The 30 Best Surf Books to Read Today

Updated: Sep 23

The rich history of surfing, the world’s best surfers discussing their all-time best waves and worst wipeouts, how riding a wave is therapeutic, the spectacle that is the North Shore, the best places to surf, the ultimate surf road trip…

You can find out all of this — and much more about surfing and our surf culture at large — by reading surf books.

But not just surf books — the best surf books.

Whether you’re looking for entertainment on your next trip, or you’re looking for something to keep you busy during a long flat spell, here are the 30 best surf books to read today.

The 30 Best Best Surf Books

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

The most acclaimed surf book in recent memory, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life — Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography — is a memoir of a life spent surfing waves around the world, including the good (relationships, life lessons, rides of a lifetime) and bad things (wipeouts, traveling nightmares) that can come with it.

In this 464-page surf book, Author William Finnegan, a New Yorker columnist, explains his surfing life, starting with his early days riding waves in California and Hawaii, and in later years, surfing unnamed breaks across the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, and Africa.

A surf book best suited for those with a taste for literary prose, the book's description says that “Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little-understood art.”

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard

While you may not be able to have coffee with Yvon Chouinard — the legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia — and ask him to share his wisdom on business, reading his surf book is the next best thing.

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman is a masterclass in business, adventure, persistence, and courage. That's what makes it one of the best surf books to read today.

Entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts — especially surfers — will find his life’s story fascinating, making this 272-page surf book a quick read.

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.

Big Wave Surfer: The Greatest Rides of Our Lives by Kai Lenny

Easily one of the most entertaining surf books on our list, Big Wave Surfer: The Greatest Rides of Our Lives transplants readers from their couch into the sea to witness some of the greatest surfing feats of our generation.

These stories include:

  • Shane Dorian pushing the boundaries in the gladiator arena of Pe‘ahi (Jaws), Maui

  • Peter Mel on riding the greatest wave ever caught at Mavericks, California

  • Keala Kennelly breaking the women’s glass ceiling at the death-defying slabs of Teahupoo, Tahiti

  • Kai Lenny and Lucas Chumbo’s groundbreaking wins at the incredible Nazaré, Portugal

  • And more

At 304 pages, this surf book is long enough to tell stories that will captivate surf fans, but be short enough to not feel like a paperweight.

"One of the most impressive photographic tributes to [big wave surfing] ever published." —MAXIM

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.

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

Teahupoo, Mavericks, Jaws…today, these big wave venues of glory and gore are well known.

But in the days before televised big wave surfing, they were equally mysterious and terrifying.

Surfers and scientists alike were wondering what the biggest wave in the world was — and how it was made.

Author Susan Casey tagged along with Laird Hamilton and his crew to answer these questions, and the result is a 432-page surf book, published in 2011, that surfers and ocean enthusiasts alike will enjoy from cover to cover.

You can buy this surf book here.

The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw

Because there was no surf history in your history classes, you may not have extensive knowledge of surf history.

That’s ok, because if you’re looking for the definitive history of surfing, or the perfect coffee table book, Matt Warshaw has your back with The History of Surfing.

At nearly 500 pages, with 250,000 words and more than 250 rare photographs, The History of Surfing can seem like a textbook. But with beautiful and captivating writing, it reads much more like a novel.

It’s a surf book that the entire spectrum of surfers can enjoy — making it one of the best surf books to read today.

You can buy the surf book on Amazon.

Making Mavericks: The Memoir of a Surfing Legend

The wave seen around the world: 16-year-old Jay Moriarity in the lip of a massive Mavericks wave, his yellow, orange, and green board floating in the air.

This moment was photographed by Bob Barbour and put on Surfer Magazine's cover, an image that captured Jay's hard-charging spirit forever in time.

This hard-charging spirit has quite the backstory story.

Making Mavericks: The Memoir of a Surfing Legend, written by Frosty Hesson, tells that story.

Frosty writes about the day Jay asked him to mentor his surfing.

The conversations, training, and waves that followed — including the wave seen around the world — are told beautifully in the 320-page surf book.

A tale of surfing and friendship, you can buy this surf book on Amazon.

Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Coleman

Eddie would go.

