Surfing: The Big Wave

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
The Depth Test

Do you like collecting old surfboards?

Have you ever driven around the neighbourhood at clean-up time, one eye on the road, one eye on the rubbish piles, looking for an old board that some unsuspecting punter has thrown out?

More often than not - and I speak from experience here - when you do spot the tail of an old beater jutting from a pile it just ain't worth stopping for. After vaulting from the car and running through three lanes of traffic the board is a lost cause. Either it's delaminated beyond repair, or had extra fins added in 1983, or was shaped by a fifteen year-old with no concept of rocker.

I had a similar experience on eBay recently, except it wasn't a surfboard I was seeking...

Overcome with literary nostalgia, I had the idea to buy a swag of antique surfing books - cos everything old is good, right? - and came across this little number, Surfing, The Big Wave. First published in 1976 by the curiously named Troll Associates.

From what I can gather The Big Wave enjoyed one edition only. There doesn't appear to have been any demand for a second pressing. It's little wonder.

The standard is set on the very first page where an out of focus surfer is taking a bog stance down a six foot wave. The horizon is skewed at an angle of 20 degrees. Looking hard I can't find one redeeming quality about the photo yet it's the best image in the book.

Out of focus, off colour, badly name it the photo editor has chosen it somewhere among the 32 pages. Whole heads are missing in some shots while in other the surfers are so distant it's like looking in the wrong end of binoculars. I'm sure there's a story behind the photos: packages got swapped and the rejects were sent to the printers while the good shots were tossed out. Something like that...

But then how to explain the words?

Just terrible. Innocence is endearing when it's Clifford the Big Red Dog but bring the same schtick to surfing and it's just cheese on corn. From page 26, "One of the real thrills in surfing is "riding the curl". The surfer crouches low on his board and slides diagonally across the wave. If his speed is right the water forms a canopy over his head."

On that last point: Has any surfer, anywhere, called a barrel 'a canopy over his head'? Besides a tarp surfer that is...

So I'm calling that the author, a Mr Don Smith, has never surfed in his life. And I believe that other titles in the Troll series, such as Bobsledding: Down the Chute! and Ballooning: High and Wild, will also contain silly passages that paint bobsledding and ballooning in a ridiculous light. Bobsledders and balloonists beware!

Look...there's kitsch and then there's crap, and Surfing, The Big Wave falls cleanly into the latter pile. Let it stay there. So if you spot a copy while roaming the information superhighway, just keep on driving, there's nothing to see here.

Surfing: The Big Wave cost me $13.45 on eBay. I was the only bidder.