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

Overview

For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, Oahu's paradisical North Shore turns into a fiery hell. Its population more than triples as mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans transform the normally sleepy shore into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca where fearless men paddle into thirty-foot waves breaking over a razor-sharp reef. And when the sun goes down, the true danger comes out as drug money, fights, murder, and extortion rule the surfing ...

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

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Overview

For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, Oahu's paradisical North Shore turns into a fiery hell. Its population more than triples as mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans transform the normally sleepy shore into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca where fearless men paddle into thirty-foot waves breaking over a razor-sharp reef. And when the sun goes down, the true danger comes out as drug money, fights, murder, and extortion rule the surfing underworld. The North Shore during winter is downright dangerous but also exhilarating, and Chas Smith paints a true picture of what it feels like to be in the middle of it all. Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell is both a breathtaking and wildly funny tale of beauty, wickedness, and the unyielding allure of ocean waves in all their glory.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
This debut effort from Smith, a war correspondent turned surfing journalist with a cruel, sometimes witty eye, is a mix of reportage and gonzo journalism for the surfing set. Mixing shameless, fey bluster that he dubs “Trash Prose” and occasionally trenchant observation, Smith delves into the scene surrounding the big-money surfing contests on Oahu, Hawaii’s legendary North Shore. As the pro circuit arrives for the winter wave season, Smith sketches an exposé of the tensions between local Hawaiian surfers and low-level gangsters and the established surfing professionals, surfwear brand representatives, and out-of-towners during this seasonal demographic change. Smith’s favorite subject, however, is himself: he sees himself as an outlaw raconteur whose articles garner so much resentment he gets roughed up at a party. He also provides endless descriptions of his wardrobe—he calls his style his “version of Island Dandy,” which is “purposefully at odds with everything Oahu’s North Shore stands for.” If Hunter S. Thompson circa Hell’s Angels merged with a fashion critic to write about surfing for Maxim, the result might be similar. Smith’s approach is myopic, writing for an audience that already knows the sport and the names. There are some astute observations (particularly his analysis of why surfing is essentially a lonely sport), but ultimately the book fails to reveal much beyond the author’s considerable self-regard. Agent: Ryan D. Harbage, Fischer-Harbage Agency (Dec.)
Library Journal
10/01/2013
Surfer and former war reporter Smith takes an in-depth look at the complex world of surfing. To outsiders, the north shore of Hawaii's Oahu looks like an island paradise, home to some of the best surfing in the world and host of surfing's Triple Crown competition. The author shows another, seamier side. One of the major problems is the prevalence of drugs, and the effects upon those competing, as well as the native population, are well described. Smith presents a historical perspective of the sport and island history and includes many little-known facts, such as the real story behind the murder of Captain Cook at the hands of rival Hawaiian warlords. The result is a vivid and somewhat disconcerting depiction of the world of surfing and its attendant problems, which may be overwhelming to the casual reader. VERDICT An uncommon read for those interested in surfing or those seeking a look at Hawaii from a vantage point not normally found in history books.—Claire Franek, Greenville, KY
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-20
The clown prince of "trash prose" cracks the coconut-wireless wide open in a hip exposé of Hawaii's North Shore surfing culture. Each year, the best surfers in the world converge on Oahu's North Shore for a chance to get "barreled" by the world-famous Bonzai Pipeline. There are riches to be won and legends to be created for all those fortunate enough to survive the monster wave's curling caress. But that's only the frothy, foamy surface of this story. According to Smith, ex–war correspondent and adventure writer and current "editor-at-living-large" of Surfing magazine, a much grimier truth exists far beyond dreamy visions of swaying palm trees and hula girls dispensing fragrant leis to wide-eyed tourists. Basically seen through the lens of a single day covering a high-stakes surfing showdown, Smith paints an oppressive, although darkly amusing, landscape of ramshackle frat houses and hair-trigger Hawaiians with punishing "Toyota Land Cruiser–sized" arms. The ultimate insider, the author spends his days tiptoeing around the island's nativist elite and trying hard to remember the etiquette that will spare him from being "slapped" or "choked out." The droll personal narrative, evocative of Hunter S. Thompson at times, entertains, while superior reporting informs and illuminates much about the surf industry's peculiar machinations, its cavalcade of sun-bleached heroes and the troubled history of Hawaii itself. "I will always remember that first trip to the North Shore," he writes. "It seemed run down. It seemed unkempt. It seemed used. It seemed rotten. It was not the gilded expanse of my imagination. It was rough and dirty." Effortlessly shifting from the profound to the profane, and back again, Smith is alternately self-reverential and self-mocking in tone but totally engrossed in the "madness" that ensues every winter when "the pipe is pumping." A boozy and often funny investigation into a little-understood corner of America.
Daniel Duane
“Absolutely the most entertaining surf book in years, a breathless adrenalized romp. More importantly, it’s a jaw-dropping introduction to Smith’s greatest—and most promising—literary creation, himself. This man-and this book-are both going places.”
Booklist
Smith grabs us with his first sentence [with] this exciting and revelatory book
Wall Street Journal
[A] ripping profile of the surf culture on Oahu’s North Shore . . . Smith[’s] storytelling is taught . . .
Flaunt
A book of real literary style and grace . . . gleefully mischievous . . . handles like a ‘54 Porsche: smooth, glamorous, and totally out of control.
The Inertia
Made me think hard about the North Shore . . . To the best of my knowledge, nothing like it exists.”
Sydney Morning Herald
Smith doesn’t simply stand in judgment. He loves the world of the North Shore, and he hates it. With gleeful defiance and feral wit, he harnesses his ambivalence to fuel this compulsive, wild ride of a book.
Melbourne Herald Sun
A wild and unflinching look at the adrenalin-soaked world of surfing.
Dan Duane
“Absolutely the most entertaining surf book in years, a breathless adrenalized romp. More importantly, it’s a jaw-dropping introduction to Smith’s greatest--and most promising--literary creation, himself. This man-and this book-are both going places.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062202529
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/19/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 368,111
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Chas Smith has spent his whole life surfing. He has written adventure/travel stories for Playboy, Esquire, Vice, GQ, BlackBook, and The New York Times Magazine. He has covered wars in Lebanon, conflicts in Yemen, dirty oil dealings in Azerbaijan, and fashion in Somalia. He is the former editor-at-living-large for Surfing magazine, and writes for Australia's Stab. He lives in Los Angeles and has spent five winters on the North Shore.

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