Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for Literature Having resolved to master a big-hollow wave--that is, to go from kook (surfese for beginner) to shredder--in a single year, Heller travels from Southern California down the coast of Mexico in the company of his girlfriend and the eccentric surfers they meet. Exuberant and fearless, Heller explores the technique and science of surfing the secrets of its culture, and the environmental ravages to the stunning coastline he visits. As Heller plumbs the working of his own heart and finds joy in both love and surfing, he affords readers vivid insight into this fascinating world, with all of its perils and pleasures, its absurdity and wonder. Exhilarating, entertaining, and moving, Kook is a love story between a man and his surfboard, a man and his girlfriend, a not-so-old man and the sea.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 96.
- Review Date: 2010-04-26
- Reviewer: Staff
Journalist Heller's gripping memoir of finding the value of life while shooting the curl off Baja starts off as a disappointing middle-aged man's lament about the lack of love and meaning in his life. Just back from an exhausting assignment in Tibet, he gets a phone call from an old friend in California who wants Heller to come out so they can take surfing lessons together. Reluctant at first to leave Denver and his girlfriend, Kim, he follows the call to this new adventure. At Huntington Beach, Heller violates every rule of surfing etiquette, and other surfers vilify him as a kook, a beginning surfer. Initially, Heller is embarrassed, but he soon becomes so consumed by surfing that he brings Kim to California with him so that she can take lessons; soon, the two are traveling to various surfing locales in California and Mexico as Heller follows the waves. People admire surfers so much, he argues, because they have bowed to a force greater than themselves—the wave—and have transformed themselves into beings who can respond to such power with grace, humility, and beauty. By the end of this powerful memoir, Heller has learned that surfing is not simply about staying up on your board; it's about love: of a woman, of living, of the sea. (July)