Susan Casey is an excellent writer (I also loved her previous book on sharks.) She covers every aspect of large waves: the science of tsunamis, the economics of shipping loss, and the lure of big waves to surfers. I would prefer more of the former than the latter, but it was all interesting.
I have one caveat. The author, while she wonderfully uncovered the attraction of riding a 80 foot wave, she never asked the question which nagged at me throughout the book... when someone is a parent, is big-wave surfing one of the most irresponsible and selfish activities on the planet?
To me, it's one thing to have kids and be a member of the armed forces, a deep-ocean fisherman, a volcanologist, a firefighter, a cop... because these are dangerous careers in service to others, either protecting other people or expanding our knowledge of the world around us. But as much as I was fascinated by and admire the concept of the Waterman (which Laird and many of his friends clearly are), they seem to be driven almost as much by the internal drug of adrenaline as a love of the ocean.
So I kept waiting throughout the book for Susan to pose this to the giant wave surfers: when you have a child, do you put these adrenaline rushes away (or at least pull back on them) and show your kid that being there for him or her throughout their childhood is a million times more important than catching that high at Jaws? What is it like to be the child of a big wave surfer (high mountain climber, etc.), the child of adults who so often return home from their expeditions broken, damaged -- or sometimes not at all? They may teach their kids to embrace life moment by moment, but isn't there a different embrace of far greater worth? Are these extreme risks justifiable as a parent, or understandable to a child? Is this ever in the surfer's mind, or is it pushed out by the thrill of the ride?
It was a captivating book, but unfortunately any personal insights that may have shed light on these questions remain, so to speak, hidden beneath the waves.
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