11 January 2007

High Surf

by Tim Baker

Harper Collins. Australian, Adult Non-Fiction. Paperback rrp $32.99

Written by leading surf journalist Tim Baker, High Surf is a series of interviews ranging from high profile professional surfers to an author, a classical musician and a scientist. I am not a surfer and while I could not identify with the rush of feeling described, that didn’t matter. The stories stand on their own two feet, with or without a surfboard!

In 1964, Phyllis O’Donnell was the first Australian to ever win a world surfing title. Now 69, having recently returned from a holiday in Hawaii, she has recently resumed board riding.

Successful surfers describe a special affinity with the waves. Kelly Slater talks about how, when he was young, he believed the ocean was communicating with him, sending signals so he had to communicate back. Mark Richards describes himself as ‘feeling dorky’ on land and more at home in the water.

Dr Dave Jenkins is the man (surfer!) behind Surf Aid, a medical charity organisation working to reduce epidemic diseases such as malaria in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia. He went to surf and stayed to help, rallying other surfers to support his cause. Surf Aid played a key role in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami.

Eminent New York scientist Vezen Wu was so fascinated with surfing he gave up his current research to try and work out why board riding was so calming. He felt there were mental health benefits to be quantified and is investigating the negative ions created by breaking water.

It’s hard to decide who to quote. Tim Winton, is often described as Australia’s greatest living writer, so it seems fitting to steal words from his interview: ‘For me, surfing is about beauty and connectedness… There’s the roll-on effect of simple happiness for one thing.’

And that’s just my selection of favourite interviews. The book contains many, many more from people Tim Baker considers ‘the world’s most inspiring surfers’.

While non-surfers will enjoy this book, if you have a surfer who likes to read among your friends and family, this is the perfect Christmas gift.


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