Coffee Table Books For The Surf Pad


  • August 30, 2020
  • Tips
  • By: Britt Mattie

Feel free to disagree, but we believe there’s nothing quite comparable to brushing the iridescent green wall of an open face wave with the tips of your fingertips. That being said, fluttering through the pages of a hefty hardback book with those same fingertips—devouring the sharp, sensory photographs on each one can be just as palpable in its own regard. The tactile feel of a case bound hardcover boasts a weighty importance and inspires an air of scholarly prestige. It belongs right in the middle of the living room atop your rattan coffee table, next to your stack of coasters for said coffee, or cocktail (no judgment here). Once some sort of libation is in hand, you might want to settle in cozily to couch surf this lineup of treatises. They, in some shape or form, document the cult following of surfing as its own special subculture and way of life.

The following titles will leave you as spellbound as Pipeline does on a perfect winter’s day. From editorial essays of board shaping’s history and evolution to documenting today’s cleanest waves with even cleaner lenses, stunning shots on and off land are captured by the world’s most revered outdoor/action photographers. Once published into tangibility, time stands still as the world’s most sought-after breaks and legendary surfers—past and present—are immortalized onto printed pages of glossy, glassy idealizations. Between the captivating imagery and the inspiring stories that hit harder in ink than hearsay, you’ll want to secure at least a few of these heaters to keep on the table or nightstand—always in eye-sight and arms-length for those flat days where mind surfing is the next best thing.

Surf Tribe

Photography + Text: Stephan Vanfleteren
Foreword: Gerry Lopez
Design: Tim Bisschop
Publisher: Hannibal, 2019

Surf Tribe is said to be the Bible of surf culture. Photographer Stephan Vanfleteren has been revered for showing surf culture as a lot more than just sport and competition. In his Nat-Geo-esque black-and-white portraits, he captures the passion of surfers, and in contrast, their fear towards the force of nature amongst them and the feeling of insignificance up against the power of the ocean. In front of his lens, they are not just people with athletic bodies and suntanned faces. Vanfleteren searched beyond the traditional borders of the US and Australia in search of other areas where land meets sea—finding people around the globe who have a deep admiration and respect for the ocean. The book uniquely mixes amateur, no World Title-holding surfers and young talents together with living icons and old legends. Expect a diverse community of faces to grace Surf Tribe’s pages of monochromatic portraits, including some familiar ones such as Kelly Slater, John Florence, Mickey Munoz, Filipe Toledo, Stephanie Gilmore, as well as a foreword by surfer/journalist/actor Gerry Lopez.

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Wave Melancholia / Solace

Photography + Text: Sebastien J. Zanella
Publisher: Desillusion Mag, 2017, 2020

Director/documentary filmmaker/photographer, Sebastien Zanella (aka sebzanella), is known for his provocative films and images that explore “freedom of expression and the human condition” in the world of skateboarding, surfing, and street culture. His signature style has been described as poetic, haunting, and captivating. With a chunk of his artistic compositions compiled into a tome of last impressions, check out Wave Melancholia: For The One Who Dreams Of Stranger Worlds, his first personal photo book. The 196 pages of sharp-eyed otherworldly moments gives readers a glimpse of what Zanella sees from Indonesia, Tahiti, the European coast, the Latin Americas, Morocco, and dozens of other countries. If you find yourself totally addicted and fiending for more, luck be the lady—Zanella recently released a second photo journal titled Solace, with more ethereal, obscure, and emotive storytelling of board riding in black-and-white.

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She Surf: The Rise of Female Surfing

Interviews/Text: Lauren L. Hill
Publisher: Gestalten, 2020

Stitch-bound and in full-blown color, the ecofeminism narrative shines a light on the women— today’s and yesteryear’s—who define the art of surfing. While the sport’s commonly told solely through a male perspective, pro-surfer/writer/environmentalist Lauren Hill would be remiss if she hadn’t jumped at the opportunity to share the stories of the greatest female surfers around the world. After a decade in the making, expect a 256-page empowering reflection on what it means to be a female surfer today and how it feels to be moved by Mother Nature herself. She Surf travels from Hawaii’s famous reef breaks to lesser-known surf destinations such as Taghazout and Tofino. Explore women riders and their local beaches in the Seychelles, along the Tuscan coastline in Italy, and in the French Basque Country. Travel with Aussie world champion Stephanie Gilmore; meet Chloe Calmon, a Brazilian expert in longboarding; discover Ishita Malaviya, India’s first professional lady slider trailblazer; and many more badass babes.

