When the conditions aren’t ideal to surf, the next best thing might be to grab a surf book to get your fill of the surfing experience on land. If you don’t have your own list of surf books to read, don’t fret.
Over the last decade or so, there have been many professional surfers, surf legends, surf photographs, and surf journalists who have written and contributed to some pretty great surfing books.
In these surfing books, you will learn about some of the most remote surf spots, surfing culture, history of surfing, a surfer’s life, life philosophies, and much more.
Picking up one of the many surfing books out there is a fantastic way to learn more about the lifestyle of surfing and the sport while also learning life lessons that can apply in and out of the water.
Here are six must read surf books. These favorite surf books are in no particular order.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
Amazon Rating: 4.2 Stars
For those who believe surfing is far more than a sport and who love a strong read, this book is definitely for you. While this surf book is a memoir, which is off-putting to some, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan is an exhilarating read that you honestly cannot put down once you start reading that first page.
Published by Penguin Publishing Group in 2015, Barbarian Days is a true tell-all for surfers and non-surfers alike that immerses readers in an adventure like no other. In this 464-page read, Finnegan seems to recall every single wave that he has ever surfed as if he only surfed it moments ago.
In Barbarian Days, Finnegan shares his personal victories and failures, along with various surf culture and relationships that he made throughout his journey chasing waves all over the world, including places like San Francisco, Maui, Polynesia, and Fiji. In this surf story, you will read about the true accounts of Finnegan nearly dying of Malaria, surfing the wild San Francisco waves during the winter, and meeting countless surf gurus.
Keep in mind, though, if your surfer vocabulary is sparse, you may need to keep a dictionary of surfing terms beside you as you make your way through the surfing adventures of William Finnegan.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard
Amazon Rating: 4.6 Star
This is another memoir on the list, but it is a surf book that is well worth your time. This is particularly true for those who are environmentally conscious and want to incorporate sustainability and environmentally-friendly supply chains into their business ventures.
Published in 2006, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman is the biography of Yvon Chouinard, who is the founder of the well-known outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, which is widely regarded as one of the most socially responsible businesses in existence today.
Within the pages of this surf book, you will learn about Chouinard’s early passions as a child (which included just about everything outdoors from surfing to rock climbing), battling through the various struggles of running a profitable business, and several different philosophies on running a values-led company.
Yvon Chouinard is considered a maverick, as he is not one to shy away from risks. However, at the same time, he learned one important lesson over the years that has proved invaluable in life and business: you must know to never push yourself over the edge by exceeding your limits. Because when you do, you will ultimately fail. Whether it be today, tomorrow, or a year from now, failure is likely to come.
A decade after the original publication, Penguin Books revised, expanded, and republished Let My People Go Surfing with over 40 percent new material, including a new foreword from author and activist Naomi Klein. In the revision, Chouinard stresses the importance of socially responsible companies focusing on both the bottom line as well as the “right” decisions for the world in general.
All in all, Let My People Go Surfing is the personal story of an inspiring man who has shown that a life full of adventure (not just surf adventure, either!) and doing good in the world can bring about success in business.
The amount of knowledge that you can find between the two covers of this surf book is astonishing, so if there is a day that you can’t get out in the water, consider stretching out with this book in your hands, soaking up the big ideas of the Patagonia founder.
Kelly Slater: For the Love by Kelly Slater and Phil Jarratt
Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars
After the success of his autobiography, Kelly Slater couldn’t resist putting out another surf book for all of his fans. Rather than another tell-all, For the Love is more of a scrapbook of sorts, as it is filled with picturesque images from the GOAT’s phenomenal surfing career. However, it is also filled with intimate testimonies from fellow surfers and friends, unearthing a personally rewarding and revealing manuscript.
At the time of publishing, which was in 2008, Slater had only nine championship titles. Since then, he was able to secure two more titles, becoming an 11-time world champion. He continues to be the greatest competitive surfer of all time.
In For the Love, Slater lays it all out on the line. With his heart on his sleeve, this is truly a remarkable read and is more than just your typical coffee table book. Once you read this, you’ll likely be counting down the days to this surf legend’s post-career publication.
Surf Is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez
Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars
Published in 2008 by Patagonia, Surf Is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez is quite literally a book written for surfers by one of the biggest known surf legends of all time. With the nickname Mr. Pipeline, Lopez has a wealth of knowledge in him and shares the wealth in this novel.
Surf Is Where You Find It is an impressive collection of surf stories that account for Lopez’s personal experiences in and out of the water. He shares an abundance of life lessons that he has learned over the years from surfing big waves like Pipeline.
While he is indeed a surfing legend, he is Gerry is a humble guy, which can be seen through the wisdom that he shines through the words of his surf book. He doesn’t shy from giving credit where credit is due, as he knows he couldn’t have made it to where he is today without the gracious help of so many others.
This is an absolutely incredible read for any surfer.
Surf Odyssey: The Culture of Wave Riding by Andrew Groves
Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars
If you are new to the surf world or aren’t an avid surfer, what do you think of when you think of a typical surfing scene? A few things that come to mind are likely beach blonde hair, beach boy clichés, and palm trees. However, there is far more to it than that, and Surf Odyssey documents the modern world of wave riding, its culture, and its general way of life.
From muddy swells on the Amazon to waves covered in snow in South Korea, people surf all over the world. Featuring images, biographies, essays, and more, this book will help you delve right into today’s surfing culture and some of the most marvelous surfing locations from all over the world with spectacular photography and amazing insights that will potentially inspire many further surfing exploits of your own.
Surf Odyssey presents surfing today in a way most surfers and others have never seen it without overlooking all of the people who make up the vast surfing community. This community is made up of more than just surfers, as it includes surfboard builders, surf photographers, surf journalists, and countless more devotees and creative individuals who bring their spirit and know-how to the surfing culture and help add significance to the surfing history.
Once you have finished reading Surf Odyssey, you’ll feel like you’ll be ready to take a surf trip on your own around the world.
Surfer Magazine: 50 Years by Surfer Magazine
Amazon Rating: 4.3 Stars
If you are a seasoned surfer, you probably have quite a few copies of Surfer Magazine lying around your home. Therefore, it goes without saying that you will want to pick this book up. It is penned by Sam George, who is a professional surfer. World champion surfer Shaun Tomson wrote the foreword.
Surfer Magazine: 50 Years is a strong collection of some of the best articles and most iconic photographs that have been taken over the last five decades (since its publication date in 2010).
Capturing and defining surf culture in its glory, Surfer Magazine is well-known throughout the entire surf community. This surf book features unpublished and stunning photography and behind-the-scenes tales from surf legends on everything from surfing lifestyle to surfboard design.
You don’t have to be a surfer in order to appreciate the absolutely incredible photography collected in what makes for a great coffee table book.