Winter Books Issue - 2005

Surf breaks

The pastime as sport and philosophy
Winter Books Issue - 2005 /

Surfing Hawai’i: A Complete Guide to the Hawaiian Island’s Best Breaks
Rod Sumpter
Falcon, 2005, $15.95

Maybe you’re a kook who just moved to Hawai’i or a local checking out the neighbor islands. Whatever the case, if you need a place to paddle out in the Hawaiian Islands, pick up Surfing Hawai’i: A Complete Guide to the Hawaiian Islands’ Best Breaks by Rod Sumpter. Most of the islands’ waves are featured in the paperback Falcon Guide, except for the breaks on Ni’ihau. The detailed maps and surf descriptions make it easy for the most JOJ (just off the jet) tourist to get in a rental car and go straight from the airport to the surf.

Despite the detailed maps and descriptions of Hawai’i’s surf breaks, this book blows it when it comes to the Hawaiian language and the pictures. Many of the photographs next to the surf descriptions don’t illustrate anything about that particular wave, while certain Hawaiian words like, he’e nalu, are misspelled throughout the book. Not too mention, much of the contact info for locals surfers, photographers and event schedules is as outdated as the guide’s Bauhaus-font text. Yet, while this book may irritate kanaka maoli, it probably will stoke out malihini. And, isn’t that what surfing is all about? Stoking someone out?
–Daniel Ikaika Ito


Let My People Go Surfing: -The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
Yvon Chouinard
Penguin Press, 2005, $26.95

Let My People Go Surfing is not a story about surfing; rather, it is about the nature-driven, ecologically conscious approach to life that surfing can engender in its enthusiasts. This autobiographical manifesto by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard chronicles how he created one of the most environmentally responsible and influential corporations in the world. As a passionate mountain climber and surfer, Chouinard has an intimate relationship with nature. The success of Patagonia–earning $230 million each year–has enabled him to leverage his concern for the great outdoors to which he credits his lifelong inspiration.

Much of the book laments the ‘constant deterioration of all the processes that are essential to maintaining healthy life on Planet Earth,’ which he chalks up to society’s lack of will to take action–’Öwe’re collectively paralyzed by apathy, inertia, or lack of imagination.’ By way of example, he talks about his good friend Rell Sunn, the beloved Waianae surfer who died from breast cancer in 1998. ‘She remembered when she was a child, running after the ’skeeter’ truck that was coming back from spraying the sugarcane fields with DDT and other chemicals. The empty trucks would load up with water and spray the dirt roads to keep the dust down, while the kids hung on the back of the truck to cool off in the toxic spray. No one knew then what those chemicals would eventually do,’ he writes.

It’s Chouinard’s hope that his alternative business model can transcend cultural and economic boundaries the way surfing does. The visionary entrepreneur challenges big companies to walk the talk. Patagonia makes fleece from recycled soda bottles and surfboards from Earth-friendlier materials. The outspoken critic of the surf industry points out what a difference could be made if surf companies, which collectively take in $4 billion a year, would donate just one percent of their revenues toward environmental protection efforts. Let My People Go Surfing refers to Patagonia’s flex-time policy. As Chouinard explains it, ‘We can hardly continue to make the best outdoor clothing if we become primarily an ‘indoor’ cultureÖOur policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impact on others. A serious surfer doesn’t plan to go surfing next Tuesday at two o’clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right.’
–Catharine Lo