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The Encyclopedia of Surfing

The Encyclopedia of Surfing

5.0 4
by Matt Warshaw, William Finnegan (Foreword by)

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Now in paperback and updated to include forty new entries, this "leviathan of surf literature" (Surfing magazine) is a remarkable collection of expert knowledge, spine-tingling stories, and little-known trivia. With 1,500 alphabetical entries and 300 illustrations, The Encyclopedia of Surfing is the most comprehensive review of the people, places, events,


Now in paperback and updated to include forty new entries, this "leviathan of surf literature" (Surfing magazine) is a remarkable collection of expert knowledge, spine-tingling stories, and little-known trivia. With 1,500 alphabetical entries and 300 illustrations, The Encyclopedia of Surfing is the most comprehensive review of the people, places, events, equipment, vernacular, and lively history of this fascinating sport by "one of surfing's most knowledgeable historians" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Each year, the surf industry brings in $4.5 billion, and more than two-and-a-half million Americans, from California to Delaware, have caught the wave. The Encyclopedia of Surfing is a book that no surfer-or armchair adventurer-will be able to resist.

Editorial Reviews


"The leviathan of surf literature .... Wild variety and perfect pacing ... offer greater insights into surfing's vast reach."
Eastern Surf Magazine

"The most thorough, comprehensive guide to the sport of surfing ever."
Sports Illustrated

"Fiendishly addictive . . . Comprehensive and compelling." --Sports Illustrated
Los Angeles Times

"Both the old and new testament of board-riding culture, spanning from Captain Cook to Malia Jones."
From the Publisher


"Fiendishly addictive . . . Comprehensive and compelling."--Sports Illustrated

"A spiritual cousin to The Endless Summer between hard covers . . . Both the old and new testament of board-riding culture."--Los Angeles Times

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
7.93(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.57(d)

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Peak-shaped wave, generally short, hollow, and powerful; ridable in either direction-left or right-and often well-suited to tuberiding. Viewed front on, the A-frame wave has a symmetrical outline resembling that of an A-frame building.

Aaberg, Denny:
Good-natured surfer/writer/musician from Pacific Palisades, California; best known as cowriter of Warner Brothers' 1978 surfing film Big Wednesday. Aaberg was born (1947) in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved with his family at age two to the west Los Angeles town of Pacific Palisades. By the time Denny Aaberg began surfing in 1959 as a 12-year-old, his older brother Kemp was regarded as one of California's top surfers. Aaberg's involvement in the sport branched out as he played guitar on Innermost Limits of Pure Fun, a 1970 surf film, and contributed a song to Big Wednesday-a movie inspired by a 1974 Surfer magazine short story written by Aaberg titled "No-Pants Mance" that looked back at his wave- and beer-soaked salad days at Malibu in the early '60s. The sandy-haired Aaberg continued to serve as keeper of the Malibu flame, appearing in the 1987 documentary The Legends of Malibu, and describing in detail Malibu's characters, scene, and rituals in "Tres Amigos," a 1994 Longboard magazine feature. "Malibu was rough theater," Aaberg wrote. "In ancient Greece, plays lasted all day, beginning at dawn and not ending until dusk. Malibu was the same way." See also Big Wednesday.

Aaberg, Kemp:
Lean, blond, smooth-surfing regularfooter from Santa Barbara, California; a Gidget-era Malibu icon and costar of filmmaker Bruce Brown's 1958 surf movie, Slippery When Wet. Aaberg was born (1940) in Peoria, Illinois, spent his early childhood in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved with his family in 1948 to Pacific Palisades, in west Los Angeles. Eight years later he began surfing, at Malibu, first using a right-foot-forward goofyfoot stance, then switching to a left-foot-leading regularfoot stance so as to be facing the long right-breaking Malibu waves. Although Aaberg had been surfing for less than three years when he was picked to go to Hawaii with Brown to film Slippery When Wet, he was already regarded as one of California's premier surf stylists. A black-and-white photo of him back-arching in perfect trim at Rincon appeared in the second issue of Surfer in 1961; a duotone version of the shot became the magazine's first logo later that year, and was reprinted on the magazine's 25th anniversary issue cover in 1985. The Surfer's Journal later described the Aaberg back-arch shot as "one of the most instantly identifiable surf images of all time, and an enduring statement about the joy of surfing." Australian Peter Townend, the 1976 world champion, reintroduced Aaberg's move in the mid-'70s as the soul arch. Congenial and easygoing, Aaberg could nonetheless be obsessive: he avoided surf competition, but won the grueling 32-mile Catalina-to-Manhattan Pier paddleboard race in 1961; he studied flamenco guitar in Spain for six months in 1972; he placed highly in triathlons in the mid-'80s.

