24 Surf books you have to read

Whether you surf or not, you'll find adventure inside these surf books.

Interested in diving deeper into stories about surfing?

Surfing adventures lead themselves well to surf art and literature.

Surf books, over the past 60 years, has grown into its own genre or salty antics and adventures. Including a variety of perspectives, including biographies, fiction, journalism and self-help titles.

Ultimately, who doesn’t want to read about fearless surfers, sage wisdom, original experiences, and exotic travel.

There are hundreds of excellent surf books out there. After filtering through all of them, there are just a handful of favorites. Each of which are page turners.

Reading surf books should be a key part of every surfers routine. Besides, it's not the best surf conditions everyday.

These surf books were each picked because they contain stories and perspectives that highlight awesome aspects of being a surfer. As a surfer, it makes sense to get lost sometimes into well written surf books. They'll only leave you with a better connection with surfing.

These surf books all showcase the deeper ties we have with surfing. In these surf books you'll learn about what surfing means to others and about the fascinating places it took them. Good and bad.

Enjoy these surf books!

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan

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One of the only surf books to become the Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography

Included in President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List

Barbarian Days (probably the most read of surf books) is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life.

Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships forged in challenging waves.

Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only gang in a tough school in Honolulu. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he discovers the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissects the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, and navigates the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria.

Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.

Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little-understood art.

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

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One of the only surf books on this list written from a business perspective, Yvon Chouinard—legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia, Inc.—shares the persistence and courage that have gone into being head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth.

From his youth as the son of a French Canadian handyman to the thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions that inspired his innovative designs for the sport's equipment, Let My People Go Surfing is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life-a book that will deeply affect entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

“This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation—it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis.”—From the Foreword by Naomi Klein, bestselling author of This Changes Everything

The Wave by Susan Casey

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For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dis­missed these stories—waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics.

But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet’s waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea—including several that approached 100 feet.

As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean’s most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidal large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of peo­ple as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100­-foot wave. One of the only surf books to tap into the extreme side of the sport.

In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists’ urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves—from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast.

Like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.

For The Love by Kelly Slater

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Surf books tend to take an autobiographical angle. In this modern autobiography, Kelly Slater offers up a current glimpse into the surf world.

No one knows nine-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater better than Kelly himself. In this revealing and heartfelt tribute, written with surfing veteran Phil Jarratt, the world's best surfer riffs on a life filled with big wins, big money, and big loves. Interviews with friends and fellow surfers unearth amazing anecdotes, and hundreds of photographs some never before published capture the greatest victories and the quietest moments in equal measure.

This beautifully produced book marks the first time Slater's story has been told in full color, and reflects the latest twists and turns in an incredible and unconventional life.

Classic Krakauer by John Krakauer

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Probably the most rounded of surf books in this list. Classic Krakauer is a great read for surfers who enjoy all kinds of adventures. The gripping articles in Classic Krakauer, originally published in periodicals such as The New YorkerOutside, and Smithsonian, display the singular investigative reporting that made Jon Krakauer famous—and show why he is considered a standard-bearer of modern journalism.

Spanning an extraordinary range of subjects and locations, these articles take us from a horrifying avalanche on Mt. Everest to a volcano poised to obliterate a big chunk of greater Seattle at any moment; from a wilderness teen-therapy program run by apparent sadists to an otherworldly cave in New Mexico, studied by NASA to better understand Mars; from the notebook of one Fred Beckey, who catalogued the greatest unclimbed mountaineering routes on the planet, to the last days of legendary surfer Mark Foo.

Rigorously researched and vividly written, marked by an unerring instinct for storytelling and scoop, the pieces in Classic Krakauer are unified by the author’s ambivalent love affair with unruly landscapes and his relentless search for truth.

Mr. Sunset: The Jeff Hakman Story by Phil Jarratt

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Mr. Sunset is one of the most remarkable of surf books, true story of a surfing legend. Jeff Hakman surfed waves as high as houses on Hawaii's North Shore when he was just thirteen. By seventeen he had won the world's most prestigious surfing title and been anointed the king of big wave riders by Duke Kahanamoku. At twenty one he was the most successful professional surfer the world had ever seen, and at thirty he was one of the surf industry's first millionaires.

But somewhere along the way his life fell apart in the haze of drug addiction, and it has taken the courage of the little boy who surfed monster Waimea Bay with his dad to drag himself out of the gutter and start life anew.

