The first surfing book, titled “The Surf Riders of Hawaii,” was released in 1914. After that came a great number of other surf-related books of different kinds to satisfy the growing population of surfing enthusiasts. There are publications for history, culture, lifestyles, memoirs, women, kids, competitions, performance and gear tips, health and safety advice, fiction, wave science, etc.
This guide is a compilation of a detailed list of the best surfing books that were carefully selected after extensive research. The objectives were to discover the common categories that the works fell under and curate the best books under each classification.
You should be able to find at least one good read on the list. But if not, then check the alternatives mentioned at the end of each description. Other pieces of information that you'll see include the authors and years of original publication
Relevance of Surf Books to Surfing Enthusiasts
The necessity of books about surfing to its aficionados or surfers can’t be overstated, as seen in the outline below.
Surfers of all backgrounds, genders, levels, and ages will find books of diverse categories that are suitable for their individual preferences and goals.
Some works give proper introductions to surfing as a lifestyle, culture, and/or sport.
Many of the publications describe the rich history of surfing, which every true fan or fanatic should have some knowledge of.
You can get to know the surfing world’s beloved heroes and legends from their perspectives or the research of biographers.
You can learn about how surf competitions work in some books.
Photographs and illustrations are usually featured in the publications, and they serve as visual aids for self-educating readers.
Top Seven Surfing Books of Different Categories
The best surf books under a variety of classifications have been briefly described in this section. Dive into the list—starting with the first-ever surf-related piece, as highlighted in the introduction.
1. The Surf Riders of Hawaii
Author: Alfred Richard Gurrey Jr.
Original Year of Publication: 1914
Category: Best for Collectors
This self-published work is a compilation of impressive early photographs of surfing, which makes it worth a book or photograph collector’s attention. Only six original handmade copies of this book are speculated to be available in the entire world. They are a very limited edition that was produced with photographic prints that feature silver emulsion.
Gurrey Jr. was the first photographer to capture surfers and is regarded as a pioneer in water photography. A couple of his rare books have been sold at auctions in recent years.
Alternative Best for Collectors: LeRoy Grannis. Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s
2. The Encyclopedia of Surfing
Author: Matt Warshaw
Original Year of Publication: 2003
Category: Best for Introduction to Surfing
Matt Warshaw’s “The Encyclopedia of Surfing" is a voluminous and in-depth review that is of great significance to the world of surfing. It has more than 500 pages, 1,500 entries, and 300 illustrations covering many areas of surfing, from its history to the equipment used.
Alternative Best for Introduction to Surfing: The Surfin'ary: A Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak by Trevor Cralle
3. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
Author: William Finnegan
Original Year of Publication: 2015
Category: Best for Surf Legend Memoir Lovers
This here is a multi-award winning book, including for the coveted Pulitzer Prize. It’s about Finnegan’s journey from childhood to adulthood as a man of the waves. You’ll read about how he traveled the world to follow his passion for surfing by visiting many notable surf spots—Hawaii included.
Alternative Best for Surf Legend Memoir Lovers: Surf Is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez
4. The History of Surfing
Author: Matt Warshaw
Original Year of Publication: 2010
Category: Best for Surf History
“The History of Surfing” takes you as far back as 1778 and ushers you into the 21st century with almost 500 pages of content. You’ll have over 250,000 words and 250 rare photos to consume! Get ready to read about the evolution of global surfing, culture, subcultures, technology, legends, and the impact of surf's rich history.
Alternative Best for Surf History: The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing by Peter Westwick & Peter Neushul
5. All for a Few Perfect Waves
Author: David Rensin
Original Year of Publication: 2008
Category: Best for Surf Legend Biography Lovers
This biography about rebel surfer Miki Dora has been said to be the greatest story ever told about surfing. The book looks extensively into Dora’s life and surfing career with the aid of interviews with his lovers, haters, fellow surfers, family members, and friends.
Alternative Best for Surf Legend Biography Lovers: Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku by David Davis
6. The World Stormrider Surf Guide
Author: Bruce Sutherland
Original Year of Publication: 2018
Category: Best for Descriptions of Surf Locations
Planning on touring the world to experience as many special waves as possible? What you need might just be Sutherland's book which has been referred to as the most comprehensive guide for surf spots. There are many maps, descriptions, photographs, and data on the best locations for surfing globally.
Alternative Best for Descriptions of Surf Locations: Epic Surf Breaks of the World by Lonely Planet
7. Surfing the Manual: Advanced
Author: Jim Kempton
Original Year of Publication: 2008
Category: Best for Learning How to Surf
Jim Kempton shows his wealth of experience as a surfer in this surf training guide that teaches a wide range of topics. For example, surfing techniques, surfboard selection, oceanography, weather, etc. Whether you’re a rookie or a professional, this step-by-step illustrated learners’ manual will upgrade your wave-riding skills.
Alternative Best for Learning How to Surf: Fit to Surf: The Surfer’s Guide to Strength and Conditioning by Rocky Snyder
Do you know one of the things that makes surfing feel better after riding the waves or experiencing a surf competition? It's having so much knowledge about the activity that you’re able to discuss it at length with others like a wiz. And reading the above-featured surfing books can help you reach that level of enlightenment.
Written by James Davis
I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.
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