New Book Alert: "Birth Of The Endless Summer: A Surf Odyssey" - Stab Mag
Robert August, Mike Hynson and lady friends on the Australian leg of their "Endless Summer". Photo: Bruce Brown

New Book Alert: “Birth Of The Endless Summer: A Surf Odyssey”

A review and an interview with the book’s writer, renowned surf journalist Jamie Brisick.

features // Jun 28, 2023
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Birth of The Endless Summer: A Surf Odyssey by Jamie Brisick is available exclusively on Scribd. Stab readers can enjoy a 30-day free trial of Scribd here.

“In the film Papillon (1973), Steve McQueen has escaped from a French penal colony in the jungles of South America. He needs a boat,” Jamie Brisick writes.

“…He goes to the local leper colony to see if he can rustle one up. With a face covered in lesions, the head leper grills him and passes him his saliva-drenched cigar. It’s a test. McQueen takes a puff — and passes that test.”

The test that Brisick refers to here is not merely whether or not Steve McQueen will be too prissy to take a puff from a leper’s stogie, but whether or not McQueen will fully accept a culture and a people so foreign from his own.

“I’ve waited years to use that ridiculous example,” Brisick tells me over the phone, “and with this book, I was finally able to. To me, the puffing of the cigar represents the acceptance of the foreign. That is what The Endless Summer taught me, to be a surfer is to be a traveler.”

Jamie Brisick, who currently resides in Malibu, is a former ASP World Tour competitor who also happens to be one of our sport’s most decorated and prolific scribes (he’s the only pro surfer to ever be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship). His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Surfer’s Journal. He has also authored six books, including his newest one and the subject of this article — The Birth of The Endless Summer: A Surf Odyssey.

Brisick is a good enough writer to make a film that came out 57 years ago still seem essential to the young surfer today. Yes, the level of performance in The Endless Summer is comparatively primitive to today’s surfing, but The Birth of The Endless Summer: A Surf Odyssey is not about the skill of a surfer but the character of one — how can the act of wave-riding and the search for swell around the world become a “vale of soul-making”? How can the unique suffering and triumph of travel mold a soul into a world citizen, thereby sanding out their roughness?

Your writer, Jamie Brisick, all hands on deck in his surfing heyday. Photo: Surfer Magazine

Like all great books, The Birth of The Endless: A Surf Odyssey raises more questions than it answers. But the exploration of these questions leaves the reader with more knowledge than they came in with.

The book begins with Jamie recounting his childhood experience watching The Endless Summer for the first time. Jamie told me, “The Endless Summer — at least for me personally, but I think for a whole generation of us — laid down the blueprint of what it means to be a surfer or what you do as a surfer, which is, you go. You go abroad and you chase waves around the world.”

But instead of merely musing about the film and his own travels, Jamie sets off on a workhorse reporter march to interview some of the world’s most traveled surfers on what it means to dedicate a life to searching for water to dance on.

The marquis interview here is with Dick Metz, the 94-year-old whose 1958 solo surf journey around the world was what inspired The Endless Summer in the first place. Metz outlines his Odysseus-esque journey that started with only five goals: meet Tahitian women, surf in Australia, see the Olympics in Rome, run with the bulls in Spain, and see the tribes and wild animals of Africa. What ended up happening was a multi-year jaunt around the globe, culminating in sleeping with lions and surfing Cape St. Francis, which led Dick to tell Bruce Brown about the place, leading to the climax of the film where “…every wave was perfect.”

Dick Metz photographing his vehicle at Cape St. Francis, early 60s. Photo: Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center

Jamie’s conversation with Dick Metz reminded him why The Endless Summer captivated him in the first place, “This book is so close to my heart because I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. I grew up in cookie-cutter suburbia. I was in this homogenized world and I think I was longing for something more exotic, something outside of what was familiar and surfing was my vehicle to get out there and do that,” Jamie explained.

The surprise for me about this book (and what some publishers would call the “value-add”) is the treasure chest of never-before-read conversations with surfers like Rob Machado, Nathan Fletcher, Barbarian Days writer William Finnegan, Kassia Meador, Dave Rastovich, Derek Hynd, and Strider Wasilewski on The Endless Summer and their experiences traveling.

We get peeks into their lives that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Dick Metz at John Whitmore’s house. John Whitmore was the “Lawrence of Arabia” figure that would eventually guide Mike and Robert to Cape St. Francis a few years later in The Endless Summer.

Rob Machado opens up about the tough divorce that sent him into self-exile and eventual self-discovery in Bali through his movie The Drifter.

Nathan Fletcher talks through the details of that fateful wave at Teahupo’o and what it taught him about risk and mortality.