You’ve seen the phrase on tshirts, bumper stickers, and hats. If you don’t know the depth of the phrase — who Eddie was, his place in surfing lore, and the true definition of a waterman — you can learn it in Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Coleman.

In the 288-page surf book, Coleman tells Eddie’s inspiring story, from his upbringing to riding the biggest waves on Oahu’s fabled North Shore, becoming Waimea Bay’s first lifeguard, and how he sacrificed his life to save the crew aboard the voyaging canoe Hokule'a.

You can buy this surf book — a book every surfer should have on his or her bookshelf — on Amazon.

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton

You have probably heard Bethany Hamilton’s shark attack story before — losing her arm and nearly her life when attacked by a Great White Shark on Halloween off the coast of Kauai — but that’s not all.

Did you know that after the attack, she wasn’t wary of surfing — her words were “when can I surf again?”

In the surf book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, you can read about her road back to recovery mentally and physically — and how she never wavered in her faith in the process.

It's without a doubt one of the best surf books to read today.

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.

Waves of Healing: How Surfing Changes the Lives of Children with Autism by Cash Lambert

Is surfing actually therapeutic?

This is a question that Author Cash Lambert had after attending surf therapy events on Florida’s coast and seeing lives transformed by the simple act of riding a surfboard on a wave.

To find an answer, he spent a year with a group of families who took their children with autism surfing.

His research is found in Waves of Healing: How Surfing Changes the Lives of Children with Autism.

The book includes the struggles children with autism face — the struggle to stand on a surfboard, the struggle to communicate, the struggle to make progress in a world which accepts “normal” and rejects all else.

But they’re also stories of breakthroughs, of authentic joy and unbridled excitement as they learn to see their world from a whole new perspective — standing tall atop a surfboard, and riding a wave all their own.

Waves of Healing is a powerful and inspirational book—a must-read for anyone with a loved one on the autism spectrum. You will laugh and you will cry as author Cash Lambert passionately shares both the struggles and the triumphs of the autism journey as sand and surf become a form of therapy and healing for so many families.”—Amy KD Tobik, editor-in chief of Autism Parenting Magazine

What makes it one of the best surf books? It's an equal balance of beauty and emotion as you watch children with special needs progress in their surfing skill.

You can buy this surfing book on Amazon.

Surf Survival: The Surfer's Health Handbook by Andrew Nathanson

Let’s be honest: surfing is dangerous.

And if you haven’t found yourself in a dangerous situation recently, there’s a good chance you will eventually.

That’s the bad news.

But here’s the good news: you can prepare for whatever that situation may be by learning ocean safety skills.

One of the many ways to learn ocean safety skills is by reading Surf Survival: The Surfer's Health Handbook.

Written by physicians, the practical handbook breaks down everything from how to reduce a shoulder dislocation to understanding waves and currents, how to treat jellyfish stings and how to apply a tourniquet.

Whether you are surfing in Huntington Beach, Oahu’s North Shore, or a remote beach on the East Coast, this surf book will help you be prepared for any and all surf-related accidents.

An authoritative medical guide for surfers and watermen, you can buy this surf book here.

Surfer Magazine: 1960-2020

"If you don't know Surfer Magazine, God love you, this is your last chance."

This is what William Finnegan writes in the Introduction of Surfer Magazine: 1960-2020, published by Rizzoli New York.

While it's a sobering reminder that the Bible of the Sport is no more, the line sets the stage for surf fans to enjoy the highlights of the magazine's 6-decade run with this meticulously curated and wonderfully presented 300-page anthology.

In the surf book, you'll see the chronological progression of the sport, the gear, the style, and the world’s top surfers throughout the decades, from Mickey Dora to Kelly Slater.

If that's not enough, you'll read insight from some of Surfer's most respected editors, including Matt Warshaw, Steve Pezman, Jim Kempton, Paul Holmes, Sam George, and more.

You can buy this surf book here.

Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing

How about a children's book to add to our list of the best surf books today?

In Mop Rides the Wave of Life, Jaimal Yogis teaches 4-8 year olds timeless beach wisdom with the story of Mop, a sensitive and fun-loving kid who just wants to be in the ocean.

Having "funny" hair and being embarrassed in school is hard, but when little surfer Mop studies the lessons of the waves—breathing, letting the bad waves go by, and riding the good ones—he learns how to bring the mindfulness and joy of surfing into his whole life.

