The Big Juice

Eddie Would Read It

Ken "Skindog" Collins, Nathan Fletcher and Grant "Twiggy" Baker head into the Mavericks bowl. Photo: Glaser

To create The Big Juice, former SURFER editor Sam George teamed with writer John Long to compile a contemporary look at big wave surfing. The book has perspectives from SURFER contributors Brad Melekian, Kimball Taylor, Chris Dixon, Matt Warshaw and more. Read the SURFER Review below:

The Big Juice
Epic Tales of Big Wave Surfing
By John Long and Sam George

As winter storms approach the coasts of California, the islands of Hawaii and the reefs off Mexico, surfers have two options. Wax up your gun and charge, or live vicariously through the stories in The Big Juice.

The most compelling parts of the book are the firsthand narratives. Names like Parsons, Long, Goodwin and McNamara storytell about places like Jaws, Todos Santos and Teahupoo. Surf history and wave sizes take a backseat to the harrowing tales of wipeouts, addictions, adventures and epiphanies.

The book gives the reader a scale upon which to measure the risks that big waves pose. A new gauge you can't help but remember the next time you hesitate to make the drop or get caught inside for a few sets at your home break. The majority of surfers will never face anywhere near the danger these big wave riders do. Whether that's good or bad is fully subjective.

The detailed descriptions of being held down in giant surf shed an eerie light on what it's like trapped beneath the surface for these chargers. Dislocated limbs. Overwhelming nausea. Unforgiving reefs. Oxygen deprivation. Their lives run beginning-to-end through their minds. They think of wives, girlfriends, children, friends. All those affected by their decision to ride big waves.

Shane Dorian recounts a pre-flotation vest encounter with the reefs at Mavericks during a four-wave hold down. "I started panicking, straight up panicking. Then I saw flashes of my son's face looking at me, and I was thinking, 'What the hell am I doing at the bottom of the ocean in San Francisco? I could be at home right now, on a soft longboard, surfing Pine Trees with my son." He adds, "If a wave comes along and wants to drown me, it's going to drown me. A realization of depth, I think they call it."

Greg Noll details the stages of hypoxia while reliving his attempt to escape from a monster at Makaha. First, the thrashing around stage, he says. Then come the bright stars. Next the red stars. Even deeper, the blue stars. Beyond the blue, Noll says, "I remember thinking, 'Uh-oh, I don't want to know what's behind blue.' Because I got a glimpse, and all I saw was darkness."

At first glance, The Big Juice looks to be a brief history of big wave surfing, but it actually reads like a textbook on shuffle. There's no chronological organization, just a random compilation of tales spanning all generations of the big wave era. There is little regard for geographical association, no hesitation to stick a shot of a Hawaiian bomb in the middle of a story about Irish slabs. But it's a book about big wave surfing; what else should we expect?

See Kimball Taylor's featured profile of Darryl "Flea" Virostko, whose sponsor-funded professional surfing career died hard with his daily habits of a half-gallon of vodka and rampant crystal meth use. Flea, like many in the Santa Cruz big wave community, would paddle into giant Mavs while high on narcotics, deep in a darkness of his own. For the characters mentioned on these pages, charging big surf is an addiction, and the attached lifestyle a heavy and savage byproduct.

The stories provide insight and commentary on the culture, the chaos and the characters of the big wave community. Within is a healthy balance of highs and lows, resulting in an anthology with undertones of reality. The transparency of these tales opens up an all-encompassing view into the mad world of big wave surfing.