Welcome to the September Reader’s Den! This month, we’ll be discussing Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread from Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, with Some Unexpected Results by Michael Scott Moore. This nonfiction book begins with the author’s apology that it is far from a complete history of surfing. Rather, it is a pop culture view of surfing’s global popularity from Californian influences.
The author explores lesser known surf venues, such as Morocco, Israel, and the Gaza Strip, in order to accomplish this. (Read an excerpt from the Pop Matters website). Sometimes, this unconventional take yields interesting insights. For instance, when asked if surfing is seen as contradictory to Islam, a surfer responds, “Young people are lost between a tradition […] which no longer exists, and a modernity that makes them unhappy because they can’t afford to take advantage of it as people from rich countries can. Surfing gives them a chance to live a little like young people today, to meet other people, perhaps to travel. Surfing is like a breath of fresh air.” (p. 132)
As someone who hasn’t spent much time on the West Coast and has never been to Hawaii, surfing has always seemed like a phenomenon reserved for a select group of the initiated. This view of mine changed somewhat when a friend took me paddle boarding for my birthday. Paddle boarding was popularized about a year ago by celebrities such as Cher. For those who live in New York, there's a paddle board club that can be seen paddling along the Hudson. My instructor talked about "Beach Boys of Waikiki," which prompted me to find a few sites on the history of surfing: