Friday Reads — Caught Inside: A Surfer’s Year on the California Coast by Daniel Duane

1843That I even know about this excellent book is a triumph of social media. I’ve talked here before about books on surfing, my landlubber’s interest in the sport and lifestyle, and even reviewed other books on or by surfers via Amazon and Goodreads (back when I had a Goodreads account anyway). Most recently was my commentary on the “Surf Noir” collection written by my friend Jeff McElroy called Californios. Anyway, this got me to chatting with another writer friend on the opposite coast, who also surfs (and sails and cooks and who knows what else’s), named Kieran Shea (his debut novel, Koko Takes a Holiday, looms soon on Titan Books). Out of the blue he asked for my mailing address so that he could generously send me a book; that book was Caught Inside: A Surfer’s Year on the California Coast, by Daniel Duane. When I posted a picture of it on Instagram upon its arrival, McElroy also weighed in on its excellence, and suggested another Duane book to look for.

I wrapped up what I was reading and leapfrogged it to the top of the TBR pile, and I’m glad I did.

Nonfiction, Caught Inside is almost a collection of essays; it just isn’t broken out as such, which works just fine. By far my favorite aspects of the book are Duane’s musings on and descriptions of the ecology of the Northern California coast. The crabs and starfish, the otter who makes his home around Duane’s favorite surf spot, seals and dolphins, and even terrifying discussions of sharks. The people he shares the community he lives in, and his fellow surfers and how their lives are dominated by the ocean, are fascinating. The physics of waves, and descriptions of being inside them, are also compelling. He’s no champion surfer, which makes it more accessible as well. Literary without pretension, the writing is inspiring.  Duane also underscores that “surf culture,” such as it is, is comprised by a lot of people who are basically jerks; not by pointing it out necessarily, he just leaves us to reach our own conclusions. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has read anything on the sport, or watched any of the excellent documentaries available. It makes me wonder what the attitudes are like out on our growing river surfing waves right in downtown Missoula. Hopefully I’ll find out for myself here in the next summer or two. . . .

This was a great read. I’ve already secured a copy of Daniel Duane’s novel, Looking For Mo, and it won’t be long before I dig into it.


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

12 thoughts on “Friday Reads — Caught Inside: A Surfer’s Year on the California Coast by Daniel Duane”

  1. When I saw the titles, I was thinking what you began with–why is a guy in Montana so enthralled with surfing! I still have a few of McElroy’s stories to read, but I have enjoyed the ones read so far.

    1. Surfing is one of those sports I hope to try. Rock climbing, something many of the surfers I read also do, is something I’m not interested in trying. I love to hike, but I’m not too interested in testing gravity with some ropes and hardware.

  2. A few things: KS has me whenever he mentions a book. And he’s never led me astray. You say essays and I’m doubly there. I’m reading two collections of essays at the moment (Didion, Mailer) but will search this out. And I have a Goodreads page but have let it lapsed. Not sure why. Do you care to expand on why you let yours drop?

    1. I read Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem earlier this year and really liked it. As for Goodreads, I enjoyed it for a while. However, the more I started reviewing stuff, even just a few paragraphs, I started getting more and more requests from strangers saying something like, “I see you read blah blah blah and liked it, I think you might like to read my novel, blah blah blah….” I even started getting some unsolicited stuff from publishers. My feeling is that I am happy to review stuff for my friends, or of stuff I really like, but I am not a “reviewer,” you know? I’m a reader who occasionally likes to share a few thoughts about the books I read, nothing more. So rather than being put in the position of having to be rude (because I hate to say no) I just dropped the account.

  3. I enjoyed Didion’s SLOUCHING so much that I’m now working through her follow-up, THE WHITE ALBUM.
    Gotcha on the Goodreads. And I have quite a few thoughts on that subject that are not fully cultivated. I will say it is hard for Indie publishers to get the word out without becoming annoying. Very difficult. But I do become annoyed by “Buy my book!” Buy my book!” all day long. I have tried many different approaches and realize it comes down (for BTAP books) to old fashion word of mouth.

    1. It’s an uphill road, no doubt about it. Sometimes I think I’m overly jaded from the years trying to push independent music on a disinterested audience, or on people who would rather download it (i.e. steal) it for free somewhere. But I’m still a fan of the old-fashioned cover letter, or at least some effort to interact. From a publisher, a contact first to determine if I’m interested would be nice, or if one is “just” a writer, interact a bit. Make me care about your work. Don’t just blast in out of the blue spamming. That’s a downer to everyone.

      I think you do a good job of it, Dave, personally.

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