My third non-fiction book, Amazing Surfing Stories, came out in September 2012. Remarkably, it's taken till now for me to realise that it was (nicely) reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement. Here's what Josh Raymond said:
Agatha Christie’s heroine Anne Bedingfield, in The Man in the Brown Suit, said of surfing: “you are either vigorously cursing or idiotically pleased with yourself”. Christie herself was keen on the sport, and one of the entries in Alex Wade’s Amazing Surfing Stories playfully speculates that when she disappeared for eleven days in December 1926 she was in fact riding the waves at Bridlington, on the Yorkshire coast.
Surfing offers danger, communion with nature and the possibility of high-speed grace, all without the hassle and expense of ski lifts, and, as with many “extreme” sports, discussion among its enthusiasts can oscillate between self-satisfation and incomprehensibility. It is therefore especially pleasing that Wade’s second book on the subject, following Surf Nation (2008), is so accessible and diverting.
There are a great many stories here, all short and true. We hear about world championships, shark attacks and three-wave holddowns, drug addictions, a stranding and the feeling of riding “Jaws” – one of the world’s most destructive waves – at night. The language is at once literary and idiomatic. “Stoked”, “amped” and “gnarly” could sit uneasily alongside “terrible grandeur” and
the “reeling perfection of Thurso East”, but Wade comes across as so steeped in respect for the ocean that the overriding impression
is of authenticity. A thirteen-year-old girl who continued to surf competitively after her arm was bitten off by a shark says simply,
“people in car crashes don’t stop driving”.
The book succeeds through a confluence of subject matter and structure. Some of these stories will transport us, others may pass us
by, and the feeling is eerily akin to that of surfing itself. Wade achieves a subtly different moral note in each piece, and even those dealing with death or suicide feel bound by a spirit of generosity and the value of saying “yes”.
It is a pity that Wiley Nautical do the author few favours. The layout is unwieldy, typographical errors lurk like sea urchins, and the
book went to press before an exuberant reference to Lance Armstrong could be cut. Fortunately these detract no more than do bumps and grazes after a day among the waves.