Surfing the South: The Search for Waves and the People Who Ride Them

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When most Americans think of surfing, they often envision waves off the coasts of California, Hawai’i, or even New Jersey. What few know is that the South has its own surf culture. To fully explore this unsung surfing world, Steve Estes undertook a journey that stretched more than 2,300 miles, traveling from the coast of Texas to Ocean City, Maryland. Along the way he interviewed and surfed alongside dozens of people—wealthy and poor, men and women, Black and white—all of whom opened up about their lives, how they saw themselves, and what the sport means to them. They also talked about race, class, the environment, and how surfing has shaped their identities.

The cast includes a retired Mississippi riverboat captain and alligator hunter who was one of the first to surf the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, a Pensacola sheet-metal worker who ran the China Beach Surf Club while he was stationed in Vietnam, and a Daytona Beach swimsuit model who shot the curl in the 1966 World Surfing Championships before circumnavigating the globe in search of waves and adventure. From these varied and surprising stories emerge a complex, sometimes troubling, but nevertheless beautiful picture of the modern South and its people.


“The author’s contribution to the literature of surfing history in particular is a substantial one . . . Estes’s book carves out a little cove of quiet, contemplat&8208;
ive ethnographic-historical examination that speaks to the myriad ways southern residents of the United States have engaged with and made
meaning of their connections with water, American empire, and surfing culture.”—H-Environment

Part road story,part history, and part account of a middle-aged father hesitantly coming to terms with his aging daughter, Surfing the South is an insightful, hilarious, and ultimately touching book. A wonderfully written blend of southern history, surfing history, and beautiful insights into the magic of surfing in a place such as the South.”—Scott Laderman, author of Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing

About the Author

Steve Estes is an avid surfer and professor of history at Sonoma State University.
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