Aaberg wrote articles for Surfer, Surf Guide, and H2O magazines, and his monthly "Surf Scrolls" column appeared in the Santa Barbara News Press from 1989 to 1992. He appeared in a number of '60s surf movies, including Surfing Hollow Days (1962) and A Cool Wave of Color (1964). The Jack Barlow character in Warner Brothers' 1978 surf movie Big Wednesday was loosely based on Aaberg; the Big Wednesday screenplay was cowritten by Denny Aaberg, Kemp's younger brother. Aaberg received a B.A. in social sciences from University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1966; in 1991 he was nominated to the International Surfing Hall of Fame. Aaberg is married and has no children.

Abellira, Reno:
Stylish, enigmatic regularfooter from Honolulu, Hawaii; world-ranked #4 in 1977, and a central figure throughout the first decade of shortboard surfing. Abellira was born (1950) and raised in Honolulu, the son of a middleweight boxer who was shot and killed in a barroom fight. Abellira began surfing at age four in Waikiki, but didn't get his first board until 11. He won the juniors division of the Makaha International in 1966 and 1967, and earned $200 for winning the 1966 Hawaiian Noseriding Contest, the state's first professional surfing event. Abellira was Hawaii's juniors division champion in 1968, and made his international debut later that year in the World Surfing Championships, held in Puerto Rico. Although he placed sixth, many observers thought the small-framed (5'7", 135 pounds) 18-year-old was the event's most exciting surfer, as he consistently rode just beneath the curl on a stiletto-like purple surfboard. "It was a skateboard," California surf publisher Dick Graham wrote, marveling at Abellira's radical new equipment, "and he rode it like a god, because he is one."

Abellira's style developed over the next three years. He rode in a low crouch, chin tucked into his left shoulder, arms extended, wrists cocked, each part of his body precisely arranged. Whether or not the streamlined stance added speed to Abellira's surfing is impossible to say, but nobody in the '70s-except for Australia's Terry Fitzgerald-looked faster on a surfboard. Abellira also proved to be one of the sport's most mysterious figures: he kept to himself for the most part, rarely smiled, and countered the scruffy surfer image with Italian-made leather loafers, pressed linen pants, and neatly coiffed hair. "He's a bit of a dandy," Australian surf journalist Phil Jarratt wrote of the dark-eyed Hawaiian, "and could teach most surfers a thing or two about color coordination."

Abellira competed regularly throughout the '70s, winning state titles in 1970 and 1972, placing fourth in the '70 World Championships, second in the 1973 Duke Kahanamoku Classic, and making the finals in more than a dozen professional events on the North Shore of Oahu. He was also an Expression Session invitee in 1970 and 1971. In what many still regard as surfing's most thrilling big-wave contest, Abellira beat fellow Hawaiian Jeff Hakman by a fraction of a point to win the 1974 Smirnoff Pro, held in cataclysmic 30-foot surf at Waimea Bay. Among the first Hawaiians to set out on the pro circuit, Abellira was world-ranked #4 in 1977, #8 in 1978, and #13 in 1979.

Abellira was also a first-rate surfboard shaper, learning the craft from board-making guru Dick Brewer in the late '60s and early '70s, then going on to work for the Lightning Bolt label; Abellira and Brewer together experimented with an early version of the tri-fin design in 1970 and 1971. Mark Richards of Australia later became an international surf hero while riding Abellira-shaped boards, and it was Abellira's stubby double-keeled "fish" that inspired Richards to produce in 1977 the twin-fin design that swept through the surf world in the late '70s and early '80s.

While Abellira was for the most part removed from the surf scene beginning in the early '80s, he occasionally produced thoughtful and eloquent articles for the American surf press. He made headlines in 1993 when he disappeared for several months after being indicted on cocaine distribution charges; he was later convicted and spent several months in prison.

Abellira appeared in more than 15 surf movies, including Hot Generation (1968), Sea of Joy (1971), Going Surfin' (1973), and Tales of the Seven Seas (1981). In the late '70s, he lent his name to a short-lived surfwear company called Reno Hawaii. He competed in the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave contest at Waimea Bay at age 40, finishing 24th in a field of 33. Abellira has been married once, and has one child; in 2002 he was living in Santa Monica, California.

Abubo, Megan:
Determined pro surfer from Haleiwa, Hawaii; world-ranked #2 in 2000. "Abubo looks soft but surfs hard," Surfer magazine said in 2000, noting that the Hawaiian regularfooter, then 22, was likely five or six years from her prime. Abubo was born (1978) in Connecticut, moved with her family to Hawaii, began surfing at age 10 in Waikiki, and won seven national titles as an amateur. She was the pro tour's rookie of the year in 1996, and in 2000 won two of nine world circuit events to finish runner-up to Australian Layne Beachley. Abubo had by that time developed a reputation as both friendly and feisty. "What man-made object best represents your personality?" Surfer asked her in 1998. "What a stupid question," she answered. Abudo faltered competitively after her second-place finish in 2000, placing 8th in 2001 and 9th in 2001. Abubo has been featured in a number of surf videos, including Triple C (1996) and Peaches (2000); she also stunt-doubled in the 2002 Universal film Blue Crush. Abubo posed in the nude (covering herself with a surfboard) for Rolling Stone's 2001 Sports Hall of Fame issue.
academia and surfing Although tens of thousands of recreational surfers have enrolled in colleges and universities over the decades, and coastal-area college surf teams and clubs have been around since the mid-1960s, surfing and the academy have had little effect on each other, and connections between the two are still for the most part regarded as novel, quirky, or gently amusing. Just a small number of well-known surfers have earned graduate degrees of one kind or another, the best known being a pair of California big-wave riders: Ricky Grigg (Ph.D., oceanography, Scripps Institution, 1970) and Peter Cole (M.S., informational sciences, University of Hawaii, 1971). The number of first-rate academics who also surf is proportionally small, and includes Kary Mullis, a San Diego longboarder and 1994 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, and Donald Cram, another San Diego surfer, who earned his chemistry Nobel in 1987. (It is estimated, meanwhile, that between one-third and one-half of the world pro tour's top 44 surfers in any given season are high school dropouts.)

Colleges and universities have produced more than 500 surf-related thesis papers, and a much smaller number of journal articles, with titles including "A Study of the Growth of a Deviant Subculture" (1962), "Legends of the Surfer Subculture" (1976), "Waves of Semiosis: Surfing Iconic Progression" (1987), and "Ambiguities in Pleasure and Discipline: The Development of Competitive Surfing" (1995). "Surfing Subcultures of Australia and New Zealand," a doctoral thesis by University of Queensland sociology professor Kent Pearson, became a minor surf world curiosity when it was published as a 213-page hardcover book in 1979. "[Surfboard] design development," Pearson writes in the desiccated academic prose style familiar to all grad students, "took place in accord with objectives of maneuverability and wave-riding performance by persons primarily interested in surfing pleasure."

Surfing: American Culture or Subculture?, a 2000-founded honors course taught by assistant professor Patrick Moser at Missouri's Drury University, explored through readings and film "the positive side of surfing as an idealistic escape from modern-industrialized society, and its darker residence squarely within American imperialistic practices." One year earlier, Plymouth University in southwest England began offering a three-year B.S. in surf science and technology-designed primarily as a surf industry vocational program-with course requirements including Meteorology and Waves, Competitive Surfing and Event Management, Biology and Human Performance, Advanced Surf Dynamics, and Contemporary Issues in Surfing. In 2001, Edith Cowan University in Western Australia began offering a degree similar to that at Plymouth; The Endless Summer Revisited: Surfing in American Culture and Thought was offered for the first time at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2003.

