Rating:

Reviewed by Caitlin B.

The Wave alternates between anecdotes from legendary big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, harrowing tales of cargo ships lost at sea, and the adventures of wave scientists attempting to define the ocean’s behaviors.

Hamilton is known as an extreme among extremists. He and his crew all but invented the sport of two-in surfing when they began using Jet Skis to surf waves unreachable by typical paddle-in surfing. (For a history of big wave and tow-in surfing, the film Riding Giants is an excellent starting point.) Sooner than later, Hamilton and company were dropping down the faces of 50-foot waves in places unfamiliar to most other surfers. The risks have always been high, but science and experience point to ever-increasing peril generated by random forces: freak or rogue waves.

Modern-day wave scientists seek the ability to put our oceans’ behaviors into formulas, to catalog climate changes and protect cargo in our global shipping lanes. The juxtaposition of scientific studies against big wave surfers is a brilliant teaching tool. Big wave surfing goes hand-in-hand with high-tech forecasting and data collection. Casey sees firsthand that surfers are more attuned to oceanic mood shifts than anyone except sailors. Both groups can intuit what scientists still seek to categorize: that major changes are taking place in our oceans. As a result, The Wave serves as much an ecological lesson as a thrilling read. The author isn’t preachy, but allows her collected data and hypotheses of the scientists she interviewed speak for themselves.

[amazonify]0767928849[/amazonify]Fascinating historical reports of freak waves (nonlinear giant waves) pepper the pages of the book, as well as modern events. The number of reported incidents alone is staggering, making this book a very humbling read for those of us without many hours on the sea. As a layperson, Casey has no difficulty putting the risks, math and science into easily understood terms. She has compiled an exceptional description of the sport and study of giant waves, one part nail-biting athletic account and another part scientific thriller. From ships and people thrashed by waves to perfect surf days, The Wave is packed with action and impossible to put down once you crack its cover.

Rating: 5/5

The Wave was recently listed as one of the top 10 best non-fiction books of the year by Entertainment Weekly!

Caitlin is a fiction writer who also dabbles in poetry, creative nonfiction and acrylic painting. When not reading, she enjoys hiking, cooking and spending time with friends and pets. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Portland and currently resides in Oregon.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.