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The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing    by Peter Westwick & Peter Neushul order for
World in the Curl
by Peter Westwick
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing by Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul not only charts the origins of surfing and the changes that have made the sport more and more popular but it also shows how it has influenced modern life in ways most people never imagined.

The idea for this ambitious volume first surfaced when the authors, who were then both teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara, were surfing together at Cojo Point, just north of Santa Barbara.

That afternoon's discussion resulted in a History of Surfing course at UCSB and, ultimately, this book. Explaining in the introduction that surfing has two contradicting images or a split personality which 'pairs subversive social rebellion and the middle-class mainstream', the authors state in the introduction that, 'This book is about surfing's constant struggle to save its soul'.

As history professors Westwick and Neushul also emphasize, they intend to show how surfing has intersected such forces as colonialism, capitalism, race and gender roles, the military-industrial complex, and globalization.

This may sound a bit daunting, but rest assured that this narrative never abandons the conversational air established at the outset; thus, it remains not only easy to digest but is also highly entertaining. This is a 'thinking man's guide to surfing' and, as such, one of the things the authors do is try to show how surfing reflected and shaped the world around it.

'We tell the story of surfing, from its ancient Hawaiian origins to today's global culture and industry, but at particular points we dive deeper into crucial themes, including technology, the environment, race and sex, localism and travel, big-wave riding, and the surf industry,' explain Westwick and Neushul.

A fun read that fills in many of the gaps left by more traditional surfing books, The World in the Curl will appeal to not only serious as well as casual surfers but also those who are interested in the way this sport has altered society and fostered a lifestyle that refuses to fade into a watery sunset.

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