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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

A major adventure

National Geographic published a list in May of 2004 of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All time. It included such classics as The Worst Journey in the World, Into Thin Air, and Terra Incognita. I will take bets that The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Gia...
National Geographic published a list in May of 2004 of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All time. It included such classics as The Worst Journey in the World, Into Thin Air, and Terra Incognita. I will take bets that The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey ends up on their next list.

This fine work is a skein of three interconnected stories, the dawning recognition in the scientific community that the "Giant Waves" long thought to be myth do indeed exist, a review of some of the most deadly effects of great waves, and the thrilling stories of the men and women who challenge the sea for sport.
Strange and frightening events have happened at sea. In 1982 a 337-foot-high oil platform which was built to withstand 110-foot seas and 115-mile-per-hour winds capsized and sank close to instantly, killing all eight-four people on board. The author's investigations at Lloyd's of London reveaed an almost unnoticed list of maritime disasters. In the years from 1990 to mid-1997 a total of ninety-nine huge bulk carriers were lost. Then in a four-month period in the winter of 1997-98 twenty-seven vessels along with 645 people were lost in a single four month period.

Weaving through this story is the growing belief by the scientific community that things are most likely to get worse before they get better. The effects of climatic change will be significant at sea. Effects that range from higher sea levels to more frequent tsunamis are likely as the increased weight of water makes the sea floor itself more prone to underwater landslides and collapses.

In the mist of this change and concern came a startling announcement. In July 2001 a man named Bill Sharp speaking for a surf wear company issued a press release. It offered a prize of $500,000 to anyone who rode a 100 foot wave. This "Golden Carrot" created a huge surge in people attempting to ride big waves and brought many people into the extreme sport who had no business being there.

Ms. Casey spends almost half of her book on the sport of surfing and its many manifestations and on the individual who choose the extreme end of the sport. She writes with power and with a deep understanding of the experience. She choose her narrators early and follows them through the period when the fall out from this challenge made a huge and often tragic impact on the sport of surfing.

From start to finish this is a wild ride of a book that manages to be as educational as it is exciting. It is hard to review this book without falling into "my heart beat faster" or "I was on the edge of my chair" but it is in truth that good of a tale.

posted by hippypaul on August 14, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

My inner scientist enjoyed the waves, but I had surfer fatigue by the end.

How many ways can you describe surfing and waves. Apparently not enough to keep my interest. The Wave is written with chapters alternating between the science behind giant waves and the pursuit of extreme surfing. I realize that Ms. Casey probably got interested t...
How many ways can you describe surfing and waves. Apparently not enough to keep my interest. The Wave is written with chapters alternating between the science behind giant waves and the pursuit of extreme surfing. I realize that Ms. Casey probably got interested through the surfing aspect as Laird Hamilton's neighbor in Hawaii, but I lost interest in the surfing aspects of the book after a few chapters. There are too many surfers too keep straight and the waves at some point all come down to the same characteristics--they are big and bad ass and you should be cautious even if you know what you are doing. However, I did find the science fascinating and scary at the same time. I would not recommend reading this during a cruise or a beach vacation as you may have bad dreams. I was traveling while reading this and decided I should not read it in coastal low lands as the images of what could happen are somewhat alarming. I would have enjoyed more science and less surfing with the surfing used to humanize the story. By the end, I found myself skimming to surfing sections.

posted by Brad_the_nook_nerd on January 16, 2011

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  • Posted August 21, 2010

    A fascinating look at the ocean and those who challenge it

    Don't take this book as your leisure reading on that next cruise or you will be constantly watching the horizon, wondering if that next freak wave is on its way.

    My reason for reading this book, subtitled In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, is that I wanted to learn more about huge waves, tsunamis, and ocean behavior. I was not so much interested in the surfers or their stories. However, not far into the book, that changed.

    The author talks with scientists studying the phenomenon and hangs out with the surfers who tackle these big waves. Despite the recent improvements in monitoring and measuring, the science still has a long way to go and the ocean is still wildly unpredictable. While the scientific information is interesting and enlightening, I really enjoyed getting a bit into the minds of the big-wave surfers who attempt challenges most of us would never even dream of trying. Some have paid with their lives. Many are part of a close knit pseudo-family, enduring the squabbles all families have but watching out for one another, often at the risk of their own lives.

    "If I scare myself once every day, I am a better person," he had said, "It helps to have that little jolt of perspective that life's fragile."

    (This quote is from an advance bound galley, so may have changed in the published edition.)

    The number of huge ships, especially the low-riding tankers, that just disappear without a trace and with little if any media coverage is amazing. Often these ships are registered to countries with loose maritime standards and crewed by under-trained third world natives.

    The book also contains information on maritime insurance, climate change, marine salvage companies, lots of people and organizations involved with the vagaries of oceanic behavior.

    I do wish the author had explained a few more of the surfing terms for the uninitiated, like I am. That is my only quibble with the book, and it is a minor one. All in all, the book is a fascinating read.

