That 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.