Ocean lovers, this little-known book from the 60s is a must-read
In the mid-90s, while roaming the library at the University of California at Santa Cruz for all things surfing, I came across an amazing book, a 1964 first edition by Willard Bascom. Waves and beaches: the dynamics of the ocean surface. Surfing was a bit of a mystery back then. I have done a lot, mainly on a rocky point north of the city. I spent even more time thinking about the beauty of the crashing waves, the constant flow of sand, and how great it would be if I could predict either with any semblance of precision. But I knew next to nothing of the physical forces involved.
Like most surfers of the day, my best wave forecasting tool was a battery-powered weather radio. Every night before I fell asleep, at the time when smartphones colonized every moment of our awakening, I turned on this radio to listen. An authoritative male voice, in a recorded statement updated hourly, as if speaking from a high perch with an endless view of the sea, sounded the wind and wave data from each offshore buoy along from the west coast. From the far north, this man’s voice moved south, indicating the local wind speed and direction of each buoy, as well as the direction, height and interval of the swell at high. sea.
My imagination always conjured up images of those buoys swaying and swaying in the dark night of the ocean. If a particular buoy’s swell value suddenly increased in size – from, say, three feet at ten seconds to eight feet at 17 seconds – my mental image would jump with it. This meant that the waves were already on their way towards me, moving hundreds of miles across the surface of the sea. Sheer excitement often seeped into my sleep, causing me to wake up in the wee hours. I lived on a quiet street near a beach and opened a window to listen to the sound of the waves. Over the years, I had become extremely sensitive to the quality of that thud, from the smack of summer channels spanking sand to the booming thunder of midwinter monsters. By counting the seconds between impacts, I could also tell if a new swell had started to hit. If it did, I would lie in bed and gaze at the ceiling, running an unconscious algorithm that analyzes local tides and likely winds to choose the best time and location for the next day’s surf.
Beyond that, however, my relationship to the sea was heavy with questions and light with answers: Where do the surf waves come from, anyway? What makes the waves break like they do? What exactly happens when we catch a wave on a surfboard?
âThe trick of surfing, of course,â Bascom writes, as if to reply to the latter, âis to move the board and balance the weight well so that the downhill drag can take over the propulsion work. as the wave passes below.
The scientific stupidity of this prose suggested that Bascom’s imaginary reader was a seaside town Beaver Cleaver, flipping through the pages while sweeping the airwaves with his house radio – someone like Bascom himself, in other words. Born in New York in 1916, Bascom went to college at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and then worked at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego. I was so delighted with the square nature of Bascom’s writing in the UC Santa Cruz library that I brought the book home. For months, I swam through Bascom’s curiously comprehensive treatment of a delightfully narrow subject: the physical dynamics of ocean waves and the beaches they crash against.
This included: an extensive treatise on the origins of all ocean waves; mathematical descriptions of their ideal forms; nice explanation of how the gravitational interaction between the earth, the moon and the sun creates the tides; and gripping tales of destructive tsunamis and rogue waves encountered by ships at sea.
I didn’t have a lot of money for books at the time, and I returned the library edition after school. At that point, however, Waves and beaches had lodged on the surfer’s library shelf in my mind as one of the few truly must-have titles, a book that any true ocean lover just had to own in order to feel complete. Years later after getting a real job I tried to buy a copy but was disappointed to find that Waves and beaches Supply was so scarce and demand so high that prices had become ridiculous. One can still find copies online for over $ 100. So I was really delighted to find out, at the end of last year, that Patagonia was releasing a third revised edition for 2020 ($ 30). Better yet, given the time that had passed, this new edition had been updated by an oceanographer by the name of Kim McCoy who spent years researching wave dynamics in surf areas, sailing and sailing. go freediving all over the world and, according to its “About the Author”. “, recently completed an Ironman and will continue to swim, dive, surf, sail, rock climb and paraglide until movement stops, slimy drag ceases, buoyancy is lost and gravity ultimately wins. ” Better yet, McCoy befriended Bascom in the later years of his life and even discussed possible updates to Waves and beaches before Bascom’s death in 2000. McCoy, in other words, was the perfect man for the job.
Once I got my hands on a copy of this latest edition, I immediately noticed several things. First, McCoy and Patagonia clearly conceive of their project as both an act of preservation – reintroducing a forgotten masterpiece – and a true continuation of Bascom’s oceanography, bringing it up to date like Bascom did. – even could have done it if he was still alive. The physical design of Patagonia Waves and beaches also shows quiet wisdom: securely bound in a hard cover but no dust jacket, and printed on heavyweight paper, it seems specially designed to survive decades of repeated references, trips to the beaches in backpacks of sand and transmission to future generations. Fascinating new photographs of giant ocean waves, along with easy-to-understand scientific illustrations, speak directly to our information-hungry modern minds; and the careful balance between Bascom’s original prose and McCoy’s additions reflect a perfect understanding that Waves and beaches remains a must have for any surfer, sailor, kayaker, kiteboarder, freediver and beach lover who has always wanted to know exactly how and why water and sand behave the way they do.
McCoy’s contributions are particularly relevant to contemporary ocean research technology, recent epic storms, and the chilling details of climate change and how it threatens coastal cities. I was also delighted to find the ancient scientific stupidity of Bascom supported by McCoy’s precise new ideas on surfing. These include an 11-point summary of ideal wave conditions for surfing, such as: âThe lateral wave speed – the lateral extension of the loop along the ridge – should be between one and two. times the land speed of the wave. “
They also include equations for calculating how fast a surfer must travel across water to catch a wave of any particular height – 35 miles per hour for a 60-footer – and how fast a surfer is moving when he is. rides on giant waves in NazarÃ© in Portugal, an incredible 50 miles per hour. McCoy even gives legally questionable advice to anyone curious about the sensation of a free fall from a 30-foot wave: just drive a car over a bridge at 30 miles per hour and jump out the window into the river in below.
Best of all, McCoy’s editing allowed me to savor passages I had ignored or forgotten, like Bascom’s account of the dream job that led to the writing of the book. Bascom was in his late twenties at the time and was already a researcher at Scripps when, in 1945, he was hired by what he calls the “World War II Waves Project” at the University of California at Berkeley. This team had been created, wrote Bascom, “to develop scientific means to determine the characteristics of beaches and waves that would make it difficult for landing craft to approach enemy-held beaches.” His work continued after the war and allowed him to spend five years exploring and surveying the beaches along the west coast of the continental United States. It sounds like a lot of fun. In those simpler days of fewer people and rudimentary equipment, Bascom and his colleagues drove the amphibious DUKW Landing craft right by the beach in gigantic swells. Having seen restored DUKWs used for sightseeing, I was amazed to re-read Bascom’s account of deliberately riding big waves in one while cranking the motor on a wave face and coming back to shore.
Equally enjoyable, in a very different way, was the chapter on the subtle hydrologic forces that create ephemeral sand shapes like tiny gullies, cusps, and pinholes – the sort of thing we’ve all noticed during of our own walks on the beach but without even thinking of spending days and weeks happily explaining weeks.