Stealing the wave : the epic struggle between Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Martin, Andrew
Stealing the wave : the epic struggle between Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo
Ken Bradshaw’s picture is hanging in my living room, and I’ll tell you why. He surfed the biggest, or one of the biggest, waves of all time (estimated at 85 feet) on January 28, 1998 on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.  This is an interesting account of two very different men, both trying to attain the status as one of the best big wave riders in the world. Bradshaw (born 1952) arrived in Hawaii in 1972, having surfed in his native Texas and California.  He was tall, built like a linebacker, gruff, and single-minded in his pursuit of surfing big waves.  Mark Foo (born 1958) was a native of Singapore and moved with his family to Hawaii, then Maryland, Florida, and back to Hawaii for good in 1975.  Foo was boyish, slim, photogenic, media-savvy, and relentlessly attention-seeking.  He had interests in real estate, writing surfing articles, surfing documentaries, and women.  Ever the opportunist, Foo courted corporate sponsorships.  Naturally, they clashed when both in the surf and on land, about everything from surfing technique, to using the media, to surfing contests, to what surfboards to use.  They both tested their mettle in Waimea Bay, where waves were regularly 20 feet tall or better. Bradshaw, the big brute, was so territorial he actually bit into Foo’s board with his teeth and left it in chunks, because he felt Foo stole his wave. Bradshaw was not above knocking guys off their boards and brawling on the beach.

The author surfed the smaller waves and spent a lot of time with the book’s subjects and other surfers in Hawaii.  His prose is sometimes overwrought as in: “Bradshaw was re-enacting the trajectory of the entire American nation, going from the east to the west of the continent and then keeping on going, pushing the frontier ever further outwards into space.  Bradshaw was America.”  The middle of the book dragged for me somewhat. He describes their philosophies, training regimens and the prevailing surf culture.  It gets interesting again when he describes Foo’s successful attempts at creating a harem of Brazilian beauties in his home. I wish the book had photos of Ken and Mark; the back cover had to suffice for me.  This book is recommended for landlubbers and surfers alike.