A thumbnail review – by Kim Satchell
In the summer months I wrestled the humidity and the noon day sun with Matt Warshaw’s (what sort of a name is warshaw for a surf writer) History of Surfing. To be frank apart from all the usual jibes at history concerning the pretences, the gendered legacies and the triumphalism. I came to the book pliable, open to any charms and hopeful of someone just talking story.
While I reverently flick through the glossy images enthralled as if studying snowflakes in all their variation and symmetry. In this somewhat ambivalent approach, my worst fears were elided and my most modest hopes were surpassed. The reason for this was the delightful emergence in my reading (of the mini tome) of three narrative threads that wound around my imagination like DNA and around my DNA like a grommets first slide. While these ideas might not be revelatory for the seasoned critic, they were welcome melodies that made this an enjoyable read. The first of these interlacing threads were the uneven developments in the equipment, complimented by the thread of emergent levels of performance and the way these led from surf spot to surf spot and the full spectrum of what a surfing world might offer. The way this implicates the actors of these dramas (including the reader) in a sense of time and a sense of place is apparent and came across as the retelling, of retellings, of tales of mythic proportions told from fire to fire, epic swell to epic swell. Inevitably this all intersects with the readers own design, performance and travel journeys. In that sense the History of Surfing is something that resonates in your own surfing body with all the jolts of adrenalin, excitement and abandon that surfing offers.