Discover the 6 Best Books on Surfing 

Surfing is not just a sport, it’s a way of life. It’s a subculture that has its own books, movies, music, and art. Surfers have the sea as their playground and it’s this adventurous spirit that draws so many to the sport. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or just starting out, there’s always something to learn. And what’s better than learning from some of the best surfing literature out there?

Discover the 6 Best Books on Surfing 

The History of Surfing Literature

The first surfers likely told stories about their experiences orally, passing down techniques and tales around a campfire. However, the written history of surfing dates back to the 18th century when explorers stumbled upon Polynesians riding waves in Hawaii.

Surfing is more than just a sport; it is a way of life. The thrill of riding a wave has captivated people for centuries and has inspired a rich and diverse literary tradition.

Early Surfing Chronicles

The first written account of surfing came in 1779 when Captain James Cook saw Hawaiians riding waves. Much of the early literature focused on the thrill of the ride and the mythology that surrounded surfing in Polynesian culture. Nathaniel T. Cartwright’s The Panama Guide of 1856 included a detailed section on the surfing scene in Hawaii.

As surfing gained popularity in the early 20th century, more books were written about the sport. Tom Blake’s Hawaiian Surfboard, published in 1935, is considered a classic and helped to popularize surfing in California.

The Golden Age of Surfing Books

The 1960s saw a resurgence of interest in surfing. The Beach Boys were singing about the sport and Hollywood was releasing popular surfing movies, fuelling a desire for people around the world to experience the sport themselves. Books like John Witzig’s The Last Surfing Hero, Ron Church’s Surfing and Sacred Waters by Māori author Tainui Rikirangi all influenced the surfing scene during this era.

The 1960s also saw the rise of surf magazines, such as Surfer and Surfing, which featured articles and photographs of surfers from around the world. These magazines helped to create a sense of community among surfers and further popularized the sport.

Modern Surfing Literature

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Pulitzer Prize Winner)

Modern literature on surfing is a blend of history, culture, memoirs, and instructional guides. Books like William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life and Duke Boyd’s Legends of Surfing give readers a glimpse into the surfing lifestyle. Newer instructional books include Andrew Bennett’s Surfing: The Manual and Kelly Slater’s For the Love in which Slater, an 11-time world champion surfer, shares stories and tips to improve your skills.

Surfing has also inspired poetry and fiction. Tim Winton’s Breath is a coming-of-age novel set in Western Australia’s surfing community, while Jamie Brisick’s Becoming Westerly is a novel about a transgender surfer.

Surfing has become a global phenomenon, with surfers from all over the world traveling to exotic locations to catch the perfect wave. The literature on surfing reflects this global community, with books written by surfers from Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, and beyond.

Whether you are a seasoned surfer or a newcomer to the sport, there is a wealth of literature on surfing that can inspire and inform. From the early chronicles of Captain Cook to the modern memoirs of Kelly Slater, the literature on surfing is as diverse and exciting as the sport itself.

Inspirational Surfing Memoirs

Surfing is not just a sport, but also a way of life. Surfers are passionate about their sport and that’s why so many have written memoirs. The following are a few memoirs that stand out:

Surfing Legends Share Their Stories

Surf For Your Life

One of the most popular autobiographies is Mick Fanning’s Surf for Your Life. This tells the story of how Fanning became a legend of the sport despite losing his brother in a shark attack. Fanning’s memoir is an inspiring tale of resilience and determination, showing how he overcame tragedy to become one of the most successful surfers in history.

Another classic in the genre is Tom Carrol’s TC: Tom Carroll. The book tells the story of a surfer who overcame drug addiction to become a world champion. Carrol shares real-life stories of dangerous surf spots he’s encountered, giving readers a thrilling glimpse into the world of professional surfing.

Overcoming Adversity in the Waves

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board

Ashley Merryman’s Women Who Surf tells the story of how a group of women banded together to create a community of surfers in a male-dominated industry. Merryman’s memoir is an inspiring tale of female empowerment, showing how these women broke down barriers and paved the way for future generations of female surfers.

Bethany Hamilton’s memoir Soul Surfer is another powerful story, sharing how Hamilton lost an arm to a shark attack but continued surfing, inspiring people worldwide. Hamilton’s memoir is a testament to the power of the human spirit, showing how she refused to let a traumatic event define her and instead used it as a source of strength.

Personal Journeys in Surf Culture

West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief

The memoirs of Steven Kotler’s West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief is a spiritual journey through surfing. Kotler’s memoir explores the connection between surfing and spirituality, showing how the sport can be a path to enlightenment and self-discovery.

Jaimal Yogis’ Saltwater Buddha is a memoir about seeking enlightenment through a Buddhist surfing adventure. Yogis’ memoir is a unique blend of spirituality and adventure, showing how the pursuit of inner peace can take many forms.

William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir about a lifelong love for surfing. Finnegan’s memoir is a beautifully written ode to the sport, showing how surfing can be a way of life and a source of joy and meaning.

