The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean
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The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  5,060 ratings  ·  948 reviews
From Susan Casey, bestselling author of The Devil’s Teeth, an astonishing book about colossal, ship-swallowing rogue waves and the surfers who seek them out.

For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dis­missed these stories—waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few d...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg LarssonRoom by Emma DonoghueThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootOne Day by David NichollsFreedom by Jonathan Franzen
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2010
51st out of 100 books — 611 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
409th out of 2,776 books — 4,729 voters


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Nicholas Sparks
This is a book about ocean waves, and I can already hear what some people might be thinking: Why on earth would I care about that? I had the same thought when I first picked it up; hours later, after reading the book in a single sitting, I realized that good writers can make any story interesting, fascinating, engaging and a lot of fun. Susan Casey is a wonderful writer and the subject only grows more interesting the further you read. While I'm the first to admit that I enjoy a good novel, I als...more
Eric_W
edited 3/12/11 to add references and some links

We are surrounded by waves: electromagnetic, light, radio, and water. They can be helpful providing power, light and communication; but they can also carry unimaginable force.

The science of waves and surf forecasting is relatively new. It began in earnest during WW II when scientists realized that successful amphibious landings required some ability to forecast surf sizes on the beaches. It didn’t hurt that there was oodles of money available and s...more
Will Byrnes
Size matters to Toronto-born Susan Casey, wave size that is. She is interested in the big kahunas of wave-dom, rogues, freaks, giants or monsters that rise a hundred feet or more above the surrounding water. Think The Perfect Storm. Then think bigger.

Scientists once dismissed the notion of waves that big, but science has started to turn what were believed to be tall tales into accepted truth. In 1933 a serene officer on the USS Ramapo measured one such rogue at 112 feet! Even the enormous (see,...more
Susan
Aug 21, 2010 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Armchair adventurers, anyone interested in the ocean and climate change
Recommended to Susan by: Goodreads
Don't take this book as your leisure reading on that next cruise or you will be constantly watching the horizon, wondering if that next freak wave is on its way.

My reason for reading this book, subtitled In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, is that I wanted to learn more about huge waves, tsunamis, and ocean behavior. I was not so much interested in the surfers or their stories. However, not far into the book, that changed.

The author talks with scientists studying the pheno...more
Josh
After reading the intro and getting scared to death about being on a boat caught in a massive storm, i was frighted and excited to learn more about the processes that go into forming these freak swells. I was intrigued by how ms casey would tie the surfing pursuit of big waves with the science behind how waves work together. In the end i felt that it was a failed attempt. She should have just written a biography on laird hamilton as that is largely what i felt the book was. the science and discu...more
Susan
This book was so good at explaining complex science in accessible terms, and overall it was very interesting. Basically, Casey hypothesizes that global warming has produced enormous, rogue waves much more frequently than has ever been thought. One such documented wave in the 1950's in Alaska measured a staggering, atypical 1,740 feet. The implications of this, especially if you own real estate on a coastline, are sobering. However, in her examination of the surfers who risk their lives to ride t...more
Jennifer
It is too predictable to say that Susan Casey wrote a great piece of non-fiction. As the author of countless articles in mainstream periodicals like Outside, National Geographic and Men's health, to being the current editor of O Magazine, to writing the gripping and meticulously researched "The Devil's Teeth", you come to her second book expecting excellence and she does not disappoint. Casey follows two groups of individuals in parallel- big wave scientists/ researchers, and big wave surfers. C...more
Uyennie
I don't know who's more bad azz in this book...Laird Hamilton and his gang of Watermen or the scientists who also brave scary risks in the pursuit of knowledge. I also found the section on the marine salvagers really fascinating.

Although some of the science section is a bit arcane for the average reader, I think most semi-intelligent people will get the main gist of the concepts.

The stats on how many ships go missing is astounding. As Casey points out, if even a small plane went down, we'd hear...more
Jason
Aug 04, 2011 Jason added it
I had high hopes for this book, but you'll get sucked into the majesty of big wave / tow surfing in one chapter only to be bored to sleep with a chapter on the science of waves. It took me months to finish this book because once I hit a "science" chapter, I'd put the book down for a few days or weeks because I just didn't want to deal with it. The author also drones on and on about climate change and global warming to the point where I just stopped caring about it. She seemed to blame anything a...more
Chris
Okay, I want you to do something for me. Close your eyes.

Wait. No, that won't work. Open your eyes again.

Eyes open? Good. Now imagine you've closed your eyes, but don't actually close them because that will rather impair your ability to read this review.

So, you're imagining that your eyes are closed. Now imagine you're on a cruise ship. It's a lovely place - blue water, blue skies, the faint scent of salt in the air, the waves lapping up against the hull of the boat in a soothing rhythm. It's a...more
Matt
The book dedicates about 3/4 of its pages to the surfers that ride giant waves, and about 1/4 to the science behind them. All in all, very cool, and not being a surfer myself, I found myself enjoying those parts more than expected. As famed critic Joshua Brustein points out, the hero worship can get to be a bit much (especially with Laird... geez Susan, he can't be that cool), but it doesn't take too much away from the content.

I would have enjoyed a little more time dedicated to the science, esp...more
Frederick Bingham
What a lost opportunity.

It's hard to complain when a book is published that describes some of the science behind waves. Being somewhat of a specialist in this area (a physical oceanographer), it is great to see my field popularized in this way. Unfortunately the author chose to present the science behind waves in a very shallow way. Instead she chose to spend the book talking about a group of big-wave surfers. There are guys with egos as large as the waves they surf, and lots of money too. How t...more
Anthony
It was ok. 3/4 of the book is a surfer lovefest. Maybe a Laird Hamilton crush. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Laird and all the big wave surfers. I enjoy surfing (not anywhere near their level). It is just that having watched the dvds Riding Giants and Step Into the Liquid I could have written 3/4 of this book. Ok, I will be fair 1/2 the book. I enjoyed rehashing what was already covered in the movies. I liked the maritime disasters. I wish she put more research into her book. More story...more
Les Gehman
The Wave by Susan Casey is an excellent chronicle of the people who chase big waves, and the people who try to understand and predict them. About half of the book follows Laird Hamilton as he chases the biggest waves in the world to surf, while the other half documents the scientists who strive to understand what causes rogue waves and how to build ships and platforms to withstand them.

Laird Hamilton and his fellow tow surfers are insane. They risk their lives to ride ever larger waves. Casey do...more
Rick Spilman
Sea monsters exist. They break ships in half and pull them below the waves. Sometimes they swallow them whole. Most who encounter them never return to tell the tale and those few who do, until very recently, were rarely believed.

I am referring to rogue waves, which until only the last decade or so, have been dismissed as myths, merely sailor’s tall tales. Only in roughly the last ten or fifteen years has the existence of rogue waves been fully documented and accepted by oceanographers. Scientist...more
Sarah
How do you end a book about waves, taking into account the ending of The Great Gatsby or the repetition in a Van Morrison song? It’s not something to tackle lightly, or even something that the author of a non-fiction exploration of wave science and surfing (both) would be expected to do. But author Susan Casey does what she can now that the metaphors are all used up here in The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Doubleday, 2010). Ending lyrically is maybe her hardes...more
Chris
Not bad, but not quite what I expected. Very heavy on the surfing when I was expecting more science. Quite the opposite, in fact. The science there was, was more or less a lecture on human's impact on the climate, and not the science behind giant mysterious waves. To be fair, one of the main points, it seems, is that we have little clue about how to predict or calculate them, so how many pages can you spend saying that we are clueless. There was a lot of time spent warning us that human's impact...more
Harkinna
I read this book right away when it came out a few months ago...and LOVED it. So why have I not written the review yet? One word: jealousy. I had this idea to write a book about giant waves, from an article in the New York Times. Hundreds of ships go missing annually. For years they had no idea why...but now we know that the sailors stories of giant waves were not just tall tales.

But I did not write the book. Mrs. Casey did.

She took an interesting tact: she interwove the science of the waves wit...more
Paul
Waves can be thought of small and harmless, as they wash gently against your feet on a sun kissed beach. But they have a darker side, an ability to become an enormous destructive force that can obliterate landscapes, cities and ships.