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Surf Shacks: An Eclectic Compilation of Surfers' Homes from Coast to Coast

Interviews/Text: Matt Titone
Editor: Janna Irons
Design: Indoek
Publisher: Gestalten, 2017, 2020

A collection of creatives/entrepreneurs/surfers are showcased among their coastal-crafted homes. Surf Shacks illuminates how surfers live offshore in an intimate, stylistic play off MTV’s Cribs. From highrise apartments, rural cottages, and island bungalows, to canyon hideaways, converted vans, and architecturally-sound beachfront houses, this anthology on design-styled abodes takes a peek inside the spaces of some of the most innovative, influential people in the surf community. Gain a glimpse of their dwellings and artistic habits outside of chasing waves. Expect record collections, outdoor showers, backyard gardens, inside painter’s and shaper’s studios, and conversations on what makes a place feel at home in between swells. If you’ve already dived into Surf Shacks Vol. 1 from front to back, get your preorder pants on because Surf Shacks Volume 2 is already making waves with a release date of October 2020. This followup will pick up where its first one left off—exploring the digs of even more surfers, which range from improvised cabins by the beach to penthouse condos in big coastal cities. You’ll meet an eclectic cast of characters from southern California, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Australia.

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Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening

Text: Captain Liz Clark
Illustrations: Daniella Manini
Design: Mary Jo Thomas
Publisher: Patagonia Books, 2018

Captain Liz Clark spent her youth dreaming of traveling the world’s oceans by sailboat and surfing remote waves. In this memoir, she captures her voyage of sailing the high seas—through endless solitude, surprises, and finding connection to the sea. Embarking on a voyage that most only fantasize about, Swell tells the story of Clark setting sail from Santa Barbara, as captain of her 40-foot sailboat and heading south in search of waves, herself, and “the wonder and learning that lies beyond the unbroken horizon.” Swell captures this brave woman’s seafaring expedition in gripping detail. Get sucked into true tales of wild waves, treacherous storms, constant challenges, nature’s marvels, and new cultures. After more than 10 years, 20,000 miles, countless adventures, and one stray cat, she’s still out there in search of surf and self.


Undone: Laura Enever

Photography: Matt Dunbar, Stu Gibson, Nick Green, Duncan Macfarlane, Simon ‘Swilly’ Williams
Interviews/Editor: Vaughan Blakey
Design: Danny Johnson

This 120-page awe-inspiring photo journal of Laura Enever follows the fierce pro surfer’s quest as she leaves her spot on the WSL tour and pivots into big wave surfing—as seen in the 2020 Undone film. Filmed mostly on the heavy slabs of NSW’s south coast, Tasmania, and The Right in Western Australia, Matt Dunbar, and other leading Australian surf photographers capture Enever’s personal pipedreams and challenges as she has a go at the most dangerous, treacherous, localized wave breaks in the world. The high-quality imagery—from sky and in water—of Enever sporting her pastel wetsuit and dropping in on monster-magnitude slabs make it a poetic page-turner for sure. Candid interviews with surfing royalty such as Stephanie Gilmore, Joel Parkinson, Layne Beachley, and others are an added bonus.


Ice Cream Headaches

Text: Ed Thompson
Foreword: Michael Halsband
Photography: Julien Roubinet
Publisher: Damiani Editore, 2018

Surf culture fans—especially of the “Tri-state area”—froth over Ice Cream Headaches’ inclusion of 40 New York and New Jersey local icons such as Mikey De Temple, the face of modern East Coast longboarding, and Tony Caramanico, Surf Hall of Famer. Also find appearances from homegrown pros like Quincy Davis, Maddie Peterson, and Sam Hammer, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Finnegan, and photographer Michael Halsband. This top-shelf hardcover book features 192 pages of essays, interviews, and full-color images including portraits and classic surf culture snapshots taken on the coasts of NY and NJ—printed on heavyweight FSC-certified paper sourced from Italy with spot-varnished photos for UV protection. The obscure title references the chilling “brain freeze” feeling one experiences when eating ice cream too eagerly, which many Northeast riders will note similar sentiments when duck diving underneath the icy Atlantic waves during notorious winter swells.

