Stealing the Wave: The Epic Struggle Between Ken Bradshaw & Mark Foo (2007) by Andy Martin
Big-wave surfing is an art. It also takes a lot of balls. Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo understood both axioms in their own “opposites attract” way. Tracing modern-era big-wave surfing from the death of icon Eddie Aikau through the untimely (and totally perplexing) death of Mark Foo at Maverick’s, a strech of break off the coast near San Francisco with a reputation for danger, Martin composes an engrossing account that mates the evolution of the sport itself with the rivalry that defined it.
I first became aware of this book after reading a masterful William Langewiesche article in an early 2011 edition of Vanity Fair. I was really glad I went the extra mile and tracked this book down (for, incidentally, $.99 on Amazon). This full expansion on that smaller peiece does a great job of capturing the test of wills that pitted tradionalist Bradshaw against the flashy, media hungry Foo (at one point, Foo earned the nickname “Two Phones Foo” from the constant deal-making he engaged in on the beach via not one, but two of those giant Gordon Gekko mobile phones simultaneously).
Ultimately, the reader is left with the feeling that Bradshaw resented Foo immensely, especially Foo’s wacky, neverending lust for fame (Foo allegedly pitched Miller Lite on riding a board shaped like a beer bottle, provided they paid him enough). Yet, despite his perception that Foo was hellbent on contaminating the purity of the sport, a bond of sorts does form between them – just before the tragedy at Maverick’s, a location they traveled to together in what turned out to be not only the infancy of a potential business partnership, but its end as well.
The “epicness” of the “struggle” mentioned in the title is certainly questionable as the number of direct confrontations are few, but that doesn’t prevent Stealing the Wave from being a gripping page turner all the same. Very well worth the read, especially if you’re even remotely into surfing.
- An interesting account of the tragedy at Maverick’s here…
The Smoking Cupcake, October 2011