The first annual Surfing, Arts, Science and Issues Conference (better known as SASIC I), organized by the Oxnard-based Groundswell Society and formatted on the lines of an academic seminar, was held on October 27, 2001, in Ventura, California. SASIC I featured 14 symposiums and seminars, led by surfing environmentalists, artists, lawyers, writer/publishers, and others. See also Kary Mullis, Western Intercollegiate Surfing Council.

Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo (ASR):
Frenetic three-day surf industry trade show held twice yearly in Southern California, one at the Long Beach Convention Center and the other at the San Diego Convention Center; the most widely attended event of its kind in the United States; long known by its ASR acronym. The ASR show is where surf companies display their newest wares-everything from surfboards and surf trunks to water slingshots and sparkling tanning lotion-for surf industry retailers and the surf industry at large; ASR is not open to the public. Other action sports represented at ASR include skateboarding, snowboarding, climbing, BMX, wakeboarding, kiteboarding, and sailboarding. The cacophonous hivelike convention hall atmosphere is filled with rows of surf company booths, hundreds of TV screens showing repeat-loop DVD and video presentations, pro surfers in search of sponsors, roving bikini models in thongs and high-heels, and legions of retail buyers. Although ASR was created in part to put some business rigor into a notoriously lax industry, the social whirl surrounding the show is nonstop. Surfing magazine's report on the 1997 show was titled "ASR You Hungover?"

ASR was preceded by the Los Angeles Surf Fair, held from 1962 to 1964 in Santa Monica, California; the 1976-founded Surf Expo show in Florida; and the one-off Surfing Expo '77, held in Costa Mesa, California. ASR has its origins in the 1979-founded Action Sports Retailer magazine, published by Southern California surfers Jeff Wetmore and Steve Lewis. Wetmore was inspired to create a surfing trade show after noticing that virtally all surf shops had pushed surfboards to the back of the store, and were giving over more display space to a fast-multiplying assortment of beachwear items and surfing accessories. The first Action Sports Retailer show was held at the Long Beach Convention Center in February 1981, drawing 150 companies and perhaps 500 registered buyers. The show grew in popularity as the surf industry itself took a sharp turn up in the second half of the decade; the San Diego show was added in 1989. Fashion shows, book signings, meet-and-greet celebrity appearances, surfboard auctions, and after-hours concerts all became part of ASR as the shows grew bigger and more complex. The 2002 Long Beach ASR booked 500 companies and drew 17,000 attendees.

While America has always been by far the biggest force in the international surf marketplace (the U.S. surf industry generated sales of $4.5 billion in 2002), overseas surf industries have also done well. As of 2002, there were surfing or surf-related trade shows in France (Glisse Expo), Germany (IPSO), Brazil (Surf and Beach), Australia (Action Retail Surf Expo), and Japan (Action Sports Retailer). See also Los Angeles Surf Fair, Surf Expo, Surf Industry Manufacturers Association.

Copyright © 2003 by Matt Warshaw
Foreword copyright © 2003 by William Finnegan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording,
or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address:
Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

Matt Warshaw is the former editor of Surfer magazine and has been writing about surfing for more than twenty years. A surfer all his life, he competed professionally in the early eighties. Warshaw's articles have been published in the New York Times Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, and he is the author of several books on surfing. He lives in San Francisco.

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The Encyclopedia of Surfing 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this book on a friends coffee table this weekend in San Diego, and I thought it as the coolest most amazing book I have ever read. I went out and bought it for my boyfriend the next day!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Christmas morning, 12:08, has never been so far away ;)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just got the book yesterday and I've barely put it down. The book is enormous--there doesn't seem to be anything Warshaw hasn't covered. What is great about the book is that it not only does it have every fact you'd ever want to know about the sport, but the writing is so interesting that the facts really seem to come alive. Who'd ever thought that the history of surf wax could be so fascinating???
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you surf, there is now only one book that you must own. This has it all; everything and everyone connected to the sport written in both an informative and interesting way. You start reading one entry and pretty soon you've killed an hour or two and there's still tons more. I'm stoked.