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Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die: Surfing Experts Share the Worlds Greatest Destinations

Author: Chris Santella
Foreword: David Mailman
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, 2019

An eye-drawing title and cover lures vagabonds and surfers alike. Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die is more than a surf break travel guide. It is a beautifully-illustrated compendium of bucket list destinations throughout the world. Covering quintessential beaches including Oahu’s North Shore, Australia’s Gold Coast, and Malibu, also discover unexpected gems like the tidal bore of the Amazon, the Gulf of Alaska, and shores of South Africa. Read about the frigid waters off Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, and the haunting port town of Nazaré, Portugal. Featuring interviews with seasoned experts such as pro surfer Joel Parkinson and Billabong executive Shannan North, Fifty Places to Surf takes readers on a thrilling virtual adventure through visuals and writing—divulging the details that make each venue unique, plus smart travel tips for those aspiring to surf there. This gift to yourself, or your fellow wanderlust surf buddy, is an essential bookshelf companion to whip out before booking/embarking on your next strike mission overseas.


Jeff Devine 70s Surf Photos

Photography: Jeff Divine
Foreword: William Finnegan
Copyeditors: Tom Adler, Evan Backes
Publisher: T.Adler Books, 2020

Born in 1950 and raised in La Jolla, CA, Jeff Divine started photographing the surfing world early days—eventually earning stripes to be at the helm as photo editor for Surfer magazine and Surfer’s Journal for 35 years. His works have been displayed worldwide in museums and galleries, in books, magazines, and media. In 2019, he was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame for his contribution to the surf world throughout his 50-year career reign. For someone who was there for the entirety of the ‘70s, and caught it all on film, this decade-specific book is an especially cool insider look at the groovy, colorful, unadulterated time of surfing Hawaii and California. From the coastlines of Baja, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, and Oahu, these salvaged images have been culled from his vast personal archive whilst shooting for Surfer. Within them, notice the pre-commercialized era of surfing when hippie influence still held away big corporate impact. For those who were there, even if just for a little bit, these images and stories are bound to bring back memories of simpler times, 70’s surf slang, surfboards with psychedelic designs handmade in family garages, and the close-knit culture that had a deeper connection to nature than to social media.

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Surf Like A Girl

Text + Design: Carolina Amell
Publisher: Prestel Publishing, 2019

Sassy and bantering, the title says it like it is. Surf Like A Girl profiles 30 women surfers who rip as hard, if not harder than some of their male counterparts. Hailing from all over the world, each gurfer is featured in spectacular photography and with their own inspirational words quoted in a spacious layout. Learn how American pro surfer Lindsay Steinriede’s father’s death has inspired her career; step into the studio of French board shaper Valerie Duprat and see how she sculpts foam; read about Conchita Rossler, founder of holistic surf and yoga retreat in Portugal; meet surfers over sixty, others who surf while pregnant, those who captain boats, and make movies. Stunning photography captures these revolutionary women from every angle in some of the most far-flung, remote locales. Whether they’re threading a barrel, charging a swell, or teaching yoga, these inspiring women prove that making waves goes far beyond levels of estrogen.

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High Tide: A Surf Odyssey

Photography + Text: Chris Burkhard
Publisher: Lannoo Publishers, 2015

You might have seen his name grace your Insta feed once or twice, or watched his kickass documentary on Netflix: Under An Arctic Sky, but have you stumbled across High Tide: A Surf Odyssey yet? Regarded as one of the most widely-known and talented outdoor photographers today, this is the ultimate photo book “on rough and tough surfing.” Expect breathtaking landscapes, remote and desolate places, high waves, high jumps, and extra-thick wetsuits. Burkhard and his team travel to the ends of the earth in this photographic homage to surfing in the most extreme, harsh, and forbidding conditions. Follows the surfers, and the stars, in an epic journey of untraversed land- and sea- scapes. This photobook is a stirring portrayal of the battle between the elements, the board, and man.

