Jan/Feb 2000 Book Reviews

Atlas of Australian Surfing

Mark Warren
HarperCollins (November 1999) 272 pages
ISBN: 0 73226 734 5

reviewed by Ann Skea

SURFERS: Get wired on the best Aussie surf spots. Know where to find humungous surf and which places to skip because the waves are mushburgers. Find out in advance whether the locals are friendly or aggro, where the sharks are most likely to include you in their food-chain, and where conditions make an unplanned burial at sea is a distinct possibility.

It's twelve years since Mark Warren first wrote this book and it became the travelling surfer's best friend. Now he has updated it, included more of the secret spots and made it (almost) waterproof and easy to fit in your glovebox.

Even if you can't travel yet, the photographs, maps, beach-names, info on weather, waves and tides, and Mark's special (graveyard) humour will keep your feet itching. Check out the interview with him and the super surf-pics at

NEO-GROMMETS, DREAMERS, SURF-CHICKS, SURF-PARENTS: This is just the book to get started on, to learn the jargon, to horrify yourself with or to give to a surfer as a present.

Some of the beach names are enough to scare you rigid (like "Coffin Box" and "Crazies"), not to mention areas like "The Anxious Coast" or "The Awesome Coast". And some of Mark Warren's stories are equally thrilling.

If you always thought surfers were mad then this book will either convert you or confirm your belief. Not only are there killer waves and sharks (bronzies, formula ones (hammer-heads), terries (tiger-sharks) and white pointers) to contend with, there are also aggro bulls, ferocious marsh flies, "extremely prejudiced" locals and places you are advised not to attempt unless you have a death wish. Sometimes sharks seem to be the least of the dangers and, as Warren points out, a surfer can always reduce the shark risk by at least fifty percent just by surfing with one other person.

Warren has a dry sense of humour and the glossary of surf terms at the back of the book is wonderfully enlightening and entertaining and definitely not PC. A grommet, for example, is defined as "trainee surf mongrel on the way to full surf-nazi statue"; and a Malibu, 'Mal' or Longboard is "for older physically impaired people or young mental retards".

Mark Warren, at the age of forty-seven, is presumably not a Malibu rider but he does still surf every day. Warren is a legend in Australian surfing. He helped to make surfing a professional sport and, in an interview with @surfer Magazine , he says of his early career: "It was travelling on a shoe-string budget...a surf now pay later plan".

Now, surfing has become so professional that it has been mooted as a new Olympic event. Meanwhile, for those who just want to surf, competition or no, this book is a comprehensive guide to Australian surf beaches and an enlightening read for the beach-bound.


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