• ASM Staff

The 10 Best Surf Books to Read Today

Updated: Jun 11

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…

You can find out all of this — and much more about surfing at our surf culture at large — by reading 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 10 best surf books to read today.

The 10 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The 10 Best Surf Books to Read Today

There you have it: the 10 best surf books to read today.

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 as well.