You can buy this surf book here.

Women Making Waves: Trailblazing Surfers In and Out of the Water

To celebrate the "sisterhood of surfing", Women Making Waves is a surf book that features extraordinary women from surf cultures around the world who are breaking new ground on land and finding healing, joy, and community in the water

These women include:

  • Maya Gabeira, a Brazilian woman who surfed the biggest wave of anyone in 2020

  • Bonnie Wright, the British actress, activist, and author

  • Risa Mara Machuca, who runs a free surfing camp in Mexico for local children

  • Zara Noruzi, an Iranian exile who found peace on the water in Australia

In Women Making Waves, author Lara Einzig captures the life-altering strength and resilience that these women discover in their connection to the waves — making it one of the best surf books to read today.

You can buy this surf book here.

The Code: The Power of "I Will"

One of surfing's most celebrated surfers, World Champion Shaun Tomson certainly has wisdom and insight to share from his surfing life.

That's exactly what he does in the surf book The Code. He writes 12 stories about his own surfing life experiences that orbit the message "I Will" as a model to face life’s challenges and help you achieve your goals.

What makes The Code one of the best surf books to read today is that you can implement his wisdom in your surfing and in your life.

"The Code is a guide for self-empowering decision making and provides the tools to effect positive change. It draws on Shaun's life experiences as both a world champion surfer and a father, giving insight and inspiration to young minds." — Pat O'Neill, President and CEO O'Neill Wetsuits

You can buy this surf book here.

Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die: Surfing Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations

Yes, you can search for dreamy and exotic surf destinations online or on social media. But with Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die: Surfing Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations, you can get award-winning photography and insightful descriptions packaged together in a surf coffee table book. That's what makes this one of the best surf books.

Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die features locations such as:

  • Oahu’s North Shore

  • Australia’s Gold Coast

  • Malibu

  • Gulf of Alaska

  • Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula

  • Nazaré

  • and more

Fifty Places to Surf takes readers on a wide-roving adventure, divulging the details that make each venue unique — and plenty of tips for those who aspire to surf there.

You can buy this surf book here.

Clark Little: The Art of Waves


Thanks to his uncanny ability to get the perfect shot — and live to share it — surf photographer Clark Little has garnered a devout audience, been the subject of award-winning documentaries, and become one of the world's most recognizable wave photographers.


Now, his surf book hits the shelves.


Clark Little: The Art of Waves compiles over 150 of his images, including crystalline breaking waves, the diverse marine life of Hawaii, and mind-blowing aerial photography.


“One of the world’s most amazing water photographers . . . Now we get to experience up-close these moments of bliss.” — Jack Johnson

This surf book features his most beloved pictures, as well as work that has never been published in book form, with Little's stories and insights throughout.


You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


Women on Waves: A Cultural History of Surfing: From Ancient Goddesses and Hawaiian Queens to Malibu Movie Stars and Millennial Champions


From smart, strong, fearless women shattering records on 80-foot waves to professional athletes fighting for equal pay and a more fair and just playing field, the surf book Women on Waves covers it all — and more.


Women on Waves is filled with phenomenal athletic performance, breakthrough female achievements, and plenty of inspiration for generations young and old, making it a turn-paging read.


You can buy this surf book on Amazon.

The California Surf Project

Quit your job, pack your boards, and surf your way down the California coast....

Sound like a daydream?


The California Surf Project is the fully illustrated travel diary of two surfers who took this trip of a lifetime — making it one of the best surf books to read.


Chris Burkard, a talented photographer, and Eric Soderquist, a professional surfer, cajoled their Volkswagen bus along Highway 1 from the Oregon border to the Tijuana Sloughs and discovered everything the Golden State's legendary coastline has to offer.


You can find this surf book on Amazon.


Epic Surf Breaks of the World


Looking to plan your next surf trip, or dream of the perfect wave? You can do both with Lonely Planet's surf book Epic Surf Breaks of the World.


From Namibia’s wind-swept Skeleton Bay to Java’s G-Land, discover the best place to surf — whatever your ability — in this surf book.


