Read these best surfing books by women!
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Today more than ever, women are making a positive impact on the surfing world, as they share accomplishments, challenges, and personal stories that combine patience, perseverance, and risk-taking – all in the name of pure joy and exuberance. For beach lovers and surfers, you can still immerse yourself in the world of surfing and read this three fun and fascinating surfing books published this year by passionate female surfers.
Offering unique perspectives, the authors of these surfing books below are exceptional storytellers who invite readers into their personal lives that were shaped by their love of riding waves. While the books are very different in style, tone, and format, they are certain to keep you stoked and craving the ocean’s swell and serenity!
Inspiring surfing books for women of all ages
Costa Mesa, California-based surfing instructor Vanessa Yeager is the founder of the popular Facebook Group, “Women who surf,” which has grown exponentially in the past few years. She understands firsthand the value of female support in surfing — in the water as well as on the shore. She says, “I think it is important for women to read surfing books written by women — because we share a similar wavelength and lifestyle. Plus, it feels great to support my fellow ‘sea sisters’.”
Dr. Julia Colangelo, Columbia University professor (and “Flow Surfers” podcaster) says, “The unique experiences shared by women surfers empower us to explore the mindset shifts, success, and challenges faced uniquely by women in the water. Surfing books written by women allow conversations and community to be amplified outside of the surf, which then brings us back in connection when we surf alongside one another or are cheering on from afar…”
She continued, “When we read from female surf authors, we are instantly reminded that there’s a place for us in the surf community, on the next set of waves, or in the waves of life that may introduce challenges and stress. Just like surfing can empower and heal us, reading from women surfers can do the same.”
Book recommendations for beach lovers and surfers!
Check out these surf books written by female surfers at several stages of life, as they will immediately transport you to the beach for a much-needed dose of “vitamin sea”! And PS…These wonderful books are available on Amazon and are excellent gifts for yourself or the surfer in your life!
I was fortunate enough to meet the lovely author Vicky Heldreich Durand in person on the island of Oahu, Hawaii in early March 2020 – just a few days before the COVID-19 shutdown occurred throughout the United States. I was in Hawaii researching the chapters I was writing for the Fodor’s Travel Guide for Oahu (see details about that guidebook here).
Vicky and I had breakfast together outside on the beautiful terrace of the iconic Halekulani Hotel overlooking the legendary Waikiki beach on my last day on the island. In retrospect, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to connect in person…She kindly gave me an autographed copy of her book, Wave Woman: The life and struggles of a surfing pioneer (Sparkpress). I started reading it on my flight home and couldn’t put it down!
Wave Woman is an intriguing biography of her mother, Betty Pembroke Heldreich, who moved to Hawaii in the 1950s when she was in her early 40s (with the author and her younger sister in tow), and quickly fell in love with surfing. After learning to surf and overcoming obstacles, she became an early female surfing pioneer, won a number of awards (including the annual Makaha International Surfing Championship) and traveled far and wide for competitions.
Although she was well known in Hawaii’s surfing circles at the time, Betty was nearly forgotten by history, until her daughter, Vicky (a talented surfer as well), decided to write this exceptional biography and share it with the world.
The book reveals many aspects of Betty’s (and Vicky’s) lives prior to their arrival in Hawaii, as well as their move to the islands and their time adjusting to (and embracing) the “aloha” lifestyle. Focusing on Betty’s effervescent spirit and optimistic attitude, the book chronicles her life, various relationships and surfing adventures. Most of all, the book is a fascinating time capsule that beautifully captures Waikiki and the Hawaiian surfing community from an earlier era — the 1950s and beyond.
In this captivating book, Rockaway: Surfing Headlong into a new life, New York Times reporter and author Diane Cardwell writes about her initial curiosity while watching longboarding surfers and her persistence in learning to surf as an adult. Rockaway (HMH) chronicles her move from New York City to the sleepy beach town of Rockaway, New York a few years ago to improve her skills. In an effort to live the ultimate surfing lifestyle, she purchases a small bungalow, makes new friends and does her best to surf just about every day — devoting much of her time to learning all about the ocean, tides, and catching waves.
Her story is filled with her many challenges while becoming a true “surfer” and getting to know Rockaway’s longboarding community. She openly discusses shredding the fears that come along with the ocean and surfing.
She also writes (in terrifying detail) her firsthand experience with the massive east coast hurricane, Superstorm Sandy, which left major devastation in its path to much of the local coastline in New York and New Jersey in October 2012. In its aftermath, Cardwell actively helped to rebuild the town after its devastation – and she continues to live there today. Not surprisingly, she surfs all the time!
If you’re seeking a surfing book that’s a cross between a voluminous coffee-table centerpiece with stunning, colorful images of the ocean, as well as inspiring stories of women who excel in the sport, She Surf (Gestalten Books) is an excellent choice! Written by professional surfer Lauren L. Hill, this book illustrates the complex history of women in the surfing world and their positive influence on the sport – all with a global, feminist perspective.
This compelling book features a dive into early surfing history and Hawaiian surf culture. It also shines a bright spotlight on some early female professional surfers — as well as several of today’s champions. Best of all, the stories of these legendary, powerful female surfers in She Surf takes us on a fun journey around the world. This includes destinations such as the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii…to Brazil, Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Morocco, the Maldives – to other beautiful surfing locations.
Celebrating diversity, She Surf is an all-encompassing book with incredible imagery, intriguing background stories of world-class surfers, and an exhilarating look at how women have shaped the surf culture from the early wave riders to the present day.
Updated for 2023: Bonus books about surfing and women who surf – Check out:
These fascinating books will provide surfing inspiration for anyone who loves the ocean, or dreams about the beach!
Swell: A sailing surfer’s voyage of awakening by Liz Clark (One of my personal favorites and I highly recommend this page-turner!)
The Surfing Lesson by Elin Hilderbrand, an award-winning writer who creates captivating stories.
Make your own waves: The surfer’s rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs, an inspiring book by Louis Palter.