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The Book of Surfing by Michael Fordham

Release date: 29th July, 2008
Publisher: Transworld Publishers

List Price: 20.00
Our Price: 14.00
You Save: 6 (30%)
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The Book of Surfing
By Michael Fordham
Transworld Publishers price: £14.00, saving 30% on rrp

As most people know, late night television is traditionally packed with the sort of mind-numbing rubbish that almost makes Jonathan Ross appear mildly acceptable.

Yet when you think about it, there must be some viewers who tune in to watch US am dram, otherwise known as American wrestling, while at least a few saddos must remain glued to one of those "straight-to-DVD" movies starring Jean Claude van Damme, otherwise they wouldn't be screened. Would they?

Sprinkled sparingly among a positive ocean of dross are occasional gems, a decent film, a rarely-spotted musician and, for those wishing to relax, there is surfing.

There is something compellingly beautiful about watching colossal waves unleash their power as they slowly unfurl, momentarily creating giant imaginary pipes through which surfers manage to emerge unscathed before the wave crashes back into the sea with almighty force.

Surfers and their sport are often considered peripheral to the mainstream and while many choose to remain on the sidelines, surfing has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry laden with professional surfers, many of whom have become millionaires on the back of their surf boarding prowess.

As might be expected of a book focusing upon a sport which takes place against a magnificent, ever-changing azure backdrop, the Book of Surfing is crammed with outstanding photography, but this is no 'coffee-table' tome. Instead, it is one of the year's most enjoyable, well written sports books which had this reviewer contemplating a trip to north west Cornwall to test my (non-existent) ability against the north Atlantic's ceaseless swell.

Much of this willingness to get involved in a sport I last tried almost twenty years ago is attributable to Michael Fordham's precise, but mellow and wonderfully descriptive writing style. His narrative is well-paced, his understanding of the sport's culture unsurpassed, and the book's illustrations sufficiently seductive to make most readers believe that emulating the guy from the Old Spice commercial would be a piece of cake.

It isn't of course, but anyone who has ever wondered about what it would be like to quite literally rise the crest of a wave should add The Book of Surfing to their 'must read' list.

Fordham makes clear that readers may prefer to dip in and absorb snippets, or else read the whole work cover to cover should they so wish. If you have never surfed before, I would recommend the former so to appreciate the layers of the author's enticing tale. Comprehensive in its coverage, Fordham includes everything the wannabe surfer would want to know, while adding incredible detail which may have escaped even the sport's most enthusiastic exponent.

From a clear, engaging, analysis of waves and how they differ, to the various techniques required to ride them. Thankfully, Fordham mixes this serious material up with details of how to throw the perfect beach party, a potted history of the 'classic surf wagon' (the VW Transporter, what else?) and even inserts a brief guide to surf photography.

The author says that if only a handful of readers go and "find out for themselves what's so special about this surfing life, then my mission will have been accomplished." If you don't fancy going surfing after reading this book, you deserve to watch Jonathan Ross forever.

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