Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing

Categories: Books, Featured

A thousand years after Hawaiians first paddled long wooden boards into the ocean, modern surfers have continued this practice, which has recently been transformed into a global industry. Pacific Passages brings together four centuries of writing about surfing, the most comprehensive collection of Polynesian and Western perspectives on the history and culture of a sport currently enjoyed by millions of people around the world. The stories begin with Hawaiian legends and chants and are followed by the journals of explorers; the travel narratives of missionaries and luminaries such as Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Jack London; and the contemporary observations of Tom Wolfe, William Finnegan, Susan Orlean, and Bob Shacochis.

Readers follow the historical transformation of surfing’s image through the centuries: from Polynesian myths of love to Western accounts of horror and exoticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to modern representations of surfing as a character-building activity in pre-World-War II California and the quintessential expression of disaffected youth. They explore the sport’s most recent trends by writers and cultural critics, whose insights into technology, competition, gender, heritage, and globalism reveal how surfing impacts some of today’s most pressing social concerns.

Aided by informative introductions, the writings in Pacific Passages provide insight into the values and ideals of Polynesian and Western cultures, revealing how each has altered and been altered by surfing―and how the sport itself has shown an amazing ability throughout the centuries to survive, adapt, and prosper.


“This gem of a book provides just about the best historical overview of surfing, and surf writing, you are likely to find anywhere. . . . This kind of thoughtful, revealing, sensitive contemplation of the surfing life seems like an antidote to the times we live in. I loved this book, if only for the way it helped illustrate that the current buzz and chatter of web silliness is just one very small point on a long, long continuum. Thank goodness for that.” — Tim Baker, Surfing World (302)

“A vast well of hitherto tough-to-find works documenting the pre- and just-post contact surf milieu in the Pacific. . . . The more modern morsels provide some welcome surprises, including excerpts from William Finnegan’s New Yorker output, National Book Award winner Bob Shacochis, and writer’s writer Tom Farber. Snap this one up.” — Surfer’s Journal, October-November 2008

About the Author

Patrick Moser is associate professor of French at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, where he teaches a course on the history and culture of surfing. He has published articles in SurferSurf Life for Women, and The Surfer’s Journal. He collaborated with 1977 world surfing champion Shaun Tomson on Surfer’s Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding Through Life.
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