    I was given a copy of the bound galley by the publisher, for which I am very grateful.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A major adventure

    National Geographic published a list in May of 2004 of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All time. It included such classics as The Worst Journey in the World, Into Thin Air, and Terra Incognita. I will take bets that The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey ends up on their next list.

    This fine work is a skein of three interconnected stories, the dawning recognition in the scientific community that the "Giant Waves" long thought to be myth do indeed exist, a review of some of the most deadly effects of great waves, and the thrilling stories of the men and women who challenge the sea for sport.
    Strange and frightening events have happened at sea. In 1982 a 337-foot-high oil platform which was built to withstand 110-foot seas and 115-mile-per-hour winds capsized and sank close to instantly, killing all eight-four people on board. The author's investigations at Lloyd's of London reveaed an almost unnoticed list of maritime disasters. In the years from 1990 to mid-1997 a total of ninety-nine huge bulk carriers were lost. Then in a four-month period in the winter of 1997-98 twenty-seven vessels along with 645 people were lost in a single four month period.

    Weaving through this story is the growing belief by the scientific community that things are most likely to get worse before they get better. The effects of climatic change will be significant at sea. Effects that range from higher sea levels to more frequent tsunamis are likely as the increased weight of water makes the sea floor itself more prone to underwater landslides and collapses.

    In the mist of this change and concern came a startling announcement. In July 2001 a man named Bill Sharp speaking for a surf wear company issued a press release. It offered a prize of $500,000 to anyone who rode a 100 foot wave. This "Golden Carrot" created a huge surge in people attempting to ride big waves and brought many people into the extreme sport who had no business being there.

    Ms. Casey spends almost half of her book on the sport of surfing and its many manifestations and on the individual who choose the extreme end of the sport. She writes with power and with a deep understanding of the experience. She choose her narrators early and follows them through the period when the fall out from this challenge made a huge and often tragic impact on the sport of surfing.

    From start to finish this is a wild ride of a book that manages to be as educational as it is exciting. It is hard to review this book without falling into "my heart beat faster" or "I was on the edge of my chair" but it is in truth that good of a tale.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    a ferocious nonstop ride

    The public has eagerly awaited another book by Susan Casey, acclaimed author of Devil's Teeth about great white sharks. Her newest book The Wave is equally astounding, and she earns her stripes as an adventure writer by swimming alongside and jetskiing behind big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton in his quest for monster waves. Casey examines giant waves through the eyes of elite surfers, scientists, and mariners. Through every lense, they are ominous. She describes her own emotional encounter with a huge wave in Mexico as a combination of "amazement and fear and humility," and she watches it progress in slow motion. Although she presses Laird Hamilton to describe his experience with monster waves, it is something beyond words. He just places his hand over his heart. Thank you, Susan Casey, for soundly dispelling the misconception that rouge waves are a rarity in the world's oceans. As the earth's climate heats up, they are becoming more common. Her prose is lyrical, peppered with colorful analogies and vivid contrasts, and it is laced with wry humor. The Wave is a ferocious nonstop ride of a book, and Casey has positioned herself as one of the world's best nature writers.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    My inner scientist enjoyed the waves, but I had surfer fatigue by the end.

    How many ways can you describe surfing and waves. Apparently not enough to keep my interest. The Wave is written with chapters alternating between the science behind giant waves and the pursuit of extreme surfing. I realize that Ms. Casey probably got interested through the surfing aspect as Laird Hamilton's neighbor in Hawaii, but I lost interest in the surfing aspects of the book after a few chapters. There are too many surfers too keep straight and the waves at some point all come down to the same characteristics--they are big and bad ass and you should be cautious even if you know what you are doing. However, I did find the science fascinating and scary at the same time. I would not recommend reading this during a cruise or a beach vacation as you may have bad dreams. I was traveling while reading this and decided I should not read it in coastal low lands as the images of what could happen are somewhat alarming. I would have enjoyed more science and less surfing with the surfing used to humanize the story. By the end, I found myself skimming to surfing sections.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An outrageously good read

