From Mav’s to moves to Buttons’ afro, when it comes to surfing, bigger is always better. If that’s the case, then brace yourself for the leviathan of surf literature, an 816-page, {{{600}}},000-word reference book called The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Set to release in October, this 40-dollar hardback took more than three years for master journalist Matt Warshaw to complete, enlisting the help of two other researchers and the most thorough database of mags and media in the history of our sport. And even then, the beast took its toll. Accroding to Warshaw, “I burned through two printers printing the final copy out.” In celebration of the upcoming release of this waveriding Websters, we decided to once again sit down with the author and see how he managed to cram the entire sport into a single masterpiece.SURFINGTHEMAG: This is one hell of a reference book. How many craps do you think it would take to get through this whole thing?
MATT WARSHAW: [laughs] I don’t know. I think it might actually be too heavy to have with you on the throne, it might put you into full muscle seizure lifting the thing. Seriously, it’s big, but I think people do want information. I tried really hard not to make it dry — it wants to be a little bit more than that. I didn’t want editorialize, but if someone else can say it, that’s where you can have fun. Like the Jeff Hakman quote about Jock Sutherland: “He could smoke more pot than all of us, drop more acid than all of us, then go out and still surf better than all of us.” A lot of the color in the book comes from those things.Even in a book this big, there’s no way you could include everyone and everything. Are you preparing yourself for some serious backlash?
Anytime you put something together that’s somewhat selective, it’s always a duck-and-cover of people saying, “Looks great except for so-and-so” or “what are you doing putting this guy in there?” So a while back I said to Nathan Myers — who helped me research it along with Marcus Sanders — I said, “We’ve got to figure out a standard response.” And he said, “Just tell ’em to write their own f–king encyclopedia.” Of course, I have to be a little more politic than that.Were people pretty cooperative in putting it together?
Everyone was pretty cooperative. But some people — very few — wanted nothing to do with it. Phil Edwards snapped. And Dave Parmenter snapped, like, “Who’s going to read an encyclopedia!? If you surf, you know all this stuff. If you don’t surf, who cares?!” But he’s still got a good long entry. I still love Dave and I still think he’s fascinating.You’re pretty honest in your assessments; are you worried about anyone bristling once they see it?
Maybe. I suppose. I didn’t throw anything in there that wasn’t known. I didn’t publish anything that hadn’t been published. If someone’s out as lesbian, it’s in there; if not, it’s not. I had no scores to settle. It’s just who these people are in 250 words or less.