Fifteen years ago scientists did not believe the reports of 100 foot high waves that appeared from nowhere in calm seas to sink boats. Their models didn’t show them, and they thought they were myths or just wrong estimates of the height of the wave. But then there w...more
bijal
As good as all of you said it was. So good that:

1) I wished I was stuck in traffic longer so I could listen to more
2) I wished my parents lived more than 5 hours away so I could listen to more
3) I sat in the parking lot at work (all parking lots, really) on multiple occasions just to finish a chapter because I could not stand to not know what happened next
4) even though I listened to it, I want to go back and actually read it
5) basically I am torn between never wanting to go near an ocean agai...more
Trish
The Wave is an outrageously good read, alternately thrilling and terrifying us in turns. How many ways can a wave be described? As many ways as there are waves, though one suspects the Hawaiians had more words for the qualities of water than we do. While surfing plays the loudest chords in this book, one of the most resonant notes played was a description of Lituya Bay in Alaska, where epic waves scour the coastline. I went back and forth with the narrative to examine the included photographs ag...more
Wendell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christine
I really enjoyed this book. Most of it focused on "big wave" surfers which, at first, I thought would detract from the book, but I ended up loving these chapters. I'm guessing that the author believes who better to ask about 100ft waves than the lunatics who ride them on surfboards? Their perspective is fascinating and Susan Casey is such a fantastic writer that I felt as though I was sitting on a Jet Ski with her looking at these enormous waves. I liked that the author also mixed it up by addin...more
Pamela Barrett
“Except for luminous glints of turquoise at its peak, the wave was sapphire blue, gin clear, and flecked with white. If heaven were a color, it would be tinted like this.” This quote is Susan Casey’s description of seeing a wave up close at Jaws, a Maui surf spot known for huge dangerous waves.

At fifteen, my father gave me a 9ft Ole surfboard—it was too big for me and I could barely drag it down the beach. I wanted to look cool with it under my arm like all the surfers did and I wanted more tha...more
Pamela
I really enjoyed this book. I read it because I'm in love with water and water activities and was curious to know more about these freak waves. It was a really interesting read that went back and forth between a science perspective and surfer's perspective.

There was a bit more about surfing in it that I had not expected, but that I also enjoyed. She did a really good job of explaining waves through these surfers who have such a unique and different spin on it from a scientist's. There may have...more
bryan
The most challenging thing about this book was as I started I couldn't tell what the book was about: in one chapter the book would be a scientific discussion of waves on the open seas and particularly as the tear apart and sink large ships and then in the next chapter the book was about surfers and surfer culture. And then back and forth. I couldn't tell if the author intended this to be a book about waves that touched on how surfers fit into that or if it was a book about surfers with a side di...more
Patrick
This is another good book by Casey. She wrote a book called "The Devil's Teeth" a few years ago about sharks that I also enjoyed. This effort focuses on huge waves, a topic that i find very interesting. Until 20 years ago or so science dismissed the idea of rogue waves (think of the wave in "The Perfect Storm"), put down to embellished recollections of scared sailors. However, with new wave measuring instruments it has become clear that these monster waves do exist. Waves in excess of 120' have...more
Beth Hartnett
I'm certainly on a roll with my book selections this month as I absolutely devoured this one. The author lives up just up the pineapple field from legendary surfer, Laird Hamilton, in Maui (must be nice) and the reader is treated to an inside view of the world of the true, big wave surfers. I'm talking about the ones who first tried hitching a ride on a jet ski to surf a 50+ foot wave and the ones who redesigned boards to do just that. Casey makes you understand the thrills, the dangers, and eve...more
Eileen Granfors
"The Wave" is for all kinds of people. Whether your reaction to big waves is "Whoa, gnarly, bro!" or "We had all kinds of speculation," Casey's work will interest a wide variety of readers.

She does this by starting with the tales of surfers seeking the ultimate ride as they travel the world. The names of the big surfers become more than names. They are humans with an amazing skill, who seek the rush of finding those moments on perfect waves, waves that can kill (and do). Their camaraderie and lo...more
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“[The waves] move across a faint horizon, the rush of love and the surge of grief, the respite of peace and then fear again, the heart that beats and then lies still, the rise and fall and rise and fall of all of it, the incoming and the outgoing, the infinite procession of life. And the ocean wraps the earth, a reminder. The mysteries come forward in waves.” 9 likes
“The devices meant to float at sea and capture the waves' power have been destroyed in short order by . . . the waves. "they've all been smashed up in storms," Challenor said, shaking his head.” 3 likes
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