Instructional Books for Surfers

Surfing is a sport that requires not only physical strength and endurance, but also a deep understanding of the ocean and its waves. While experience is the best teacher, instructional surfing books can offer valuable tips and techniques to help surfers catch more waves and improve their performance. Below are a few of the best instructional books available:

Mastering Surfing Techniques

Surfing: The Manual by Andrew Bennett offers general tips and advice for surfing, geared towards beginners. This book covers everything from choosing the right board to paddling techniques and wave selection. Bennett emphasizes the importance of safety and respect for other surfers in the water.

Waves and Surfing Basics by Tony Butt delves into the science behind surfing, providing practical advice about waves and surf conditions. Butt explains how waves are formed, how they break, and how to read them to maximize your surfing experience. He also covers the basics of surfing technique, from paddling and popping up to turning and trimming.

Surfboard Design and Maintenance

The Surfboard Book: How Design Affects Performance

Surfboard Design and Construction by George Colendich is a comprehensive guide to surfboard design, from shaping to glassing, including equipment and materials. Colendich explains the different types of surfboards and their ideal conditions, as well as the tools and techniques used to shape and glass them. He also covers basic repairs and maintenance to keep your board in top condition.

The Surfboard Book: How Design Affects Performance covers all aspects of surfboard design and maintenance. Written by surfboard designer and shaper Ben Marcus, this book explores the relationship between board design and surfing performance. Marcus covers the history of surfboard design and how it has evolved over the years, as well as the latest trends and technologies in surfboard construction.

Fitness and Nutrition for Surfers

Surf Survival: The Surfer's Health Handbook

For those looking to improve their fitness and nutritional habits, there are books that cover that aspect of surfing too. The Surf Diet by Dr. Sean Doherty explores nutrition as it relates to surfing, offering tips and recipes for healthy eating that will fuel your surfing sessions. Doherty also covers the importance of hydration and how to stay properly fueled throughout the day.

Surf Survival: The Surfer’s Health Handbook by Andrew Nathanson offers a comprehensive guide to fitness and health for surfing. Nathanson covers everything from stretching and warm-up exercises to injury prevention and recovery. He also covers the mental aspects of surfing, such as visualization and meditation, that can help improve your performance and enjoyment of the sport.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, there is always something new to learn about this exciting and challenging sport. These instructional books offer a wealth of knowledge and advice that can help you take your surfing to the next level.

Travel Guides for Surf Enthusiasts

If you’re planning a surfing trip, or you simply enjoy reading about them, a number of travel guidebooks are available to help you plan your next adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, these guides offer a wealth of information on the best surf spots around the world, as well as tips on local customs and cultures, sustainable travel, and more.

The World’s Best Surfing Destinations

The Stormrider Guide: The World is one of the most comprehensive and detailed surf travel guides available. It covers thousands of surf spots and includes information on local customs and cultures. Whether you’re looking for the perfect wave in Hawaii, Indonesia, or Australia, this guide has got you covered. It also includes helpful tips on when to go, what to bring, and how to stay safe in the water.

Surfing Road Trips and Adventures

If you’re looking to explore the best surf spots along the California coast, Surf Route 101: A Surfer’s Guide to the Best Beaches in California’s Surf Country is the perfect guide for you. It offers detailed information on the best surf breaks, as well as tips on where to stay and eat along the way. For those looking to venture further afield, The World Stormrider Surf Guide: Volume Two covers Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, offering insider tips on the best surf spots in these regions.

Sustainable Surf Travel Tips

If you’re looking to make eco-friendly choices with your surf travel, check out The Sustainable Surfer: A Guide to a Better Surfing Life by Chris Jones. This guide offers tips for reducing the carbon footprint of your surfing trips, while still enjoying the waves. From choosing eco-friendly accommodations to packing sustainably, this guide will help you make a positive impact on the environment while pursuing your passion for surfing.

No matter where you choose to go on your surfing adventure, these travel guides will help you make the most of your trip. With detailed information on the best surf spots, local customs and cultures, and sustainable travel tips, you’ll be well-equipped to plan the ultimate surfing getaway.

In Conclusion

There you have it – the best books on surfing. From the history of surfing literature to inspirational memoirs, instructional manuals, and travel guides, there’s plenty to discover. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or a newcomer to the sport, learning from the greats can only help improve your skills and your appreciation for this thrilling and breathtaking sport.


Why should I start surfing?

Surfing burns the same amount of calories as football and rock climbing but also offers the mental benefits that come with spending time in and around the sea.

Where are the best places to surf in the world?

Australia, Bali, Hawaii, South Africa, and Costa Rica are among the most beautiful spots for a good day’s surfing.

Do I need to read a book on surfing to start?

Not necessarily, most people prefer to dive straight in with the help of a professional or experienced amateur. However, getting a headstart on the techniques by reading a surfing-related book is never a bad place to start.

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Eddison Monroe
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