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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)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Alexis
  • Brookeville, MD, United States
  • 09-26-10

great narrator

The narrator is perfect for this book, she really makes it comes alive. Probably the best narration I've ever heard.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A good, fun book.

First the good. Then the not quite as good but still okay.

When this book is actually discussing waves and the science, it's well written and fascinating. A truly interesting study of something we still understand little of.

When it's discussing surfers......well that's something different entirely. Laird Hamilton is a god among men and the rest of the surfers are merely lesser deities. All chiseled features and tans and muscular whatnot. Sure the scientists get similar discriptions, but it's the surfers she adores. Not as interesting as the science to me, but I'm a geek and a guy so hearing about hot bodied surf gods isn't really my cup of tea. ;-)

Even then, it's still a great book. The narration is excellent and the subject matter (even the surf stuff) is interesting. Perfect for a summer listen or a winter listen when you're wishing it was summer. Highly recommended.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 03-05-11

Do the Wave

I try to read books that might inform my ignorance and this book fit the bill just fine. Here Susan Casey mixes science, maritime history and engineering, and surfing to the benefit of all who come to this book. The emphasis is on waves and surfing, but the portions on 津波 (tsunami) and maritime experience with waves is really informative. I can't say that this book has a broad appeal, but I would encourage anyone to give it a try. You will learn a lot, be excited and thrilled, and come to apreciate the ocean in a different way. The writing is very good and the reading of Kirsten Potter is excellent.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 10-01-10

nice mix of surfing, science and seafarers

What is great about this book is how Susan Casey brings the oceans to life through the eyes of great surfers, scientists, and seafarers. Not a dull moment in the book. Kirsten Potter's narration was first rate.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • W. Wade
  • Milwaukee, WI United States
  • 10-08-10

Mentally Relaxing

I've just finished three books on the financial meltdown so this has been a welcomed diversion. It's a travel log/ tow surfing intro/ wave science intro and the subject matter is light. I find the reader excellent which is important with audiobooks.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story


I think this one is; uh, deserves a 4 star rating; though I think I've displayed my ambivalence to that sufficiently. Waves; particularly Tsunami and rogue waves have been a fascination for me for a few years now and I'd hoped this book would answer some of my questions about those. What I wasn't expecting was an almost surfing groupie fan magazine fawning ode to Laird Hamilton by the author. There is quite a bit of information pertaining to waves and the best places to find them; as well as the reports of people who found themselves caught up in rogue waves around the world. Unfortunately far too much of this selection is dedicated to the author's extreme admiration of Hamilton the Surfing God. Perhaps he is worthy of such admiration; after all he did convince Gaby Reese to marry him and bear his children, but it wasn't the reason I purchased this audio. The book is well done, it accurately conveys the extreme dangers of waves the size of ten to twelve story buildings. The narrator Kirsten Potter does a fantastic job with the material and the author truly expresses the magnificence of the sea and the amazing power of it. This is probably a very good listening for anyone who relate to that; it just wasn't what I thought I was buying.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Diverting, Informatve & Compelling; The Wave Sings

Would you consider the audio edition of The Wave to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version, but Kirsten Potter's reading was wonderful.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The writer! Her enthusiasm and admiration for her subjects: the people, the science, the cultures and the ocean itself, made the book completely engaging. I could practically feel the hissing of the foam on my skin. She put me there.

What does Kirsten Potter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Non-fiction can be on the dry side. The combination of Potter's narration with Casey's prose made this book lively. Potter's performance is terrific and she's got one of the best voices that I've ever heard performing an audiobook.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Moving Mountains of the Sea

Any additional comments?

This is a subject matter that interests me and I've read a lot of books on oceanographical topics. This is one of the really good ones. The pacing is great. The descriptions of the locations are sumptuous, adventure-travel porn of the highest order. And Casey really connects with the people she covers. I'll be looking for more books from her. And I will be looking to hear more from Potter as well.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

The Power of Those Waves!

The Wave is an informative read and a lesson in ecology. The mix of science and first hand stories from surfers captured my attention from the very first chapter. The statistics in this book amazed me. The unbelievable size and power of the "rogue" waves and the huge numbers of ships lost at sea every year quite simply astounded me. On the down side, Casey seems rather obsessed with Laird Hamilton's rippling abs. At times, she moved into the realm of a Mills & Boon romance. But that aside, I did find the book a worthwhile read. The narration was good except for a few mispronunciations that grated on the nerves a little. I recommend The Wave as an easy read and a mostly pleasant listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lisa
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • 12-13-10

Entertaining and Interesting

Entertainingly written and good narration, and if you're interested in the subject it's definitely engrossing, but overall it comes across as a year in the life of a Big Wave Surfer groupie, a lot of it could be straight out of a surfing fan magazine. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but probably good to know up front.
Don't expect any fascinating scientific revelations or insights because at the end of the day there aren't really any - again not a bad thing, just the way it is.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not a clue

This is an immensely entertaining and gripping book. I loved hearing the stories, learning the small amount of science, and feeling the awe of the author. But the narrator! So bad. The problem is that she has no, zero, idea what Laird Hamilton and his crew sound like. I've only seen Step Into Liquid, but I know that these guys sound nothing like the chill surfer dudes the narrator lazily chose to characterize them as. Every time she related their dialogue I cringed at her generalized dude voice. Do note that the book is largely about these surfers and not much about anything else. As enthralled as I was with the surf stories, I wanted more science and more history. Ah well.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful