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Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  199 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Rising from the depths of the North Pacific lies a fabled island, now submerged just 15 feet below the surface of the ocean. Rumors and warnings about Cortes Bank abound, but among big wave surfers, this legendary rock is famous for one simple (and massive) reason: this is the home of the biggest rideable wave on the face of the earth. In this dramatic work of narrative no ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 12th 2011 by Chronicle Books
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(showing 1-30 of 377)
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Mike Parsons is my new hero.

Parsons is one of many big-wave surfers whose story is told in Chris Dixon’s book, “Ghost Wave: The Discovery of the Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth.” It is a fascinating book, and I have not, nor do I ever plan to, hit the waves with a surfboard, no matter how big or small they are.

I’ve lived at the beach going on nine years now. I know in the back of my mind that the ocean is a powerful thing, as do most people who live or visit the beach often, but I thin
If you spend any time sailing along the California coast, you may have heard about The Cortes Bank. It lies just past Catalina Island. Not a big patch of ocean, but one that boaters view with respect. It's where the giant waves live. Rogue waves are known to occur randomly, and certain coastal areas are known for impossibly high surf. But the Cortes Bank is different. In the middle of nowhere, in the open sea, huge waves, some reaching 90 feet high, are formed...and they're not an anomaly, they' ...more
Donald J. Bingle
I'm not a surfer, a diver, or a sailor, but still I found the real story of surfing, diving, and sailing the Cortes Bank harder to put down than the most recent thriller I picked up by a big-name author. Aside from the fact that there are so many interesting, but obscure, stories about the history of the Cortes Bank, Chris Dixon does a great job of making such stories detailed, gripping, and suspenseful, with in-depth interviews with those involved and vivid and evocative descriptions of the sea ...more
Kris Madaus
Ghost Wave was an intriguing book. Chris Dixon did a great job detailing all aspects of the break and the sport including some maritime history of the location, some history of surfing, the progress made in swell predictions, the psychology of big wave surfers, the controversy of contests such as the Billabong XXL Awards, and the continuous search for new big wave locations. I simply didn't want it to end.

This subject is particularly alluring due to the nature of the Cortes Bank. To think that p
This is just the most amazing cover.
I had read a review of this and since I so loved The Wave by Susan Casey, and the ocean/waves in general, I requested this from my library.
However I was sadly disappointed.
I still rated it pretty highly and it may have suffered since I read it over the holidays and was distracted, but basically a riveting book will sail through any events without interruption and this was not one. It reflected a prodigious amount of research and time and while the author h
Philip Demare
The story of the Cortez bank, somewhere off the coast of California near Catalina island, and the big wave surfers who are crazy or daring enough (depending on your opinion) to go out and ride the monster waves generated by storm swells on the bank.
The brief history of the bank and the prehistoric indian tribes that first populated the area was fascinating as well as the 18th century explorations of the area and more recent events such as the aborted attempt to found the man made island of abalo
Timothy Schneider
I've spent a lot of time on the California coast and the lure of what is offshore is an almost overpowering draw. So this story about the Cortes Bank 100 miles out to sea is a siren song. There are actually several threads woven together in this book. There is the history of the Banks as a maritime hazzard and their discovery; it's geologic origins and natural history; but the core of this rope, the essential story, is about the ocean and waves and surfers quest to ride the biggest and baddest w ...more
I've been fascinated by what drives big wave surfers since a Vanity Fair article years ago... Step Into Liquid and Riding Giants are two of my "must watch" recommended movies. That interest made this a great read.

There was some history in the beginning that was a big dull (for me) and hard to understand from a nautical or surfing terms perspective, but I read the stories of the various surfing events with rapt fascination. The boat trip in Jan 2008 is particularly a thriller that you just can't
Andrew Bennett
Great Book

I was brought to this book as a surfer but it weaves a tale that is very interesting to non-surfers as well. I knew about the Bank from the exploits of Snips, Gerr, Greg Long and others but the nation of Abalonia and the sinking of the Jalisco was new to me.

Dixon is a great writer, he is a surfer who can speak the language while being able to convey the same to nonsurfers
I don't know what it is about killer waves. I live in a land locked state, and can't even body surf correctly when I swim in the ocean. Yet, on my phone is a picture of a breaking giant, as is on my computer desktop.
The idea of these waves that seem to defy the laws of physics fascinates me, and I enjoy reading about them.
So far the book is entertaining and interesting.

Edit: I've finished the book. I really liked that it focused on one surf spot and a group of surfers. You get some history of Co
Loved this book. It does seem a little lengthy at times, but I couldn't put it down, it reads like a suspense novel, you can't wait to find out what happens next. The author really loves the theme and it shows not only in his meticulous research but also in his enthusiastic writing. For all that, it is still surprisingly objective in its treatment.

I suggest you read this book before watching Riding Giants, Stacy Peralta's ode to Laird Hamilton, or any other big wave surfing movie. Not only does
This one is probably closer to 4.5 stars, b/c the beginning is a little slow. However, once the back half kicks in you won't want to put it down.

After reading Susan Casey's The Wave (and really liking it), this is the other side of the story. Casey partnered with surfing great Laird Hamilton, who mostly espouses a surf for surf's sake mantra. Chris Dixon, Mike Parsons, and the guys in this book are competitors. They surf b/c they love it, but if they happen to make a little money on the deal, so
This isn't so much a book about a wave as it is about the history and development of big wave surfing. I kept with the book because I have an interest in athletes who push themselves to the boundary of what is humanly possible while taking huge risks. The last chapter was a nail biter...would the small team of surfers at Cortes finally catch their white whale - a 100' wave? No spoilers here; you'll have to read the book.
A highly readable history of a wave....sometimes the oddest books end up in my library bag! Surfing has always been a fascination of mine. I never really aspired to do it, and honestly have never seen it done in person. However, the idea of harnessing the power of a wave is crazy wild to me. Living in the midwest, I don't know much about the oceans and all that comes with them. This was a very good tale of an anomaly in the vast Pacific, and how it created one of the premier wave spots in the wo ...more
A fascinating, compelling, and terrifying piece of long journalism. I really gave me a glimmer of what drives the small brotherhood of elite big-wave riders to do what they do and I came away incredibly thankful that I don't share their compulsion (or addiction). Dixon's writing is solid although not stellar, but his passion for his subject shines through even through the rough spots. Definitely worth reading if you're a surfer or just interested in surfing and the ocean.
Jen Hoffman
I am LOVING this book!!! Everything from how the Cortes Islands became the Cortes Bank, what early inhabitants were like, who the first explorers were to discovery and chart Bishop Rock, all the way up to present day. It's treacherous 25 miles of vastness is now considered THE place to go to catch the world's biggest wave. It seems we humans have been fascinated with the bank for thousands of years. Can't wait to finish.
Daughter gave to me as a gift to prep for a surfin safari trip and vacation for just the 2 of us. read in about 3 hours so not a big book but a fast read and fun storytelling. u should be a surfer or into surf history/nostalgia and not that broad beyond that....too bad, surfing is another level to share with readers that goes beyond big waves, balls, etc.
Slow long start for sure to this book, but it slowly turns into something I couldn't put down. By the end I gained a strong desire to experience Cortes Bank, Maverick, Todos or Ghost tree myself. Chris Dixon is exactly why writers need to exist; to tell these stories from start to finish. Impressive book about a world previously unknown to me.
Bryan Murray
I have always been a weather geek. There is no bigger thrill than being able to predict and ride a decent swell. All surfers agonize over this. Imagine discovering a new break in the middle of the ocean, mounting an expedition, predicting when it will break and keeping it a secret. That's what they did and it is an amazing story.
In spite of starting with some ancestor/descendant confusion, numerous random font changes and other signs the book was barely edited, I found it to be an interesting and enlightening read. The proofing (or lack thereof) makes reading it more work then it should be but it is worth it to keep going.
Apr 16, 2014 Jlew rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: surfers, navigators, history buffs, entrepreneurs
I love this book. It's got history, story, suspense and drama, culture. Dixon has done his research and writes in vivid imagery, making you think you're there on the Ghost Wave itself. There are some drier spots, but don't let that hamper you.
I'm a diver, not a surfer, but I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into surfing's characters and history. I picked up the book to find out more about the bathymetry around Cortes Bank, and while it has that, it also has so much more. Good read!
Read this right after "The Wave," by Susan Casey, and this one is better -- it actually gives a visceral description of what it feels like to surf, along with some pretty unbelievable history of the Cortes bank.
Starts out a little slow but at about chapter 4 it really kicked in for me. Dixon does a great job of describing the waves and making the reader feel like they are actually there. Definitely recommended!
Interesting view into a subculture I know nothing about. History of discovery and surfing of big waves very interesting, especially Mavericks since we live near it. . Some stuff had to skimmed.
Chance Barber
Throughly enjoyed this book. Chris Dixon has done a ton of research to tell the whole story of Cortes Bank. He does a good job of walking you through the progression of big wave surfing.
I bit slow to get going; I wasn't all that interested in the maritime history of the Cortes Bank but once the surfing got underway in the 2nd half of the book it was quite engaging.
The beginning started off a tad slow (history-based) but the surfing stories are suspenseful and exciting and make this book so worth the read!
Found this story to be truly fascinating and a great read...cannot even imagine Big Wave surfing and the power of the ocean always fascinates me.
Chris Dixon gives a good history of surfing, the discovery of the Cortes Bank, and the surfers who dare to surf there.
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