In this, Casey splits her attention in a few different directions to examine big waves in various contexts. First, in a narrative she goes back to again and again, she follows surfers, particularly Laird Hamilton, as they attempt to surf bigger and bigger waves across the globe, with a lot of focus on Hawaii's "Jaws" surf spot. Interwoven with the surfing, which is probably the easiest for the layperson to understand, she talks to scientists who study waves, salvagers who recover ships wrecked by huge waves, historians who look at
What all of this underscores is that the ocean is really freaking scary, and it's likely to get even more so. We actually know very, very little about how waves, particularly big waves, work--one of Casey's interview subjects points out that, after a certain size, waves kind of stop acting like water waves and start acting kind of like waves of light, which is totally weird. We can't study them in their natural environment to any great degree because, as another interviewee pointed out, if you encounter a hundred-foot wave, you're probably trying to survive it, not measure it. But we know that they occur much more often than we used to think they did, and that they're doing a lot of damage--like apparently sinking two shipping ships or tankers per week, and why is no one pointing that out??? I think Casey did a good job of pulling in all kinds of information that people don't really encounter about waves and the ocean, and by using the surfing as the core of the narrative, she focused a lot of the science into through a lens that a lot of us laypeople can understand.
I listened to this an audiobook, and the narrator, Kirsten Potter, was excellent. She has a very conversational way of reading the book and, while some of her "surfer guy" impressions came off as very stereotypical and maybe even mildly offensive, she really made the book engaging. I think this is one that would have been good in actual book form as well, but it was a good choice for audiobook!
Overall, I really enjoyed this. It's a great science book about a topic that I don't think is really frequently covered in the "popular science" category. Apparently Casey has written some other books that have serious ethical questions involved regarding her behavior in researching and writing them, but I really liked this one, didn't see any issues like that, and would recommend it to others.
4 stars out of 5.