Dave Rastovich muses about a life of “meaningful play” and what his experiences with dolphins and whales off the coast of Australia have taught him about humans.

Derek Hynd recounts the story of losing his left eye in a contest and returning to competition the next year, only to leave the competitive world behind to document poverty and pollution around the world, from Transylvania to Chernobyl.

And Strider explains his experiences trying to make a name in pre-gentrification North Shore as a haole, and what barrel-riding taught him about life in general.

Dick Metz alongside Duke Kahanamoku. Outfits have not changed much. Photo: Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center

Embarking on a book is nothing casual.

Jamie said, “One time I drank a bunch of wine and told my friend Thad Ziolkowski, a writer I really respect, that a great idea had occurred to me. Thad said, ‘Jamie that’s not a book, that’s a magazine story. A book requires much more focus and attention than that. An idea for a book should be like a rock in your shoe that you just can’t get out.'”

The Endless Summer was a big enough rock in a writer like Jamie’s shoe to merit a book. It’s worthy of your time and attention.

And the feeling I got upon reaching the final word of the book was the same one I had when I myself first saw The Endless Summer. I felt discontent. In a good way. I was no longer satisfied with the places I’ve been to and seen. I wanted to puff the leper’s cigar. I wanted to pass the test. And, like it had before, my board bag could get me there.

Read The Birth of The Endless Summer: A Surf Odyssey by Jamie Brisick here, with a 30-day free trial of Scribd.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

How To Build A Surfboard Factory 

"If you want to make a million dollars making surfboards, start with 3 million." -Jeff…

Oct 1, 2023

Michel Bourez And Jeremy Flores Win Inaugural Edition Of The Quiksilver Festival in France

Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too.

Oct 1, 2023

“It’s Important Who The Fuck These Surfers Are, Because They Form Who You Are”

Legacy surf journo Matt George speaks on his new book 'In Deep' — the literary…

Oct 1, 2023

Was Mikey Wright’s Parallelograming In ‘Repeater’ The Best Accidental Surfboard Ad Of 2023?  

Watch: Ryan Burch, Kobe Hughes and Derrek Disney on Parallelograms, Pickleforks and Keels. 

Oct 1, 2023

Why Jason Momoa Had A 26-Year Old Kauaian Surfer Write His United Nations Speech

Maluhia Kinimaka reminds us that professional surfing, science, and helping the planet are not mutually…

Sep 30, 2023

Maxed Out In France

Massive swell provides both ample playing field and entertainment for second day of competition at…

Sep 28, 2023

Is Australia’s Investment In Youth Surfing Working? A HP Coach Breaks Down The Model 

Watch: ‘Limitless’ ft Lennix Smith, Hughie Vaughan, Sierra Kerr and Isi Campbell and decide for…

Sep 28, 2023

Who Makes The Best Surfboards In 2023?

According to our survey of 7000 people, you and Italo might have similar taste. 

Sep 28, 2023

A Tube Festival Within A Festival

Two-for-one deals all day at the Quiksilver Festival.

Sep 27, 2023

Full Frame: “There’s No Lineups, It’s Breaking All Over, You Just Have To Be In The Right Place At The Right Time When A Bomb Comes In”

Brett Barley on Hatteras Island, by Daniel Pullen

Sep 27, 2023

Long Read: Stradbroke In The Subcontinent

Chasing beachbreak bliss in Prohibition-era India.

Sep 27, 2023

Stab Recommends: Xcel Comp X Fullsuit

A suit that increases blood-flow and protects against burglars.

Sep 27, 2023

How Kipp Caddy Got KO’d + Tore His Hamstring Paddling An Outer-Reef Bombie

It involves a friend’s 8'4" spearing him in the head…

Sep 26, 2023

How Surfers Get Paid Season 2, Episode 2

Loyalty and the Royalty of the Performance Surfboard.

Sep 25, 2023

The Surprising Link Between Neoprene And The USA’s ‘Cancer Alley’

A forthcoming documentary called 'The Big Sea' will change how you look at wetsuits.

Sep 25, 2023

Radioactive Wastewater From Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant Is Being Dumped In The Pacific Ocean

What does releasing 500 Olympic swimming pools of fission fondue mean for surfing? 

Sep 24, 2023

Meet Aranui 5: The 126m, 103-Cabin Luxury Cruise Ship & Home To Olympic Surfers At Teahupo’o 2024

Who's gonna get the Presidential Suite?

Sep 23, 2023

Here’s How The Surfers Feel About The 2024 Schedule

Kelly Slater, Caroline Marks, and nine other CTers share their thoughts.

Sep 22, 2023