AGAINST ALL ODDS

AROUND ALONE IN THE BOC CHALLENGE

An exceedingly deadpan account of a challenge race, an entire circumnavigation of the globe, from a professional (and impoverished) Australian sailor. The BOC Challenge is the longest sailing race for an individual: 27,000 nautical miles, in four stages. In September 1994, Nebauer and 19 other competitors sailed out of Charleston Harbor, S.C., and took anywhere from 121 to 223 days (not counting layovers) before they saw the lights of Charleston again. Nebauer sets the tone of his narrative early: ``I was determined simply to do my best.'' He's a no-bluster type, never suggesting that he'd like to whip his opponents' collective butt or burn the course for a new record. He was, he says, simply happy to ``push on, trimming sails and keeping the boat at its peak.'' But this was not to be a cakewalk. His alternators died, forcing him to landfall; water ruined his computer, leaving him unable to receive weather and fleet updates, or news from home; screaming winds, high seas, and rogue waves dismasted him and tore off his rudder—both profoundly dangerous events. Others might have panicked or given up, but Nebauer stays almost too steady: He ``put his plans for the jury rigging to God'' and waxes stoically that ``we were determined to finish what we started.'' What enlivens the tale are Nebauer's evocative descriptions of the spectacular weather that rolls over him, and his comfortable use of sailing argot: beam winds and rhumb lines, third reef points, luff grooves, and flaking genoas. After 181 days at sea, after all the adversity and exhaustion, after so much sheer terror, Nebauer finished in the middle of the pack, won two medals for seamanship (one for saving the life of a fellow competitor), and found energy to note that he looked forward ``to the possibility of taking up the challenge again.'' Taciturn and terse, he is true to form to the last. (60 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-07-470331-5

Page Count: 166

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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