The clown prince of "trash prose" cracks the coconut-wireless wide open in a hip exposé of Hawaii's North Shore surfing culture.
Each year, the best surfers in the world converge on Oahu's North Shore for a chance to get "barreled" by the world-famous Bonzai Pipeline. There are riches to be won and legends to be created for all those fortunate enough to survive the monster wave's curling caress. But that's only the frothy, foamy surface of this story. According to Smith, ex–war correspondent and adventure writer and current “editor-at-living-large” of Surfing magazine, a much grimier truth exists far beyond dreamy visions of swaying palm trees and hula girls dispensing fragrant leis to wide-eyed tourists. Basically seen through the lens of a single day covering a high-stakes surfing showdown, Smith paints an oppressive, although darkly amusing, landscape of ramshackle frat houses and hair-trigger Hawaiians with punishing "Toyota Land Cruiser–sized" arms. The ultimate insider, the author spends his days tiptoeing around the island's nativist elite and trying hard to remember the etiquette that will spare him from being "slapped" or "choked out." The droll personal narrative, evocative of Hunter S. Thompson at times, entertains, while superior reporting informs and illuminates much about the surf industry's peculiar machinations, its cavalcade of sun-bleached heroes and the troubled history of Hawaii itself. "I will always remember that first trip to the North Shore,” he writes. “It seemed run down. It seemed unkempt. It seemed used. It seemed rotten. It was not the gilded expanse of my imagination. It was rough and dirty.” Effortlessly shifting from the profound to the profane, and back again, Smith is alternately self-reverential and self-mocking in tone but totally engrossed in the "madness" that ensues every winter when "the pipe is pumping.”
A boozy and often funny investigation into a little-understood corner of America.