Good Book | A Brief History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw

Flirt with your inner surf anorak (while avoiding full penetration)

“If you know your history” Bob Marley famously urged, “Then you would know where you’re coming from.”

True dat, Bob!

“I’ll bust a nut inside your eye” Phife Dawg (RIP) famously spat, “to show you where I come from.”

Hmmmmmm. Think I’m ok for now thanks Mr Dawg!

But do you even know the history of surfing? Do you know where you, your tribe come from? Matt Warshaw certainly does.

Another quote, from the dust jacket of ABHoS:

“Warshaw appears to have attained total omniscience in his field” – London Independent.

Couple things… London? It’s called The Independent. Well it was, before it went tits up. It used to be my very favourite newspaper. But why oh why do the Americans feel the need to further qualify proper nouns? They call The Open ‘The British Open’. Grgrgrgrrrr. They call the band The Beat ‘The English Beat’. Argghghghgh!

I’d have gone for The Independent (London), to avoid making it sound like a regional torche-cul, like the San Jose Mercury News.

Anyhows, if The Independent say it’s good (or at least that the author is omniscientific) that’s more than good enough for me.

Let’s not forget the Independent’s culture section was home to Tom Lubbock for a great many years, one of the all-time motherfucking greatest evers.


You probably are – or certainly should be – familiar with Warshaw’s magnum opus, his chef d’œuvre, A History of Surfing published in 2010, a comprehensive, weighty tome, a veritable life’s work.

But hey, if you haven’t quite got the funds, or are looking to buy that perfect gift for someone you like but don’t quite like that much, ABHoS should do nicely.

Very nicely indeed.

Another quote, this one from the Introduction found on p10 of the book in question.

“Demythologizing the sport, in fact, was another goal of mine. I couldn’t wait to sledge away at the cheerleading and boosterism and perjured nobility layered on to most works of surf history. Pulling down shoddy historiographic handicraft feels good, just for its own sake. But the real purpose – and the real pleasure – comes from the fact that the mortal ground-level version of events is, almost without exception, more compelling than the legend or the myth.”


You don’t need to be an anorak to enjoy TBHoS, you don’t need to be that fussy logger who says annoying things in the car park about significant moments in board evolution … but after a modest outlay of £16.99/$24.95 and with a bit of good time reading and imbibing, you can triumphantly correct him.

(You: “Actually, I think you’ll find Noll first surfed Sunset in ’54“)

They say pedantry is the curse of the middle class. But they’re wrong.

Surfing is.



(Buy the shit out ABHoS here, now.)

(And if want Warshaw in your life on a regular basis but hate books, try his website Encyclopedia of Surfing.)


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