Accompanied by a series of stunning photographs, maps and beautiful illustrations as well as first-person stories from surf writers all across the globe, including Pulitzer Prize winner William Finnegan, this is the quintessential guide for surfers looking for their next epic break.

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


The Drop: How the Most Addictive Sport Can Help Us Understand Addiction and Recovery


Is surfing addicting?


As neurologists have recently discovered, surfing is a study in the mechanism of addiction, delivering dopamine to the "pleasure" center of the brain and reshaping priorities and desire in a feedback loop of narrowing focus — all things that lifelong surfer Thad Ziolkowski discusses in this surf book.


In this unique, groundbreaking surf book, part addiction memoir, part sociological study, part spiritual odyssey, Ziolkowski dismantles the myth of surfing as a radiantly wholesome lifestyle immune to the darker temptations of the culture and discovers among the rubble a new way to understand and ultimately overcome addiction.

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing


The spectacle that is the winter on the North Shore: For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, swarms of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans flock to Oahu’s paradisiacal North Shore in pursuit of some of the greatest waves on earth for surfing’s Triple Crown competition.


In the surf book Welcome to Paradise, Now Go To Hell, gonzo journalist Chas Smith reveals "how this influx transforms a sleepy, laid-back strip of coast into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca."


The result is a breathtaking blend of crime and adventure that captures the allure and wickedness of this idyllic golden world.

A combination of writing, setting, and drama make Welcome to Paradise, Now Go To Hell one of the best surf books to read today.


You can buy it on Amazon.


In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road


Looking for the ultimate surf book filled with adventure?


In 1996, Allan Weisbecker sold his home and his possessions, loaded his dog and surfboards into his truck, and set off in search of his long-time surfing companion, Patrick, who had vanished into the depths of Central America.


In Search of Captain Zero chronicles his quest from Mexico to Costa Rica to unravel the circumstances of Patrick's disappearance.


What makes this one of the best surf books to read is that Weisbecker intimately describes the people he befriended, the bandits he evaded, the waves he caught and lost en route to finding his friend.


You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing . . . and Love


An epic adventure full of incredible characters, death-defying athletic achievement, and bleeding-edge science, this surf book began with one question: how can we overcome our fears to reach our full potential?


In The Fear Project, award-winning journalist and surfer Jaimal Yogis sets out to better understand fear-why does it so often dominate our lives, what makes it tick, and is there even a way to use it to our advantage?


In the process, he plunges readers into great white shark-infested waters, brings them along to surf 40+ foot waves in the dead of winter, and gives them access to some of the world's best neuroscience labs, psychologists, and extreme athletes.


What makes this one of the best surf books to read today? In its pages, you'll discover:

  • How fear evolved in the human brain

  • How to tell the difference between "good fear" and "bad fear"

  • How to use the latest neuroscience to transform fear memories

  • Why fear spreads between us and how to counteract fearful "group think"

  • How to turn fear into a performance enhancer - athletically and at work

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


Pipe Dreams


In Pipe Dreams, readers get a behind-the-scenes look at surfing's forever champion, Kelly Slater.


Written when he had won just 6 World Titles, this surf book takes readers into oceans around the world and shares the outrageous stories, solemn moments, and undeniable spirit that have made Slater a superstar.


Let's be honest: because it's written by Kelly Slater, it's one of the best surf books to read.


You can buy Pipe Dreams on Amazon.


Tapping the Source


The book that inspired Point Break.


That may be all you need to know about Tapping the Source, one of the best surf books to read today.


While most of the surf books on this best surf book list are non fiction, Tapping the Source is a fictional story about Ike Tucker, who ventures to Huntington Beach not for the surf, but to find his missing sister and those who murdered her.


"In that place of gilded surfers and sun-bleached blonds, Ike’s search takes him on a journey through a twisted world of crazed Vietnam vets, sadistic surfers, drug dealers, and mysterious seducers."

You heard it from us: once you start Tapping the Source, you won't be able to put it down. That's what makes it one of the best surf books on Amazon today.


You can buy it on Amazon.


All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora


Iconic, legendary, yet misunderstood.


That's the life of Miki "Da Cat" Dora. For decades, he was the king of Malibu surfers — "a dashing, enigmatic rebel who dominated the waves, ruled his peers' imaginations, and who still inspires the fantasies of wannabes to this day."


