From its earliest mention in Captain Cook’s Journals in 1779, the surf has been a source of inspiration for beach lovers, sailing aficionados, and surfers alike. The surfing world has long been embraced by mainstream pop culture, thanks to a plethora of films like Blue Crush and iconic documentaries like The Endless Summer; and youth culture itself. Even people who don’t surf like to endear themselves to the kind of qualities that describe surfers: adventurous, strong-willed, curious, independent, daring.
In Surf (Glitterati Incorporated), artist Peter Wise pairs 60 of his collectible and evocative, powerful small paintings of the surf with anecdotes from surf-lovers around the world. From professional surfing legends, like Buzzy Kerbox, to surfing journalists and even businessmen who are surfers at heart—the artist showcases the inspiring beauty of the waves alongside stories from the people who know them best. Here is a book sure to inspire surf-lovers and anyone who understands surfing to be a metaphor for personal expression.
Beyond surfers themselves, this miniature art book will find a wide audience among lovers of music, fashion, business, and art—as well as those who love to ride the waves. In the introduction to Surf, Wise recalls, “Three years ago, I read a short article in a surf magazine about a deaf kid who had surfed since he was eleven years old. When he was eighteen, he surfed through the curl of a wave for the first time, and for the first time in his surfing life he could hear the water. That story, simply told, puts into focus what I want this book to be about: balance, beauty, courage, daring, and grace.
“I surfed as a teen on Cape Cod, and I’ve done a good bit of sailing, both close to shore and way out at sea. Though I don’t like to swim, I love to be out in the water. I also love to paint and draw, and over the years, I’ve been drawn to the water as subject matter. In school, I worked from the human figure but hadn’t done much with it lately. Then one day while looking at pictures in a surf magazine. I saw that it was all there: beautiful waves and human figures playing out a great visual drama together.
“Three years’ worth of artwork in reproduced here alongside text from friends who surf. While these friends might have day jobs and be known as businessmen of one sort of another, on a basic level they identify themselves as surfers. Most have surfed since their childhoods and still ride regularly, some every time there are waves nearby. Many can and do surf all over the world and can handle pretty much whatever is out there. In compiling this book, I was struck by my friends’ outward ease and willingness to engage me, an obvious nonsurfer, on my own level. I was never talked down to. I think the respect I have for their abilities was answered by their interest in my paintings.
“Surfing goes through periods of fashion and faddishness. I know a little something about that as someone who turned thirteen in 1966. But this book is more about people who don’t follow trends, but rather move on gradually, step-by-step, seeking their own balance between the thrill of new experiences and the comfort of being at ease in one’s own body, whether engaged inwardly with mind and spirit, or outwardly with the great world that surrounds us.”
Wise grew up with S.C. Gwynne, executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine, who wrote the preface to Surf. As Wise observes, “Sam is a great story teller and a distinguished historian. We grew up as summertime friends on Cape Cod. We are the same age. As teens we shared a love of stick shifts and cigarettes, Buffalo Springfield, and Ernest Hemingway. Sam studied English with Carlos Baker in the winter; we talked about Ginger Baker in the summer. To this day we still can sit down on a breezy porch in July after not seeing each other for a year and talk into the night about what matters.”
This deep, interpersonal relationship resonates in their collaboration in Surf. Gwynne paints a picture with words, complementing Wise’s vibrant visions of man, water, and land. In the preface to Surf, Gwynne sets the scene perfectly: “There is a moment when you drive down the Mid-Cape Highway, running high and handsome along scrub pine forest and bone white dunes, when the road begins to rise up before you and keeps rising until there is nothing in front of you but the vanishing horizon line of the road and the naked blue Italianate sky and maybe a couple of gulls wheeling off toward the continent’s end. There is a very clear and precise moment when all of this comes into perfect balance, when bit feels as though you are about to be launched off the edge of the earth and into something like pure limitlessness.
“It is a bright, still, high summer day in 1971, and we’re going surfing at the outermost point of the United States of America, a place on Cape Cod called Nauset Beach, which is famous for its icy waters and wicked currents, infamous as the graveyard of three thousand ships, the sort of place marked on the old mariners’ maps with the sign There Be Monsters Here. In my memory, I am riding in Peter’s 1962 Volvo, the kind of car with the humpback that looks like some sort of archetypal racing machine out of a Warner Brothers cartoon and happens to feature the fastest cigarette lighter in the Western Hemisphere. We are eighteen, wearing cutoff shorts and college T-shirts, smoking menthol cigarettes, and quite possibly drinking Narragansett beer. The radio—on intermittent WABC-AM out of New York City—blast tinny, trebled-up songs by Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, and Three Dog Night. We have no particular plans in life. Surfing is just one of the infinite possibilities in front of us.
“Our surfboards are strapped to the roof of our friend Dave’s legendary, smoke blue 1963 Oldsmobile F-85, enormous boards that Moondoggie would have ridden in the original Gidget movie. We arrive at the great broad sweep of beach—think of it as the radius bone of the giant flexed arm that is Cape Cod—and launch ourselves from the lovely, southwest-breeze-inflected eighty-degree air into glacial fifty-five-degree water, and off into the big scrolling surf of the outer Cape.
“Since none of us know how to ‘catch’ a wave, or exactly what we might do with it once caught, there is not a lot of surfing. We fall a good deal and occasionally one of us stands up, accompanied by a feeling of wild, primitive exhilaration.
“Mainly, we lie on the board a lot and squint toward the horizon for nonexistent wave sets, our bellies and hands and ankles as cold as Titanic survivors, while our backsides gently barbeque in the sun. It is entirely thrilling. We are surfers, sort of. We are in the life.”
Special Offer to All Readers of The Chic:
A 70% Discount on Your Purchase of Surf
When You Use Coupon Code thechic70 To Shop On Our Website: Click HERE.
Artwork from Surf by Peter Wise
Curated by Miss Rosen