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Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast Paperback – April 10, 1997
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Tossing aside a mundane and meaningless job, Daniel Duane went to Santa Cruz, California, to surf for year. The book he wrote about it, Caught Inside is something of a Walden of our times. It's wonderfully written, weaving wave wisdom with literary and historical references. And it's not for surfers only: even readers who have never seen the surf will find themselves taken up in the book's rhythms.
Duane sought the peace that surfing offers, and his impressions of surfing characters, sea life (otters, seals, and the great white shark everyone fears is right under you as you paddle your board), and the seasons by the sea are evocative and soothing to read.
From Publishers Weekly
Surfing enthusiast Duane quit his unfulfilling retail job in Berkeley, Calif., and moved to Santa Cruz, where he spent the better part of a recent year riding waves, exploring the coastline, researching the history of surfing and befriending and philosophizing with various locals who have arranged their lives around the quest for the perfect wave. The results of these pursuits are recorded here in quietly meditative prose that simultaneously deglamorizes the sport and seeks to imbue it with a kind of metaphysical profundity. Dedicated surfers, Duane discovers, tend to feel a measure of guilt about their willingness to give their favorite pastime precedence over career ambitions and family responsibilities. At the same time, surfing yields unique and valuable opportunities for appreciation of and communication with nature. Duane is clearly anxious to justify an ostensibly hedonistic lifestyle, and his arguments on its behalf are not always convincing, but the deftly rendered observations and epiphanies make his own experience seem decidedly worthwhile.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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If you're looking for cover to cover eloquence in prose it isn't here. If you're looking for a pure surf story it isn't here either. I think that what we have in this book is an honest reflection of a year from a guy that's read some books and seen some movies, a guy who can think about masturbating and physics and pop culture and relationships. The book is full of quietly poignant moments about things like tide pools or teenagers staring at a bottle of beer and if that makes Duane a "wanker" like one fellow Amazon reviewer suggested, I think we should all strive to be wankers too.
Anyway, it's been 5 years since I read this book last and yet I find myself thinking about it even now. As one person said to the author about the setting of the sun, it's just not the kind of thing you can look at once and say, "huh, I get it."
This book is everything it should be and more. Duane’s style and delivery has a poetic touch that deviates from the stodgy conventions of other work I’ve read in the memoir genre. Every passage is written with purpose with words that stimulate all of the senses. From the descriptions of the Santa Cruz cliffs overlooking Steamer Lane up toward Natural Bridges, 4 Mile, Scott and Waddell Creek and on up through Davenport and Pescadero, Duane took me on a ride that reminded me of everything I love about that stretch of coast.
The smell and taste of thick salty early morning Pacific fog and the muffled sound emanating from the lip of a thick glassy wave smacking into the flat water came to mind. Reading along in the warmth of my living room, the cold and camaraderie of surfing with friends in a secluded spot, away from the crowd, also conjured emotions of nostalgia. Duane’s relationship with the people in the community of Santa Cruz and those he surfs with ring true and offer insights recognizable by anyone who’s ever surfed California’s Central Coast. Though local surfers probably might not appreciate it, Duane’s story might just be the lure for others to come and experience the region.
Additionally, interspersed in each chapter are snippets of well researched history about the people who’ve brought surfing to the forefront over the preceding century. Along with references to the testimonies of the observations about surfing from explorers, missionaries and likes of prominent figures like Mark Twain and Jack London. Tales of some of surfing’s greatest personalities are also included (e.g. Greg Null and the legendary 50’ wave ridden at Makaha). Also included throughout, are the gently delivered technical details of wave physics, influences of weather and tide, and surfboard design. All of it contributing to the subtle complexity of what it is to be a surfer.
For anyone who’s ever roughed the wax on their board with a handful of sand before paddling out, or anyone who’s ever been held down in dark cold Central California water by a second wave in a set, Caught Inside is a must read. Others should read it for the pure beauty of place and Duenes’ exquisite writing.
PS to reviewer Christopher Seal - women surf too!
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A Surfer spends a year In Santa Cruz, CA coast surfing. Local wildlife and how surfing works, water dynamics and the board itself.Read more