Want your living room to look a little more classy? First things first, take down that Scarface poster. No, it doesn’t matter if it’s framed. Second, get a bunch of great coffee table books. They serve a few purposes: they make you look less like the uncultured swine that you are and they also provide you and your guests hours of entertainment. If you surf, of course, you would like to have coffee table books pertaining to surfing. Well, guess what? There are a lot of them out there. Some of them suck, but some of them are really, really good. Here’s a list of nine of the best of the best.
1. The History of Surfing, Matt Warshaw: $39.67
Of course you need this book. It covers as much of surfing’s history as humanly possible. It is well-researched, meticulously curated, and just flat-out amazing. Matt Warshaw has forgotten more about surfing than most people know. The History of Surfing took over five years to create, and it looks at the sport and the culture it spawned through a microscope. At nearly 500 pages, with 250,000 words and more than 250 rare photographs, The History of Surfing reveals and defines this sport with a voice that is authoritative, funny, and wholly original. Buy here.
2. California Surfing and Climbing in the Fifties by Yvon Chouinard and Steve Pezman
So this book has become a rarity. It’s hard to get your hands on. But once you do, you’re lucky enough to transport to an extremely special time in California surf culture. A few turns of the page, and you’re knee deep in the Golden Era. You’ll see images of Marilyn Monroe at beach parties in Malibu. Yvon Chouinard with a jarringly chiseled physique relaxing with friends post-climb. It’s an all-access pass to a moment in time that created surf (and climbing) culture and the nostalgia that follows it to this day. This book captures that spirit more effectively than maybe any other we’ve seen. Surfing and climbing in California in the fifties was special. This book does right by it.
Salt & Silver is a supremely useful and interesting book. It blends travel stories, surf stories, and recipes together. Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski traveled through Central and South America to create it. In it, they report on all the best surf spots, tell a few stories from the locals, and compile recipes from each area. From Mexican street tacos to the kitchens of Chile, Salt & Silver is a book that any surfer/traveler/cook needs. Buy here.
You might think the Aloha shirt is just a colorful piece of clothing that tourists come back from Hawaii with, but you’d be wrong. The history of the Aloha shirt is a long and interesting one. With an introduction by Gerry Lopez, The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands dives deep into how the Hawaiian shirt came to be the cultural icon that it is today. It includes hundreds of interviews, newspaper and magazine archives, and personal memorabilia, and it’s full of some absolutely fantastic imagery. Buy here.
Surf shacks are interesting to pretty much everyone. And since a whole lot of surfers bend their lives to fit around waves and tide, they only really need a small place to hit pause in between sessions. Surfing also attracts a lot of creative types, so some of the surf shacks out there are stunning. Any abodes can fall under the label of surf shack: New York City apartments, cabins nestled next to Royal National Park, or tiny Hawaiian huts. Surf Shacks: An Eclectic Compilation of Surfers’ Homes from Coast to Coast covers some of the coolest. Glimpses of record collections, strolls through backyard gardens, or a peek into a painter’s studio provide insight into surfers’ lives both on and off shore. Through anecdotes and photographs, illustrations and conversations, Surf Shacks reveals a more personal side to surfing and its eclectic cast of characters. Buy here.
The California Surf Project is one of those stories about a fairytale. Chris Burkard, one of surfing’s most celebrated photographers, and Eric Soderquist, a professional surfer, packed their Volkswagen bus full of whatever they could, then pointed it south along Highway 1. They went from the Oregon border to the Tijuana Sloughs, surfing perfect waves, camping with strangers, and delving deep into everything the California coast has to offer. With over 200 Burkard images, amazing writing, and a half-hour DVD, The California Surf Project needs to be on your coffee table. Buy here.
The Finest Line is a lot more than just a collection of big wave photos. Created by Rusty Long, brother of big wave world champion Greg Long and a big wave aficionado in his own right, it captures the essence of the sport through breathtaking images and stories. Rusty filled the book with exclusive interviews with the likes of his brother Greg, Shane Dorian, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, and just how they’ve come to occupy the space at the top of the heap in one of the most dangerous sports on earth. The Finest Line covers the giant, hallmark sessions from the most impressive spots around the globe. Buy here.
Thomas Campbell has been embedded in surf and skate culture for decades. A prolific artist, photographer, and filmmaker, Campbell really began documenting surfing culture in the late nineties. He released his first feature-length film, The Seedling in 1999, then followed it up with the critically acclaimed Sprout a few years later. Campbell’s photography stands out in a world full of surf photography — no glossy finishes, no fish-eyes, no tightly cropped land angles. Slide Your Brains out is a collection of Campbell’s incredible work spanning nearly two decades. Buy here.
Surfing had a very formative period. Between the years of 1965 and 1978, the whole game changed. Surfing gained immense popularity and went from a kind of a fringe thing that no one really did to an enormous movement. Boards changed, competitive surfing blew up, and there to watch it all happen was John Witzig. A photographer that hung out with the likes of Bob McTavish and George Greenough, Witzig was privy to some of the most important happenings in surfing. His book, A Golden Age, covers defining moments from surfing’s defining era. Buy here.
She Surf is a celebration of the diverse, vibrant, and engaged community of women riding and making waves around the globe. Surfing, generally seen as a strangely male-centric endeavor, has always had a whole bunch of women claiming their rightful place in the lineup. She Surf hails the females, past and present, who are engaged in expanding the art of surfing. Full of exclusive interviews and imagery, it teaches the reader about the forgotten stories of Polynesian surfing princesses, pioneering wave riders from the 1960s, and the contemporary movers and shakers shaping the scene. Buy here.