The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey (2 stars)

On my rating system 2 stars means “read it if you are bored and have nothing else to read.” I looked forward to reading this book. As someone who is trying to make a career as an action/adventure novelist, you might expect that I am very interested in waves. Rogue waves which sink a ship, for instance, are one of nature’s gifts to an adventure novelist. But this book is actually four or five books crammed into one.

The author writes about the growing size of waves, which are getting bigger because of global warming. She also talks to scientists who predict that tsunamis will inundate the East coast of the United States and kill most everyone. One of the reasons this will happen is that part of one of the Canary Islands is apparently only attached to rest of the island by nature’s equivalent of spit and glue and it’s about to come loose at any moment and if it does, well, most of us are toast. Other scientists think this is a bunch of B.S.

She interviews several people who have been on ships in the last few years which were almost overwhelmed with waves and almost sank. Wow. Newsflash: ship almost overwhelmed by waves and almost sinks. There is a weather and wave forecaster in South Africa who is a genius. Waves are becoming monsters. He also read somewhere that two thousand yachts a year go down in the ocean. Really? I think someone would have written a news story about that. Maybe I missed it. We are also introduced to maritime salvage experts who say the seas are probably getting rougher and waves higher although that comes from eyeballing the waves from a helicopter. And we meet some interesting people at Lloyds of London. Waves are getting bigger, they think. They also confirm that areas of the ocean which historically have been very dangerous for ships are still very dangerous. I’ll leave out the adventures of the underwater filmmakers and photographers.

Not Very Cool

This is also a book about surfing. Surfers want waves to get bigger and they sort of think that might be happening. The surfers are the most interesting people in the book. The author sort of tells part of the story of the new and emerging giant waves through the eyes of a surfer by the name of Laird Hamilton, who is acknowledged as the greatest big wave surfer in the world. He is “the man” and commands respect from everyone in the surfing world because he has surfed the biggest waves ever. He’s also extremely careful, knows exactly what he is doing, has invented a lot of new surfing equipment and techniques, and has been surfing for almost 35 years. He talks about how respectful and how humble one must be with the ocean. It can kill you in a second. “Never forget that” he tells young surfers. He seems a genuinely thoughtful and really nice guy nor does he put on airs or brag about himself.

Very Cool

I don’t know much about surfing. I had never heard of Laird Hamilton. But he is a fascinating person along with being one of the greatest athletes in the world and someone should write a book about him. So skip this book and wait for a book about Laird Hamilton.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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