Deserves to Be Read (4 out of 5 Stars)
McNamara’s surf memoir is a worthy read if only for the fact that he was the first to conquer surfing a 100 ft wave. This work chronicles McNamara’s life from childhood through the present.
With respect to non-fiction memoirs written by prominent personalities from the surfing world, I make it a point to read them all. Unlike other athletic pursuits, surfers rarely take time to write about their sport. Hound of the Sea is a story written by a surfer for surfers. The title is a reference to the author’s Celtic surname meaning “hound of the sea”.
Unlike Finnegan’s Barbarian Days and Duane’s Caught Inside, McNamara’s story doesn’t come across as a literary, colorful, masterpiece of prose. Nearly all the chapters are 5-6 pages long that address specific milestones or memorable moments in the author’s life. The first 77 pages seemed pretty unremarkable at first, but later it was clear how the early non-surfing years of the author’s life gave shape to his life goal “To Keep Surfing”.
What I really enjoyed about reading this book was the honesty and mater of fact transparency the author so humbly offers to anyone interested in really knowing what it is to walk in his shoes (or more appropriately his flip flops). Among the elite few who’ve ever surfed “Jaws,” “Teahupo’o,” “Mavericks,” or “Cortes Bank” to name a handful of monster big wave spots, at one point or another, these surfers all discover that what they do in the water is like living in a fish bowl. The chapter titled “Incident at Cortes Bank” is one example of how the opinions of non-witnesses and media could really crush a person’s spirit. This was a really important passage and I’m glad McNamara chose to include it.
What I didn’t enjoy reading about was the cavalier attitude toward including marijuana and other drugs in the surfing lifestyle. True as it may have been for McNamara, it is sad and disappointing to be reminded that not every surfer (even those who are tremendously accomplished) is a clean living, serious athlete.
In the end, what worked for me as an admirer of Garrett McNamara was the “blue print” he developed to become the kind of serious big wave rider who is worthy of historical recognition. In the realm where McNamara operates (riding enormous killer waves), one cannot imagine how these surfers are able to keep fear in check. In his words, brief and concise, on page 219, McNamara says, “Fear is something we create, because we’re stuck in the past or envisioning the future. If we stay in the present there is no fear.” Coming from a man who’d endured the physical trauma of having his body tortured from the thousands of pounds per square inch and being pounded on reefs countless times, there is no question that Mr. McNamara has the credibility to speak to fear.
McNamara’s work is a testimony that even a crooked path can lead to greatness if one remains humble and sticks to their “blue print.”