Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Wave by Susan Casey

I should have written my review of The Wave before I researched the author and the book. I would have said that it was one of those books I just wallowed in like a warm comforter on a cold day. I was hypnotized by the topic, impressed by the writing and charmed by the reader (I listened to the audio version). I would also have said that I finished the book feeling rather hopeless, the way that shows on TV about giant meteors make me feel. It may kill us all, but probably not, but you should be scared anyway.  But let’s back up a little.

The Wave is of course about waves – rogue waves, killer waves, tsunamis, just plain ole’ big-ass waves as tall as 5-story buildings - as told from the perspective of scientist, seafarers and surfers. The underlying thread or threat being, global warming may be making waves bigger, or there may have always been huge waves lurking out there, and what difference does it make. Having been raised in the desert, I find the ocean just short of terrifying. Also mom told me that when she was pregnant with me she had a very frightening “boat in a storm” experience, so I’m hard-wired for fear of large bodies of water, which of course meant that I had to read this book. Click on Read More Below...

 I found the science part of The Wave fascinating, and had no idea what a huge issue huge waves were. It’s not that they claim lots of lives, because they don’t. The issue is the billions of dollars lost each year to smashed and sunken cargo ships. Lloyd's of London, which insures many such carriers, takes waves very seriously. The author’s descriptions of waves crumpling gigantic ships like soda cans is a frightening demonstration of the power of nature. So you have a handful of scientists’ rather shallow explanations (they don’t really know much) and humbled seafarers wide-eyed descriptions of the wave they survived, but the bulk of the book is actually about the surfers.

Here’s where I lost my innocence about this book. First, let me say that Susan Casey’s stories about surfers who travel all over the world at the drop of a surf board seeking the ultimate wave (the same one the scientists and seafarers warned us about above) was interesting and beautifully told, but by chapter 12 of 15, I was feeling a little wiped out. I was OK thinking that Susan Casey was such a hyper-cool athlete herself (Olympic swimmer, previous editor of Sports Illustrated Women, creative director Outside magazine) that world famous, “purist” surfer (above monetary gain and publicity), and Greek god, Laird Hamilton, would let her tag along on crazy-dangerous adventures surfing in 100 foot hurricane waves. But then I found out that Casey actually paid Hamilton, and that she looks more like a super-model then a super athlete, and somehow I felt a little ripped off. Photo above - Gabby Reece (professional vollyball icon and married to Laird Hamilton), author Susan Casey and extreme-surfer, Laird Hamilton.

So back to The Wave - if you have any interest in the ocean, or surfing or are curious about waves, especially the really hair-raising big ones, or if you just have time to include an interesting book in your reading repertoire, then ride The Wave. This book is going to be a huge best seller, and for good reason, because it’s good. Oh yes, one more thing. If you’re planning on taking a cruise, read The Wave.  If you’re taking a cruise, and it’s already paid for, don’t read The Wave, and do not watch the video below.

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