Illustrated with contemporary and classic photos by the world's leading surf photographers, Mr Sunset reveals the surfing subculture as it has never been revealed before. If you only ever read one book about surfing, make it this one.

Girl In The Curl by Andrea Gabbard

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The first illustrated history of women surfers, Girl in the Curl is one of the few surf books which captures an important and overlooked part of the sport's past in gorgeous color photos. From rising Australian star Layne Beachley to two-time world champion Lisa Anderson, many of today's hottest surfers are women. But female surfers have been integral to the sport from the beginning.

Author Andrea Gabbard explores 100 years of women in surfing, offering portraits of famous wave-riders and anecdotes of surf culture.

The Code by Shaun Thompson

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How to convert the power of “I Will” into a life-changing mantra. A mental strategy not a lot of surf books tackle.

The twelve stories in this book, taken from Shaun Tomson’s own life experiences in and out of the surfing world, offer the simple message―I Will―as a model to face life’s challenges and help you achieve your goals. All you need is to be encouraged to find your voice and commit yourself to positive values. The stories resonate with positivity and hope for the future, and are infused with the belief that even in the darkest time, light shines ahead to show you the way forward.

Surf Is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez

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Written by one of the most revered surfers of his generation, Gerry Lopez's Surf Is Where You Find It is a collection of stories about a lifetime of surfing. Perfect in any collection of surf books.

But more than that, it is a collection of stories about the lessons learned from surfing during that lifetimes. It presents over 30 stories about those who have been influential in the sport–surfing any time, anywhere, and in any way. Lopez, an innovator in stand-up-paddle, one of the fastest growing water sports in the world.

Conveyed in Gerry's unique voice, augmented with photos from his personal collection, this book is a classic for surf enthusiasts everywhere.

West of Jesus by Steven Kotler

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After spending two years in bed with Lyme disease, Steven Kotler had lost everything: his health, his job, his girl, and, he was beginning to suspect, his mind. Kotler, not a religious man, suddenly found himself drawn to the sport of surfing as if it were the cornerstone of a new faith.

Why, he wondered, when there was nothing left to believe in, could he begin to believe in something as unlikely as surfing?

What was belief anyway?

How did it work in the body, the brain, our culture, and human history?

With the help of everyone from rebel surfers to rocket scientists, Kotler undertakes a three-year globetrotting quest. The results are a startling mix of big waves and bigger ideas: a surfer's journey into the biological underpinnings of belief itself. One of the most inetersting surf books you'll ever read.

In Search of Captain Zero by Alan Weisbecker

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In 1996, Allan Weisbecker sold his home and his possessions, loaded his dog and surfboards into his truck, and set off in search of his long-time surfing companion, Patrick, who had vanished into the depths of Central America.

In this rollicking memoir of his quest from Mexico to Costa Rica to unravel the circumstances of Patrick's disappearance, Weisbecker intimately describes the people he befriended, the bandits he evaded, the waves he caught and lost enroute to finding his friend.

One of the only surf books to read like a movie.

Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn

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Kem Nunn’s “surf noir” classic is a thrilling plunge into the seedy underbelly of a Southern California beach town—the inspiration for the film Point Break. One of the few surf books to ever be turned into a film.

Surf Shacks by Indoek

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Surfing is a way of life. A life dominated by the waves and the tide with a cozy place to pause in between. Creative personalities crafting bold homes, Surf Shacks illustrates how surfers live both on and off shore.

Many abodes can fall under the label of surf shack: New York City apartments, cabins nestled next to Royal National Park, or tiny Hawaiian huts. Surfing communities are overflowing with creativity, innovation, and rich personalities.

Surf Shacks takes a deeper look at surfers' homes and artistic habits. Glimpses of record collections, strolls through backyard gardens, or a peek into a painter’s studio provide insight into surfers’ lives both on and off shore.

Through anecdotes and photographs, illustrations and conversations, Surf Shacks is one of the few surf books that reveals a more personal side to surfing and its eclectic cast of characters.

The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw

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Matt Warshaw knows more about surfing than any other person on the planet. A deep history you won't find in any other surf books. After five years of research and writing, Warshaw has crafted an unprecedented history of the sport and the culture it has spawned.

At nearly 500 pages, with 250,000 words and more than 250 rare photographs, The History of Surfing reveals and defines this sport with a voice that is authoritative, funny, and wholly original. The obsessive nature of this endeavor is matched only by the obsessive nature of surfers, who will pore through these pages with passion and opinion. A true category killer, here is the definitive history of surfing.

Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening by Liz Clark

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True surfers understand that surfing is not a sport, a hobby or even a lifestyle. Instead, it is a path, a constantly evolving journey that directs where you go, how you live, and who you are.

In 2006, Liz Clark decided to follow the path that surfing, sailing and love of the ocean had presented to her. Embarking on an adventure that most only dream of taking, she set sail from Santa Barbara, solo, headed to the South Pacific. Nine years later she is still following her path in search of surf and self and the beauty and inspiration that lies beyond the beaten path.

In stories overflowing with epic waves and at the whim of the weather, Liz captures her voyage in gripping detail, telling tales of self awareness, solitude, connection to the earth, and really great surf spots. One of the only surf books with a sailing edge.

All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora by David Rensin

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For twenty years, Miki “Da Cat” Dora was the king of Malibu surfers—a dashing, enigmatic rebel who dominated the waves, ruled his peers' imaginations, and who still inspires the fantasies of wannabes to this day. And yet, Dora railed against surfing's sudden post-Gidget popularity and the overcrowding of his once empty waves, even after this avid sportsman, iconoclast, and scammer of wide repute ran afoul of the law and led the FBI on a remarkable seven-year chase around the globe in 1974.

The New York Times named him “the most renegade spirit the sport has yet to produce” and Vanity Fair called him “a dark prince of the beach.” To fully capture Dora's never-before-told story, David Rensin spent four years interviewing hundreds of Dora's friends, enemies, family members, lovers, and fellow surfers to uncover the untold truth about surfing's most outrageous practitioner, charismatic antihero, committed loner, and enduring mystery.

This is one of the few stories that really stays with you out of any other surf books.

Fletcher: A Lifetime in Surf by Dibi Fletcher

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Through fifty years of epic stories, art, and personal ephemera, The Fletcher Family spans surfing's golden era to the present day, when bathing-suit model Dibi and competitive surfer Herbie met, to raising talented Christian and Nathan on boards and waves, to passing the torch to their skating-phenom grandson, Greyson.

Herbie Fletcher is a surfing legend. Fletcher and his sons, Christian and Nathan, made a habit of doing things exceptionally well and in their own way before they became the norm. But the Fletchers are not merely trailblazing surf and skate legends; they also are counterculture and subculture icons. T Magazine referred to them as having “punk family values.” Their sincere love for art and surfing and their collective DGAF attitude has earned them legions of devoted fans and friends from so many different worlds: music, fashion, streetwear, and art.

The epitome of both surfer cool and punk counterculture, the Fletcher family for the first time has put together a window into their immensely colorful life. A visual memoir of this near-mythological surf family, The Fletcher Family is sure to appeal to their massive surfing fan base, young skaters, and those who are interested in the Fletcher family and their place in Southern California as a subcultural force of nature.

Church of the Open Sky by Nat Young

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What makes for a surfing life?

With a blaze of groundbreaking performances and a list of titles claimed from all over the world to his name, Australian world champion surfer Nat Young might know.

His seventieth birthday inspired some reflection on exactly that, and on the waves and characters that have marked his remarkable life—Miki Dora and Midget Farrelly to name a few.

But surfing for Nat Young—and so many like-minded surfers—has never been about winning, never been about the sport. It’s a calling, an endless quest, a philosophy, a religion.

Most of all, surfing is a way of life that has underpinned his other identities as board shaper, film producer, writer, raconteur, conservationist, activist, pilot, husband, and father. Candid and wryly observed, Church of the Open Sky explores, like in many other surf books, what it means to be a surfer, with a collection of true stories of Nat’s surfing life—and the friends, foes, and heroes he’s met along the way.

Surf Survival: The Surfer’s Health Handbook

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Three expert physicians/surfers trained in emergency medicine, sports medicine, and family medicine explain everything you need to know to stay safe in the water.

Whether you’re a novice or an expert, a SUPer or a bodyboarder, Surf Survival is the only book that every surfer must have in his or her backpack, car, and beach house. This practical handbook explains everything from how to reduce a shoulder dislocation to understanding waves and currents, from how to treat jellyfish stings to how to apply a tourniquet.

Whether you are surfing a crowded beach in California or a remote island in Indonesia, be prepared to handle surfing-related emergencies from hypothermia and drowning to wound care and infections.

Surf Science: An Introduction to Waves for Surfing

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Have you ever wondered where surfing waves come from, what makes every wave different, why some peel perfectly and others just close out; why, some days, the waves come in sets and other days they don't, and how the tides, the wind and the shape of the sea floor affect the waves for surfing? If you have, this book is for you.

Now in its third edition, Surf Science is an introduction to the science of waves and oceanography from a surfer's point of view. It fills the gap between surfing books and waves textbooks, and helps surfers to learn how to predict surf. You don't need a scientific background to read it, just curiosity and a fascination for waves.

Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die: Surfing Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations

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Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die is a beautifully illustrated guide to the most thrilling surfing destinations in the world.

Covering quintessential beaches, including: Oahu’s North Shore; Australia’s Gold Coast; and of course, Malibu, California, the book also invites you to discover such unexpected gems as the Amazon and the Gulf of Alaska. From the frigid waters off Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula to Nazaré, Portugal, where in 2013 Garrett McNamara broke a world record for surfing the tallest wave (78 feet!), Fifty Places to Surf takes readers on a wide-roving adventure, divulging the details that make each venue unique—and plenty of tips for those who aspire to surf there.

Featuring interviews with seasoned surfing experts such as pro surfer Joel Parkinson and Billabong executive Shannan North, Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die is an essential travel companion for surfers of all levels who are looking to catch that perfect wave.

Surf Odyssey: The Culture of Wave Riding

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Cold-water surfing, the most remote surf spots, spectacular photography, illustrations, and custom boards: Surf Odyssey documents the modern cult of surfing as its own subculture and way of life.

There’s much more to surfing than palm trees and beach boy clichés. P

eople surf not only in Hawaii, but also in Norway, South Korea, and India. Surf Odyssey is a book about the world of surfing today and those that live in it.

This community is made up of the surfers themselves as well as surf photographers and board builders who are also spreading its distinctive spirit into other creative fields. Comparable to the new outdoor movement, today’s surfing is about an attitude toward life, a lust for adventure, and a love of nature that one can only find far away from established spots.

Surf Odyssey presents this scene’s places, people, stories, and brands. Its stunning photography is sure to inspire many further surfing exploits.

Surf Like a Girl

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Whether they're threading a barrel or shredding a swell, these amazing women are making enormous waves in the world of surfing.

If you thought surfing was a male-dominated sport, think again. The thirty women surfers profiled in this thrilling collection can rip a wave with the best of them. Hailing from all over the world, each surfer is featured in spectacular photography and with their own inspirational words.

There's American professional surfer Lindsay Steinriede on how her father's death has inspired her career; French board shaper Valerie Duprat on how she got her start “sculpting foam”; Conchita Rossler, founder of Mooana Retreat in Portugal, on connecting mind, body, and spirit; and Australian photographer Cait Miers on empowering women. You'll also meet surfers who are over sixty, who surf while pregnant, who captain boats, teach yoga, and make movies.

Breathtaking photography captures these women from every angle, on and off the waves, in some of the world's most visually stunning locations. The perfect gift for surfing enthusiasts, this unique compilation of stunning pictures and hard-won wisdom proves that the thrill of catching a wave, riding it, and kicking out belongs to everyone.

Surf Craft: Design and Culture of Board Riding

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The evolution of the surfboard, from traditional Hawaiian folk designs to masterpieces of mathematical engineering to mass-produced fiberglass.

Surfboards were once made of wood and shaped by hand, objects of both cultural and recreational significance. Today most surfboards are mass-produced with fiberglass and a stew of petrochemicals, moving (or floating) billboards for athletes and their brands, emphasizing the commercial rather than the cultural. Surf Craft maps this evolution, examining surfboard design and craft with 150 color images and an insightful text.

Book Your Surf Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book your flight
Find a cheap flight by using Google Flights. They are our favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know you're getting the best flight.

Book your surf hotel or surf accommodation
You can book a really unique and local place with AirBnB anywhere in the world. We used it recently in Sri Lanka to book a place withing a 3 minute walk to a surf break. If you want to stay somewhere other than an AirBnB, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, surf gear theft, and cancellations. Basically, you get protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a surf trip without it. We’ve been using World Nomads for close to ten years now.

Protect your personal data
When you travel, you're constantly logging into public Wi-Fi. VPNs are designed to protect all of your Internet traffic. This includes email, streaming music and video, voice calls, and anything else you can think of. We use ExpressVPN when we're on a surf trip.

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!