If you're looking to further understand this iconic surfer, someone who made his indelible mark on the sport of surfing, you can find everything in All For a Few Perfect Waves.


Author David Rensin spent four years interviewing hundreds of Dora's friends, enemies, family members, lovers, and fellow surfers to "uncover the untold truth about surfing's most outrageous practitioner, charismatic antihero, committed loner, and enduring mystery."


If you're interested in Miki Dora or surfing's fascinating past, All for a Few Perfect Waves is one of the best surf books to read today. You can buy it on Amazon.


Roaming: Roark's Adventure Atlas: Surfing, skating, riding, and climbing around the world


Looking for an adventure book that includes more than just surfing?


If you're looking for a photographic guidebook to adventure, featuring images, intel, itineraries, tales, and testimonies collected by Roark’s expert guides, you can find all this, and much more, in Roaming.


The surf book documents the routes of a group of iconic surfers, climbers, skaters, and other adventurers seeking full cultural and thrill-seeking immersion. In its pages, you'll experience:


  • surf expeditions to Iceland, the Falkland Islands, or Jamaica

  • motorcycle journeys through Nepal

  • rock climbing in Argentina

  • cliff jumping in Northern Vietnam,

  • and more


"The modern bible for anyone interested in charting an adventure with improbable itineraries across the globe, or the mere appreciation for photography that transports you to a place only found in dreams."


One of today's best surf books to read, you can buy Roaming on Amazon.


Walking on Water: The Surfer's Soul


Surfing is spiritual.


Ask most wave riders and they'll describe some sense of deeper connection with the water, the waves or the power around them and how it's a spiritual experience.


In the surf book Walking on Water, written by Jeremy Jones, you'll meet top surfers such as:

  • C.J. Hobgood, who rose to the top of the surf world but found it ultimately dissatisfying

  • Bethany Hamilton, a courageous teen who survived a shark attack and returned to the sport

  • surf legend Tom Curren, a middle-aged father of four whose comeback of sorts is the talk of the surf world

  • Al Merrick, a remarkable surfboard shaper who crafts the vehicles ridden by surf stars

In Walking on Water, you'll discover what makes these celebrities and others believe that surfing is meaningless without a deep satisfying faith in something more — which is why it's on the of the best surf books to read today.


You can buy this surf book here.


Saltwater in the Blood: Surfing, Natural Cycles and the Sea's Power to Heal


Easkey Britton —surfer, scientist, and social activist — offers a powerful female perspective on the sea and surfing in Saltwater in the Blood, making it one of the best surf books to read today.


In this surf book, Easkey explains:

  • what it’s like to be a woman in a man's world

  • how she promoted the sport to women in Iran

  • how she has developed her own approach to surfing based on the natural cycles of her body

"Powerful feminist nature writing by the pioneer of women's big-wave surfing in Ireland...Easkey Britton provides a rare female perspective on surfing, exploring the mental skills it fosters, and the need to recognize the value of the ocean and of nature's cycles in our lives."

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


Hound of the Sea: Hound of the Sea: Wild Man. Wild Waves. Wild Wisdom.


Risking death but chasing glory, Garrett McNamara set the world record for surfing a seventy-eight-foot wave in Nazaré, Portugal in 2011.


The surf book Hound of the Sea takes you behind the scenes to show how we did it — and everything it took for him to catch the wave. From discovering the wave at Nazare to his dangerous wipeouts and his mindset behind it all, this surf book is an absolute page turner.


If you've already seen HBO's "The Wave" Documentary, and you're looking for even more on Garret's incredible story, this surf book is just what you're looking for.


"Hound of the Sea is a record of perseverance, passion, and healing. Thoughtful, suspenseful, and spiritually profound, McNamara reveals the beautiful soul of surfing through the eyes of one of its most daring and devoted disciples."

You can buy this surf book on Amazon.


The 30 Best Surf Books to Read Today

There you have it: the 30 best surf books to read today.

Remember — don't just read surf books.

Read the best surf books.

Whether you’re looking for entertainment during your next trip or something to keep you busy during a long flat spell, any of these surf books can not only inspire you; they can teach you life lessons and help you learn more about our incredible surf culture.