If you don't surf then reading about the Hawaii in this book is as close as you will ever get to it. You can take an idyllic family getaway to Honolulu; play in the sand, maybe even stand up on one of the gentle rollers at Waikiki, dine at the Cheesecake Factory and you will cry hyperbole. Hell, you could even hire a Mustang convertible, dissect Oahu via the Kamehameha Highway, park near the church at Waimea Bay on the fabled North Shore and if it's winter, witness some madmen ride liquid mountains but you'd not be privy.
It's not till you paddle out at Pipe, on a real West swell, try to position yourself in one of the more competitive and life threatening line-ups in the world that you will come face-to-face with the characters and world of Hawaii that Chas Smith presents. It is searing under the surface of the Mai Tai sipping, ukulele strumming stereotype that Elvis sold our grandparents back in the 50s and that we've all kind of wanted to buy into ever since.
With a brash, Gonzo flair, Chas dives head first into the surf world underbelly of the North Shore. Intermixed with vivid depictions of his 'island dandy' outfits are insights into Hawaiian culture and the brutally managed chaos you get when you mash proud cultural tradition with a fervent band of surf misfits from around the world that descend upon a small strip of beach for a brief period over the Northern Hemisphere winter, all with an insatiable thirst for surfing glory.
With a penchant for the grittier side of surf culture, Smith captures one of the most honest portrayals of the North Shore ever written. His reluctance to stray from controversy borders on self-destructive and is probably indicative of what initially drew him to war reporting and the lawlessness of the North Shore in the first place. Ironically, his irreverent honesty also means that he finds favour with the heavyweights of the scene, providing an unusual level of access to the stories and more colourful characters that inhabit what is known as the Seven Mile Miracle.
If you're going to surf, this book is a survival guide. If the furthest you travel from your suite at the Royal Hawaiian is to do some souvenir hunting at Ala Moana shopping centre, then this will be a page turner that you can talk about with your friends when you get back to work.
The glam and the grit of Hawaii is knit together by the sardonic wit of Smith. You'll tear through this thing faster than a Keiki shorey through a tour bus load of Mid-West Mainlanders simply looking to cool off in the crystal clear waters of the Pacific.
“All the soldiers in the North Shore war laugh after telling their stories and none of the soldiers want their stories published. The war never ends. It restarts every winter and all of the soldiers must come back. And they will get slapped if their stories are published.”