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Editorial Reviews

The Wave, Susan Casey’s fascinating account of rogue waves, the scientists who study them, and the fearless surfers who travel the world to ride these elusive, powerful freaks of nature, will forever change how you look at the ocean. It’s also one of the best books I’ve ever heard.

Kirsten Potter narrates The Wave with a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact tone that perfectly suits Casey’s carefully researched book. Then, at just the right moments, she delivers descriptions of these colossal walls of water with the same amount of awe and wonder that Casey clearly feels for these almost mythical creatures. Potter’s comfort with the text makes you feel like you’re right there with Casey, hanging out in Oahu with the world’s greatest surfers or discussing complex scientific theories with the world’s foremost wave scientists.

But make no mistake — The Wave is not a dry, scientific tome geared for climatologists and oceanographers. While Casey does a fantastic job of translating scientific theories into easy-to-understand language about why such massive waves have become m ore common, The Wave really soars when Casey tags along with big wave riders like Laird Hamilton and their quest to ride the largest waves on earth, waves approaching heights of 80 to 100 feet — or even higher.

Casey doesn’t just sit on the sidelines though. She thrusts herself onto boats and jet skis into some of the most fearsome waves in Hawaii, California, Mexico, and Bali. She earns the right to call these waves by their first names: Jaws, Mavericks, Killers, Ghost Tree, and Egypt. Her keen eye for detail also enables her to describe in vivid language why each of these waves deserves a place in “the all-star cast in nature’s great drama”.

The Wave is a gripping sea adventure that can hold its own against other nautical nonfiction masterpieces like Sebastian Junger’s A Perfect Storm, Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki, and Ernest Shackleton’s South. The Wave will change your perspective on our oceans. They’re not static bodies of water that systematically rise and fall according to precise tidal schedules. They are unpredictable, powerful pools of energy that can be unleashed when we least expect them. It’s what makes these waves so terrifying — and so magically mesmerizing. —Ken Ross

Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Susan Casey (P)2010 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Something is stewing in our seas, and Susan Casey - traveling, and in some cases swimming, all around the world - is eager to find out what it is. Both a rollicking look at the ocean’s growing freakishness and a troubling examination of our ailing planet, The Wave gives new meaning to the term ‘immersion reporting.’” (Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail, Blood and Thunder, and Ghost Soldiers)
“At once scary and fun, The Wave surprises at every turn.” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe)
“Like the surfers and scientists she profiles, Casey lived and breathed giant waves for years. Casey combines an insane passion for craft with an uncanny ability to describe the indescribable. In The Wave she whisks the reader off to unimaginably surreal settings and puts them in the middle of mind-blowing scenarios. This book sucked me in like the undertow at Pipeline.” (Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars)

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  • Overall


I learned more than I ever wanted to know about surfing and I didn't finish the book. Kudos to the promoters of this book as it caught my attention but couldn't keep my attention. Oh well you win some you lose some. Worth losing

  • Overall
  • Bryan
  • westmount, Quebec, Canada
  • 04-09-11

Author successfully rides the wave

Susan Casey's enthusiasm for her subject carries you along. Using big-wave surfers to link interesting historical material and climate science is effective. Particularly liked the visit to Lloyds of London. Good, solid reporting with an eye for telling details.

  • Overall

Totally enjoyable in every way!

From every perspective, this is a fantastic book. It is a non-fictional book, with the interest and fun of a fictional one. The narrator has a authorative voice for the non-fiction aspect and a authentic voice for the accents she gives the stories real life characters: everyone from the marine scientists, to the Lloyds of London insurance agents and to the surfers that have ridden these previously unconfirmed giant rogue ocean waves. Instantly became one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it to everyone, with and without a science education or background.

  • Overall
  • James
  • Fenton, MI, United States
  • 01-31-11

Agreed-too much surfer worship, too little science

Entirely too much surfer-worship. Way too much. Childish man-children, unable to converse in a dialect other than teenager slang. "Braa"? Seriously . . . these are men in their 40's. Please. One gets the impression that conversations and interviews quickly turn into performances staged for the author.
Even the simple science is questionable. " . . knots per hour . . "? The amount of time to fall 120 feet is not 4 seconds, and is not accomplished at 32 feet-per-second. This is the simple stuff, and is fraught with error. On second thought, maybe it's a good thing wave science was avoided . . . . .

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I guess the topic itself it a tough one to cover, but this mix of a little science and a lot of surfer worship just never got under my skin the way "Born To Run" did. The narrator's style wasn't my favorite either; her management of Spanish words and translations in particular made my teeth hurt.

  • Overall
  • Alan
  • saltspring island, British Columbia, Canada
  • 01-21-11

Mistitled - its all about surfers, little on waves

i bought this under the impression it was about waves. no its about bodies carved from granite, flashing smiles etc. etc.

no bland cliche about surfers is left unsaid. every dreary conversation recorded "that was real", "real gnarly". "his phone rang in the next room" with no sequitor.

unfortunately no conversation of any interest was included. maybe the editor was unable to deal with polysyllabic dialogue.

this book has been written to be read with a clanging 140db soundtrack of thrash metal playing in the background and immediately forgotten.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Giselle
  • Mountain View, CA, United States
  • 01-17-11

If you liked Born to Run...

Then meet "The Wave." Another sports-related book that looks at the science, economics and personalities around big wave surfing. You come away feeling all-around smarter about the ocean, more fired up about surfing and inspired by these wave-riding cowboys who push their bodies and mankind to the limits.

  • Overall

Great tale, dismal narration

Great description of the science and recreation of big waves. However, never have I heard so many Hawaiian words pronounced so badly by the narrator. Kirsten Potter could have saved herself considerable embarrassment if only she had spent five minutes running the names of local venues past even the most minimally informed Hawaiian tourist.

  • Overall
  • Chris
  • Willits, CA, United States
  • 12-21-10

Sounds good - audilbe failure

This sounded interesting however Audible will not let me download it after purchase. I am not sure what is wrong - but I am not happy.

  • Overall

Scientific enough

Okay so it is not chock full of science, but it is scientific enough for someone who had a few geology classes in college to be reacquainted with familiar terms and events. The book also follows some interesting surfers and their experiences riding giant waves. Personally I thought it was a nice mix of people and science. For any geology teachers out there, this book has extra credit written all over it.