection of biology, philosophy, and spirituality. A serious-minded search for understanding humanity's perceptions and the stories it tells itself to fully live.
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