    The Wave is an outrageously good read, alternately thrilling and terrifying in turns. How many ways can a wave be described? As many ways as there are waves, though one suspects the Hawaiians had more words for the qualities of water than we do. While surfing plays the loudest chords in this book, one of the most resonant notes played was a description of Lituya Bay in Alaska, where epic waves scour the coastline. I went back and forth with the narrative to examine the included photographs again and again. Pictures help, but Casey's descriptions are harrowing. Reading (or writing!) about surfing could be a difficult endeavor. After all, unless one is on the wave, it is difficult to get a feel for its power. Even watching from shore doesn't give one any real feel for what is going on in the water. Casey brings us up close and personal, partly through her access to the men who ride in wild conditions, and partly through her use of language and imagery to describe different conditions: "Among big-wave connoisseurs, Ghost Tree wasn't especially beloved. It didn't break that often, and when it did it lunged open in a maniac sneer, spitting foam and tangled rafts of kelp." For me, I have an indelible picture of this vicious water, as in this different, but equally effective description of Mavericks: "The Aleutian swells thunder three thousand miles across the North Pacific, barging past the continental shelf until their progress is rudely halted by a thick rock ledge that juts offshore about a mile from Pillar Point, near Half Moon Bay's harbor. When it hits this shallower depth, the wave energy rears up, shrieking and screaming, forming the clawed hand that is Mavericks." As I read, I was reminded of Yvon Chouinard's autobiography Let My People Go Surfing because while the visionary businessman and adventurer lamented climate change and the disappearance of glaciers, he prepared for it by developing a bigger line of surfing products. If there is going to be more water everywhere, Chouinard suggests, that's where the business opportunities are for the outdoorsman. But even now we see that the biggest waves are becoming too much for the surfboards now made. Laird Hamilton, surfer extraordinaire, is trying new hydrofoil boards to take on the larger, more destructive waves being generated in oceans whose currents and temperatures are changing. This book is the equal of Born To Run, the word-of-mouth bestseller among athletes and couch potatoes alike. One doesn't have to do more than act like a sponge to enjoy this extraordinary book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2010

    Overlong magazine article short on data and long on fawning over surfers.

    Thought I would learn something about rogue waves. And did learn a little more than what I have seen on the Nature Channel and the like. First chaper is the best of the book. Rest is mostly about how cool, buff, and brave surfers are and the stupid lenghts they will go to to ride a wave. Snore. Skimmed the last half of the book. I suggest skimming the entire thing. That way you won't feel like you wasted your time. Give it two stars because one of the surfers owns a couple of rat terriers. Now that takes guts.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    MUST BUY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I read this book flr school, I ussaly hate those books but this was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    Just WOW!

    A riveting read from page one. I'm left with enormous respect for the mysteries & mysticism of the ocean's energy. Important for the time we now live.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great mix of wave science and sports biography

    This was a great mix of wave science, climate change doomsday scenario, and extreme sports profile with big wave surfing pioneer Laird Hamilton as the main subject. Jon Krakauer is a much better author for this type of genre, but if you can slog your way through this rather dry tome, you will actually learn a lot about the sport and the growing interest in this division of oceanography called wave science, useful in that they are starting to use this science to predict cataclysmic tsunamis, e.g. the Indonesian tsunami of 2004 and the Japanese tsunami of 2011.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    Great Book - Normally only read great "who-dunnit" books, but this was recommended and I wasn't able to put it down. Filled with great stories, scary facts of what's to come and what is out there, and Ms. Casey weaves it together seamlessly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    Susan Casey's interest in all things science are evident in this book about waves and the book evolves into a fascinating story of water and physics and the daring required to challenge nature. I have great admiration for the "water man" as well as the ability to understand and know your own limitations. Life is Good and its not about what you have, its how you live and respect the world around you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2014

    Entertaining and informative

    P

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  • Posted October 25, 2013

    highly recommended

    Susan blends the extreme surfing world with the scientific community, alternating between descriptions of dangerous rides on huge waves and scientific investigations of rogue waves. There is a wealth of information in her book, amid predictions of tsunamis and ship disappearances to come. The daredevil (almost suicidal) surfers are exciting (but crazy), and she develops their personalities to help the reader understand what makes them take such chances with their lives. The beautiful but lethal waves are something to imagine, and the surfer community and the photographers are depicted as a close knit community of survivors, always trying to outdo the other as daredevils. Climate change, it is believed, will bring more huge, dangerous waves that can swallow ships without warning. Scientists are trying to find how they develop and give warnings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    .

    .

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  • Posted April 21, 2013

    ..

    ..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    great book, highly recommended for anyone who adventures on the seas

    some historical and recent startling facts about wave caused disasters at sea and shore then detailed explanation about giant wave formation, contributing bottom currents and contours, and wave heights attained by the near shore surfable waves and the personalities of those expert enough to ride them. A fun read for any ocean voyager and especially surfer.

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    Fascinating! Made learning about the oceans a thrill ride!

    I was blown away by the deep, thorough research Casey did on the oceans and those who study them, test them, challenge them, play in them. She made this scientific book read like a thriller. Hundred foot waves, freighters going down every week, surfers zooming all over to ride bigger and bigger waves, researchers risking their lives trying to learn what causes these phenomena, and the economics behind it all. She pulled together interested parties from many walks of life and various resources to explain what's happening out there. And did it in a way that held my attention constantly until the end. What a fascinating endeavor!

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  • Posted June 19, 2012

    Good read

    Best book on "rogue waves" I've found. Good story but not to technical...

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  • Posted June 11, 2012

    Boring

    Boring

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    Redkit

    Strclan said i cant die cuz of a prophecy bout me

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