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Teahupo'o, Tahiti (Tim McKenna)

The Breathtaking Surfing Photos Featured in Swell

A new book catalogues some of the best sites around the world to catch a wave with stunning photography

Sinewy, salt-licked surfers drift through ocean towns, heeding a secret siren song. To most of us bobbing in the shallows, their stunts are terrifying and fascinating, inspired, it seems, partly by a death-wish, partly by a desire to heighten life. There’s something universally recognizable in their drive to be as close as possible to the fearsome pull of the ocean, more hypnotic than a flame, more fleeting than a sunset. Swell takes us close to the action without getting us wet. This beautiful book, put together by two veterans of Surfing magazine, Evan Slater and Peter Taras, chronicles in more than 100 glossy photographs and sparse but straightforward essays the four places and phenomena—the Pacific northern hemisphere, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific southern hemisphere and the Atlantic hurricane—that generate the biggest waves on Earth. Some of the photographs seem as though they’ve been lifted from the pages of a glossy vacation brochure, but some are genuinely surprising. On one page, there’s a black and white image that looks like a corner of an Abstract Expressionist canvas, on another there’s a wrinkle in the water that might be a ripple in a water glass, until you see the surfer, insect-like, floating on the surface, a tiny creature, beholden to the forces below him.

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About Chloe Schama
Chloe Schama

Chloe Schama is deputy editor of the New Republic and writes regularly about books for Smithsonian magazine. She recently published Wild Romance, a critically acclaimed nonfiction account of a Victorian-era marriage scandal.

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