A passionately written, engaging sports narrative.

STEALING THE WAVE

THE EPIC STRUGGLE BETWEEN KEN BRADSHAW AND MARK FOO

The strange love triangle of two young men and the sea.

British journalist Martin presents the longstanding rivalry between big wave surfers Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo as a world-shaking clash of titans, a dialectical struggle of mythic scope and profundity. His protagonists are two legendary pioneering Hawaii-based surfers who, forced together by dint of their prominence in the scene, struck all manner of sparks off of each other, developing a complex relationship that progressed from hatred to grudging respect to eventual partnership and, ultimately, tragedy. The two men could hardly be more different: Bradshaw, a native Texan, hirsute, aggressive and monastically devoted to the ideal of “pure” surfing, took the sport so seriously that he literally bit chunks out of the boards of dilettantes who failed to recognize and respect the protocols of “his” turf, Waimea Bay. By contrast, Mark Foo, a diffident, charming Chinese American with movie star looks and charisma, devoted himself to exploiting his freakish natural talent for riding massive waves to reap media attention, financial rewards and women. As the two men came to dominate Hawaii’s unforgiving North Shore, conflict between the two was inevitable, and Foo in due course found himself with a Bradshaw-chewed board. Martin persuasively and vividly conveys the psychology and personalities of these outsized figures, and the gradual rapprochement of the bitter rivals becomes fascinating and oddly touching. The tragic death that claims one of the men at the end of the book has surprising emotional power, its ironies and grimly inevitable quality fulfilling the “epic” claim made in the book’s title. There is also much interesting information about the history of surfing and the Hawaiian culture that nurtures it, and Martin, an avid surfer himself, deftly evokes the excitement and terror of riding a 30-foot wall of water.

A passionately written, engaging sports narrative.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59691-380-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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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. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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