Journalist Dixon, the founding editor of Surfermag.com, has written an engaging, multifaceted story of an obscure locale off the California coast that draws the most daring big-wave surfers in the world. Rising sea levels submerged the Cortes Bank thousands of years ago, but the former islands are so close to the surface that they make for dangerous seas. Dixon chronicles the history of human interaction with the bank, starting with Native Americans before Columbus and encompassing the days of sail and steam before bringing in contemporary surfers with their jet-skis and adrenaline addiction.
Dixon’s ambition takes this story well beyond the realm of most surfing books. Early chapters include a daring reconstruction of an imagined journey to the area by proto-Chumash Indians. Accounts of American explorers and treasure hunters and the bizarre attempt to found a nation atop Cortes in the 1960s are equally fascinating. The second half of the book loses focus as Dixon tries to cover the entire history of big-wave surfing. Yet Dixon always writes capably, and his insider knowledge brings the allure and danger of this turbulent locale to life.
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