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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A broad, thoughtful and vivid picture of the UK and Ireland surf scene, 1 April 2008
This review is from: Surf Nation: In Search of the Fast Lefts and Hollow Rights of Britain and Ireland (Paperback)
As two fellow reviewers, D. Yarrow and James Bulpett, and Alex Wade himself have pointed out, this is not a book documenting an extensive Britain and Ireland surfari by an expert surfer who goes from punting air reverses off of perfect Norfolk wedges, to charging heavy Thurso East. Rather the author is a surfer of intermediate ability who has played to his strengths as a writer and journalist in writing a book which paints a broad, comprehensive, thoughtful and vivid picture of the UK and Ireland surf scene, by bringing the personal opinions, experiences and life stories of numerous British and Irish surfers (e.g. The Gill, Robyn Davies, Iain Battrick, Chris Noble, Duncan Scott, John Adams etc), as well as his own, in order to illustrate and explore the many interesting and diverse aspects of surfing in Britain and Ireland.

Sure the standard inspiring surf mag fodder of break descriptions, surf comps and epic sessions is included and more than done justice too, thanks to Wades ability as a journalist...

`Love Hodel was impressed. `Man, when it's on that wave is pretty damn perfect,' said the 34-year-old Hawaiian, his blue eyes lost in awe. `Maybe not as powerful as Hawaiian surf but good, really good.' Thanks to the O'Neill Highland open, Hodel was undergoing his first experience of the surf at Thurso East' (p309)

...and refreshingly the accounts of surfing in the UK and Ireland are not isolated to the voices of the minority of expert surfers;

`Before I knew it a hesitant turn of the board had become a committed paddle for glorious green-blue right-hander...I felt the surge of raw oceanic power, knew I had the wave and leapt to my feet. The drop seemed unfeasibly steep but I made it, bending my knees and bottom turning to race back up the face...And then I pulled off a move I'd never even attempted before...a floater...The sensation was one of delicious weightlessness'- Alex Wade recounting a memorable session at 6ft Watergate

However what particularly sets Surf Nation apart from other books on surfing is Wade's commitment to giving as broad a view of his subject matter as he can, by consistently moving off the well beaten surf-writing track in all of the books twenty-two chapters. For example he references quite a few non-surf films, such as 1973s Badlands to shed alternative light on particular surfing areas (In Badlands case, St Agnes and it surrounding coastline), explores how surfing has been used to improve the lives of socially disadvantaged children and also illustrates how particularly aggressive surf travellers/tourists in Ireland share much in common with the colonising actions of the Spanish Conquestadors and Britains infamous East India Trading Company;

`I hate to say it but the worst things is the ...overseas surfers. We Irish are a mellow crew and you won't find any localism from us...But what's starting to get to me is paddling out at Easkey, or another wave I've been surfing all my life, and being given the eye by some guy from Cornwall' -Sligo local Mark Walton (p255)

Indeed such is the breadth of the topics covered here that it is clear that Wades main challenge was to bring them together into a cohesive whole with a logical order. He attempts to solve this problem by basing each chapter in a particular surfing area (though why is mid and north Wales, or the BUSA surf nationals not included?), by having a number of key people and related storylines regularly popping up throughout (A lot of people he interviews have met Zed Layson, but will he surf Thurso East? Everyone loves the elusive Robyn Davies and The Gill, but will Wade ever track these two elusive characters down? ) and by having a somewhat forced summary forming part of the final chapter.

Despite these three mechanisms, Surf Nation at points does feel like it consists of fragments of writing (albeit fragments of substantial, meaty, high quality) all crammed together into one volume. But due to its very ambitious and broad aim of `finding out about the characters who make up surfing on our shores and the great waves they surf'' (Wade on his blog- timesonline.co.uk/surfnation), this fragmentation was almost certainly inevitable and is actually appropriately reflective of Britain and Irelands fragmented surf communities and organizations.
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