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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread from Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, with Some Unexpected Results » User review

Surfin' Safari

  • Apr 12, 2010
Moore goes around the world to trace the history of surfing's athletic, economic, and cultural spread to places not normally associated with surfing culture. After a brief review of the accepted history (Hawaii to California to Australia and the other usual surfing hotspots) Moore takes off for-- Germany . . . the Gaza Strip . . . Morocco.

Yes, Germany is [mostly--see my mea culpa in the comment below] landlocked, and yes, there is a small "surfing culture" on the canals and rivers of Munich. But this book isn't about how big the waves are there, or how to catch them, but about how the culture got there (his question at each location: who was the first person who stood up on a board and rode a wave here?) and how it has impacted the area politically, culturally, and economically.

While the American military during and after World War II was often the carrier of the concept of surfing to these far-flung places, this isn't a book about military imperialism, but it is one that talks about cultural and economic imperialism and its influence in the least likely ways and places. For example, in the chapter on Israel and the Gaza Strip you will learn how surf boards crossed security checkpoints--only to be lost in the cultural maze of Middle Eastern politics.

The closest I've gotten to surfing is boogie boarding during family vacations, and listening to Jimmy Buffett music, but Moore's subject and style doesn't require deep surfing knowledge--partly because, in proof of one of his points, of how deeply ingrained the "idea" of surfing is in the leisure lobe of the modern mind.

The other aspect of this book I hinted at in my review title is its value as a travelogue of places, some perhaps familiar, some not so, but all viewed with a different set of eyes. I was reminded Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu or The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific; Moore shares a similar vibe with Martin Troost in those fresh looks at familiar (we assume) places.

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review by . September 14, 2010
To be honest, I think that the appeal of Sweetness and Blood is limited to those serious or semi-serious surfers. It's a great read if you're familiar with surfing people and their environs, but at times it seems to develop a little bit of "been there... saw that... got the t-shirt" feeling.    For me, the "how" is too often cloaked in mystery and legend. There is some history, but the true interest in this is the way that surfers adapt to local cultures and lifestyles (like …
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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"Moore and a robust we suit have boldly gone where only seriously unhinged dudes have gone before, mapping out fresh, unexpected cartography of the waves...What he has done, subtly and beguilingly, is write a book about surfing that often is not really about surfing but about simply being alive. Moore is a modern surf troubadour, singing the adventures of a cast of eccentric pioneers...Moore writes in a spirit far closer to Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia than to the latest issue of Curve."
-- Andy Martin, author of Stealing the Wave, New York Times Book Review
“A wild, passionate, and thrilling ride; in the company of Pacific princes, beatnik athletes, and outlaw long-boarders, Michael Scott Moore catches surfing’s global wave through a sweeping history of America’s most liberating, taut, and tanned cultural export. Glorious!”
—Rory MacLean, author of Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India
“Warm, smart, funny, and beautifully written. Sweetness and Blood goes off the beaten surf-path to give us a bigger, more interesting surf world.”
—Matt Warshaw, author of The Encyclopedia of Surfing
“Michael Scott Moore has delivered a perfect tale, filled with adventure, insight, and exquisite turns of phrase. For those who think surfing is just some Cali boys running around saying ‘dude,’ he shows that wherever there’s water, from Munich to the Gaza Strip, ...
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ISBN-10: 1605294276
ISBN-13: 978-1605294278
Author: Michael Scott Moore
Genre: Outdoors & Nature, Sports
Publisher: Rodale Books
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"Surfin' Safari"
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