Breath is by far the best surf fiction book I have read, in fact it’s in my top ten books ever.
My original plan was to read through all the best surf fiction books and write reviews for each in a single blog post. I still have Don Wilson’s The Dawn Patrol to read, but I’ve got to tell you about Breath immediately.
Breath has been reviewed by The Independent, Guardian and NY Times to name just a few. So I’m not going to attempt an in depth book analysis, as there are plenty of other more competent reviews available.
However if you care for a slightly more unique opinion from a Surfer Dad, read on.
Breath is told from the viewpoint of Bruce “Pikelet” Pike, a young lad growing up in a sleepy sawmill town called Sawyer (a fictional place on the West coast of Australia).
As the title implies the book has a ‘breath’ theme throughout. As a boy, Pikelet and his best mate ‘Loonie’ compete to see who can hold their breath underwater the longest. As a teen, the thrill of big wave riding causes a few heavy hold downs. And asphyxiation, resuscitation and didgeridoos all play their part in Pikelet’s adult life.
The author Tim Winton is no stranger to the sea, he was born and currently lives in Western Australia and has surfed all his life. With experience and emotion drawn from the West Oz ocean, Winton has conjured mythical waves for all to enjoy in Breath. From the fun peelers at The Point to the mind-blowing gut-wrenching Nautilus, there’s something for every surfer to soak up.
Winton writes with knowledge, respect and affection for the ocean, in a way that all surfers will instantly recognise, absorb and relish. Winton’s way with words is typically Australian; no-nonsense yet thoughtful, earthy yet poetic, brutal yet enjoyable. But what made me want to share the brilliance of Breath immediately was the closing paragraph, when Pikelet talks as a Surfer Dad:
“Out there I’m free. I don’t require management. They probably don’t understand this, but it’s important for me to show them that their father is a man who dances – who saves lives and carries the wounded [Pikelet becomes a paramedic], yes, but who also does something completely pointless and beautiful, and in this at least he should need no explanation.”
I like that: being a father who dances, who does something completely pointless and beautiful, without having to explain.
If you have a surf fiction favourite, please share by adding a comment, emailing or by the usual social media methods.