Top 10 Best Books for Surfers of Every Level

Most of the time, surfers are just chasing that next wave, improving their skill in the sport and their connection with the ocean. But waves aren’t always going to be perfect. Sometimes it’s impossible to get out there, no matter how much you want to.

It’s times like those that can make a surfer realize other ways to sharpen your appreciation for the sport without being in the water. Reading great books about surfing is one way to do that. 

Top 10 Best Surfing Books

Without further ado, here are the picks for the best surfing books available today, each providing priceless wisdom for surfers of any level.  

1. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard

In his highly anticipated memoir, Patagonia founder and legendary climber Yvon Chouinard recounts his life experiences that brought him to where he is today. 

The son of a French Canadian blacksmith, Chouinard was raised with the love of nature and anything wild. In particular, surfing and climbing helped shape his view of the world for the rest of his life. 

As adulthood began to show how his lifestyle was incompatible with how the world of business operates, his philosophy for responsible sustainability was born. His ethos for running his company and treating his employees deeply reflects his love for the wild and unexplored.

Any surfer should partake in the insight and wisdom this phenomenal book has to offer. 

2. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

If you have a love for strong writing, then New Yorker columnist William Finnegan’s autobiography is a beast that you should take the reins of.

Charting an incredibly complex and varied course through his life, Finnegan not only portrays the events that molded him but how the sociopolitical landscape of the time shaped the world around him. 

While some may believe this book is a bit too heady, surfers with a political mind will appreciate how the sport is anything but isolated, even when you’re all alone in the middle of the ocean. 

3. California Surfing and Climbing in the Fifties by Yvon Chouinard and Steve Pezman

The second book authored by Chouinard to grace this list, California Surfing and Climbing in the Fifties is an unparalleled snapshot into the lifestyle and events of the golden era of surfing. 

While less about motivating an ethical change in capitalism and more about reveling in its glories, this book captures a specific moment unique to California and the era. Iconic historical figures are juxtaposed with Malibu waves that seep nostalgia with every drop of ink. 

Overall, you get the feeling that you’ve missed something no one can recreate. In the fifties, the California surfing and climbing scene was special. Through these pages, you can experience some of that magic yourself. 

4. The Code: The Power of “I Will” by Shaun Tomson

Shaun Tomson is an absolute legend in the global surf scene. A world champion and righteous environmentalist, Tomson has some wisdom to share with you. This book is his way of paying it forward. 

If you’re feeling lost in the turbulent times we live in, Tomson’s book might serve as a touchstone of guidance. He clearly lays out a code that any surfer can (and should) live by, going on to relate how his incredible life experiences led him to these conclusions and how he thinks they could help the world as a whole. 

5. In Search of Captain Zero by Allan C. Weisbecker

In his tale of friendship and duty, Allan C. Weisbecker takes us all on an unforgettable ride through the Americas. 

Set in the mid-90s, Weisbecker packs up his truck with his dog and his surfboards to hit the road in search of a long time surf companion lost in the wilds of Costa Rica. While this autobiographical tale is nothing more than a road trip on the surface, the truth is much deeper.

Weisbecker’s book relates to something primal inside all of us, especially surfers. A relationship with nature, your surfboard, and your individuality can’t be defined unless experienced with and in opposition to others. When you push down on a wave, the wave also pushes up on you. 

6. Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn

Something slightly less serious than the others on this list, Tapping the Source is the source material for the cult classic Point Break (the Keanu one). 

Nunn succeeds in taking us into the seedy underbelly of an imagined surf community, beyond the long blonde hair and the washboard abs. Giving us the thrills of an action novel while retaining the chill that surfers know and love, Tapping the source is a worthy entry in the surf book pantheon.

7. For the Love by Kelly Slater

What would an article about the best surfing books be without one from the GOAT himself? Kelly Slater is beyond a legend. With his second book, he cements his status not only as an incredible surfer but as a teacher and spiritual guide for the next generation as well. 

Meditations on fame, heartache, and of course, surfing are here in heaping mounds. Slater bears it all for the sake of giving us a look into how the mind of the greatest surfer to ever live works and how his life philosophy can lead future surfers to even higher crests. 

8. The Wave: In Pursuit of Love, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

Books that combine surfers, science and the raw power of nature are a rare feat. Susan Casey does just that.

Following the exploits of Laird Hamilton, legendary surfer, Casey explores rogue waves and the people who study and live off of them. While waves the size of skyscrapers may scare even the most veteran surfers, Casey explores deeper understandings of their causes and how we can all learn from the primal reaction they evoke in us. 

If you’re looking to find out some of the reasons why waves form and how the changing ocean affects us all, pick up The Wave. It’s a great window into the minds of one of the best surfers to ever live and the scientists who are unraveling the mysteries of the ocean one wave at a time. 

9. Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening by Liz Clark

If you’re looking for a book about a woman realizing a dream and fighting like hell to get through it, then Swell is the book for you.

Centered on the true story of Liz Clark, Swell charts her path from a young twenty-something who dreams of sailing and surfing the world. When she meets her mentor, her dream starts to take shape. 

In gripping detail, Clark recounts her trials and tribulations as she sets sail from Santa Barbara as captain of a 40-foot sailboat. Through her journey, she realizes a deep connection to the earth, the oceans, and a commitment to help preserve it all. 

This is an incredible feel-good tale of triumphs (and failures) against nature and the incredible power within all of us to push back against the monotony of existence, no matter what. 

10. The Surfin’ Spoon: Sebi Goes Surfing (Children’s Book) by Jesse    Hines

The only children’s book on this list, The Surfin’ Spoon, is a genuinely good read for those surfers with kids who want to impart an appreciation for the ocean and the sport of surfing. 

Not only does it teach a valuable lesson about sustainability and crucial surfing skills, but it also teaches kids to appreciate new friends and to never judge someone before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. 

Written by North Carolina pro-surfer Jesse Hines and his wife, this is a great read for all ages and features colorful illustrations and a heartwarming story. 

Honorable Mentions:

All for a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora by David Rensin

Exploring the life of polarizing surfing personality Miki Dora, David Rensin achieves the difficult feat of balancing a legend with real life’s harsh realities. 

While not always painting the most pleasant picture of the surfer, Rensin examines Dora’s legacy. Since his life ran parallel to the rise in popularity of surfing in the United States, the book is as much a history lesson as it is an unblinking look into the heights and depths of the surfing lifestyle. 

The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw 

More of a coffee table book than a proper novel or memoir, The History of Surfing is a great snapshot into the various eras of surf and the people who shaped them. If you’re interested in unbelievable pictures and tidbits of surf nostalgia, give this one a try.

(You might also be interested in reading about Best Surfing Movies and Documentaries that’ll make you miss the ocean)

Ride Your Next Wave

That wraps up our list of the best surfing books for surfers of all skill levels. Each one of these is a worthy read and has different things to offer different people. Hopefully, when you’re chilling on the beach between waves, you’ll crack one open and give it a read. 

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