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Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding

Text: Richard Kenvin
Publisher: The MIT Press, 2014

Ever get high and think about the evolution of the surfboard? There was the first recorded chunk of wood in Hawaii, retro folk designs, then the burgeon of modern, mathematical craftsmanship in fancy hand-shaped styles. Today, fiberglass pop-outs have been streamlined and mass-produced identically by the truckload. Shedding light on the topic is Richard Kenvin, Director of the Hydrodynamica Project, writer for The Surfer’s Journal, and guest curator of San Diego’s coinciding Surf Craft exhibition. Kenvin shares his views on exemplary models and functional philosophy, as well as insightful research exploring the variation between thoughtful handmade art made for pure recreation and floating billboards for athletes/their sponsored brands—emphasizing the commercial rather than the culture. Mapping out the progression of surfboard design, enjoy 150 images dedicated to the dichotomy of a floating vessel engrained with aesthetics, engineering, culture, and history.

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Surfers’ Blood

Photography + Text: Patrick Trefz
Foreword: Joel Patterson and Rusty Long
Interviews: Margaret Cohen
Publisher: powerHouse Books, 2012, 2019

For most live-free, die-hards, surfing is in their blood; “it connects them to an extended family that is linked through practice, tradition, craft, emulation, apprenticeship, and shared experience.” Surfers’ Blood reaches out to those hardcore surfers-from-birth through an editorial portrayal of their sport and the livelihood surrounding. At the same time, it offers outsiders a peek into the intense, devout world of surfing lineage. This monograph comes from award-winning surf photographer and filmmaker Patrick Trefz, who’s put in decades behind the camera capturing the lifestyles and bloodlines of surf culture across the globe. Expect double-page spreads of oceanscapes, lineups, action shots, and portraits of both world champs and unsung heroes.

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First We Surf, Then We Eat: Recipes from a Lifetime of Surf Travel

Text: Jim Kempton
Foreword: Steve Pezman and Raphael Lunetta
Publisher: Prospect Park Books, 2018

With forewords from Steve Pezman, founder and editor/publisher of The Surfer’s Journal, and Raphael Lunetta, chef/owner of the Lunetta restaurants in Santa Monica and founding co-chief of JiRaffe, you know from the getco it’s going to be a banger of a book. Author Jim Kempton takes his lifelong expertise on surfing, cooking, and writing to package up First We Surf, Then We Eat. His impressive portfolio in SparkNotes version consists of editor/publisher of Surfer magazine; director of the ‘Quiksilver Crossing’ project, a boat that searched the world for the best surf breaks; director of media for Billabong; and the owner of the former Margarita’s Village, an award-winning regional Mexican restaurant in San Clemente. Kempton’s traveled to over 30 countries to ride waves and collect recipes—now shared in this cookbook collection of 90+ vividly colorful, flavorful, and healthful dishes ideal for post-surf appetites. Weaved in between worldly recipes are stories of waves, markets, restaurants, adventures, and misadventures he’s experienced from Australia, Hawaii, Basque Country, Indo, Mexico, and beyond. Maybe keep this one on the kitchen counter instead of the coffee table.

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Waves: Pro Surfers & Their World

Photography: Thom Gilbert
Foreword: Garret McNamara
Publisher: Abrams Books, 2019.

This ode belongs to the inspiring, athletic men and women who live and breathe surf every day and make a prominent career of it. Professional photographer and proud Long Islander, Thom Gilbert spent four years with his camera among surf royalty at the top of their game. He captured iconic figures disappearing and reappearing in throaty, hollowed-out waves. He’s also known for capturing raw, authentic moments of their victorious faces and tired bodies back on the beach. Behind-the-scene shots, intimate portraits, and in-motion steals of the world’s best make up the 300 vibrant photographs within. In addition, find a foreword by Garret McNamara, Guinness World Record holder for the largest wave ever surfed, along with Q&As with more pros and hand-written contributions from prominent figures on the beat.

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