The Wave : In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean
by Susan Casey

Overview -

From Susan Casey, bestselling author of "The Devil's Teeth," an astonishing book about colossal, ship-swallowing rogue waves and the surfers who seek them out.  Read more...

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More About The Wave by Susan Casey

From Susan Casey, bestselling author of "The Devil's Teeth," an astonishing book about colossal, ship-swallowing rogue waves and the surfers who seek them out.

For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dismissed these stories--waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet's waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea--including several that approached 100 feet.

As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean's most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidally large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of people as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100-foot wave.

In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists' urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves--from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast.

Like Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air," The Wave "brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious."

  • ISBN-13: 9780767928847
  • ISBN-10: 0767928849
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books
  • Publish Date: September 2010
  • Page Count: 326
  • Dimensions: 9.38 x 6.4 x 1.34 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.44 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Nature > Ecosystems & Habitats - Oceans & Seas
Books > Science > Waves & Wave Mechanics
Books > Sports & Recreation > Surfing

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2010-08-09
  • Reviewer: Staff

Casey, O magazine editor-in-chief, travels across the world and into the past to confront the largest waves the oceans have to offer. This dangerous water includes rogue waves south of Africa, storm-born giants near Hawaii, and the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of wave (taller than one and a third Empire State Buildings) that blasted the Alaska coastline in 1958. Casey follows big-wave surfers in their often suicidal attempts to tackle monsters made of H2O, and also interviews scientists exploring the danger that global warning will bring us more and larger waves. Casey writes compellingly of the threat and beauty of the ocean at its most dangerous. We get vivid historical reconstructions and her firsthand account of being on a jet-ski watching surfers risk their lives. Casey also smoothly translates the science of her subject into engaging prose. This book will fascinate anyone who has even the slightest interest in the oceans that surround us. (Sept.)

BookPage Reviews

The big kahunas

According to author Susan Casey, in response to increased temperatures and “other factors no one’s aware of yet,” the world’s oceans have been producing bigger and bigger waves. For researchers and scientists, this has provided a fertile area of foreboding research. But what worries some people brings great delight to surfers, some of whom travel the world finding the next great wave to feed their high.


Casey (The Devil’s Teeth) offers a probing look at both the passionate and the pragmatic sides of these oceanic wonders in The Wave. The first side is represented by surfing legend Laird Hamilton and his friends, who take these gigantic waves—and survive—in two-man teams, equipped with a jet ski, years of experience and respect for the elements. When Casey isn’t tagging along with the humble Hamilton and his affable crew to the next great waves in Hawaii, Mexico and California, she visits experts who explore the scientific side of these massive waves.


Giant, destructive waves are not a recent phenomenon; they have occurred for hundreds of years. What’s vexing, Casey’s subjects reveal, is that there are still a lot of unexplained issues regarding how 80-foot-high waves can appear in typically placid waters, or when all of this geological and temperature-related tumult will exact permanent, worldwide destruction, instead of isolated disasters (e.g., 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami). The surfers, meanwhile, have no handbook for what they do. Regardless of experience, there’s little room for error, especially with a vocation defined by feel and instinct.

Though some may wince at Casey’s first-person chumminess with her subjects or her gushy outdoors-as-heaven prose, she shows that this occurrence in nature has more than one meaning: It’s an adrenaline rush, a marketing scheme, a cause of apocalyptic-scale concern and a workplace hazard (for a marine salvage expert). Casey’s curiosity in learning about every conceivable aspect of waves makes for compelling reading, regardless of whether you look at waves as a great ride or with great concern.


BAM Customer Reviews