Cocaine + Surfing : A Sordid History of Surfing's Greatest Love Affair
It is likely not terribly surprising that surfers like to party. The 1960-70s image, bolstered by Tom Wolfe and Big Wednesday, was one of mild outlaws. Tanned boys who refused to grow up, spending their days drinking beer and smoking joints on the beach in between mindless hours in the water.
As the surf brands accidentally morphed into a multimillion, then multibillion dollar industry beginning in the 1980s, however, the derelict portrait began to harm business. In order to achieve wild year-on-year growth that came to be expected surf trunks, t-shirts and sunglasses had to be sold en mass through Midwestern mall stores. Moms in Des Moines did not want corn-fed junior to be a delinquent. And so the external surf image of the 1980s, 90s into the present became Kelly Slater and Laird Hamilton. Health, vitality, bravery, clean-living, positive and pure with heavy doses of puritanism.
Internally, though, surfing had moved on from booze and weed to its heart's true home, its soul's twin flame. Cocaine's rise in American popular culture as the choice of rich, white elites was matched, then quadrupled, within surf culture. The parties got wilder, the nights stretched longer, the stories became more ridiculously unbelievable. And there has been no stopping, no dip in passion.
The surfer and his lover are entwined in gorgeously dysfunctional embrace. A forbidden love like Romeo and his Juliet and few, if any, outside the insular surf world knew or know about this particular rhapsody. A byzantine ethic keeps interlopers far away. Bad behavior is also kept very well-hidden, even from insiders, but evidence of psychosis rears its head from time to time. Overdoses, bar fights, surf contests and murders and cover-ups.
Cocaine + Surfing peels the curtains back on a hopped up, sometimes sexy sometimes deadly relationship and uses cocaine as the vehicle to expose and explain the utterly absurd surf industry to outsiders. It also explores where dreams go when they die.
- Hardback | 256 pages
- 140 x 216 x 22.86mm | 362.87g
- 28 Jun 2018
- Rare Bird Books
- California, United States
Between untold stories of extravagant parties, untimely overdoses and dark cover-ups, the book doesn't miss a beat, nor a good time.
Praise for Welcome to Paradise, Now Go To Hell
Told in an energetic, first-person style that one of Smith's magazine editors dubbed "trash prose," the book is a sure-fire hit with fans of surfing literature.
[A] ripping profile of the surf culture on Oahu's North Shore . . . Smith['s] storytelling is taught . . .
--Wall Street Journal
"Chas Smith is a stone-cold original-a globe-trotting, war-reporting, motorcycle-driving, cigarette-smoking, tube-riding, fashion-obsessed international dandy with a penchant for dangerous people, places, and, most of all, prose. Welcome To Paradise, Now Go To Hell is absolutely the most entertaining surf book in years, a breathless adrenalized romp."
--Daniel Duane, author of Caught Inside, A Surfer's Year on the California Coast
A vivid and somewhat disconcerting depiction of the world of surfing and its attendant problems . . . An uncommon read for those interested in surfing or those seeking a look at Hawaii from a vantage point not normally found in history books.
A hip exposé of Hawaii's North Shore surfing culture . . . 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 . . . effortlessly shifting from the profound to the profane.
A mix of reportage and gonzo journalism.... [with] trenchant...astute observations.... If Hunter S. Thompson circa Hell's Angels merged with a fashion critic to write about surfing for Maxim, the result might be similar.
A book of real literary style and grace . . . gleefully mischievous . . . handles like a '54 Porsche: smooth, glamorous, and totally out of control.
Made me think hard about the North Shore . . . To the best of my knowledge, nothing like it exists."
Smith doesn't simply stand in judgment. He loves the world of the North Shore, and he hates it. With gleeful defiance and feral wit, he harnesses his ambivalence to fuel this compulsive, wild ride of a book.
--Sydney Morning Herald, Pick of the Week
A wild and unflinching look at the adrenalin-soaked world of surfing.
--Melbourne Herald Sun
About Chas Smith
Chas began his writing career as a foreign correspondent, penning pieces for Vice, Paper, and Blackbook, amongst others, from Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Azerbaijan and Colombia which led to a brief career as a war correspondent for Current TV.
After being kidnapped by Hezbollah during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war he transitioned to surf journalism where he was a featured writer at the brash Stab before becoming Editor at Large at Surfing Magazine. There he developed a reputation as the most controversial voices in the space. Matt Warshaw, author of the Encyclopedia of Surfing, calls him, "Bright and hyper-ironic." William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Barbarian Days, says that Chas, "...calls it like he sees it and in surfing that's not usually the case."
Chas Smith is the co-owner of a surf website, BeachGrit.