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Book Report: Surf Science


Surf Science, University of Hawai‘i Press, $32.
In a famous routine glorifying the intellect of physical education majors everywhere, comedian Bill Cosby answered his own semi-rhetorical question, Why is there air?, with the obvious punchline: To fill up basketballs. Right. The thin yet weighty tome Surf Science aspires to fill in precisely those types of gaps with a comprehensive explanation of global weather and how it affects the waves. Written by two European surfing scientists, Tony Butt and Paul Russell, with assistance from Hawai'i oceanographer and wave guru Ricky Griggs, the book provides many fascinating insights into the elaborate energy transfer from sun to air to water to beach. That transfer creates the gentle rollers lumbering ashore in Waikïkï as well as the frightening, controlled wipe-out that is Mavericks, the deadly big-wave spot off the coast of California that claimed Hawai'i pro surfer Mark Foo.

Readers will learn about the Coriolis effect, coastal geomorphology and the spring neap cycle. Although Butt and Russell claim the book aims to hit the sweet spot between arcane scientific gobbledygook and Cosbyesque simplemindedness that has heretofore passed as surf folk wisdom, Surf Science feels more like a mental exercise than a quick read. For those serious about surfing, who wish to gain a true understanding of waves and further learn how to predict future wave activity with a modicum of accuracy, Surf Science is a gem. For the casual surf junky more concerned with the ride than the bathymetry and degree of swell direction, the book may be a bit like dragging out a Waimea gun to surf Rubber Duckies.

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From the Aug. 30, The Boston Globe article, "Hawai'i's homeless law fuels tension," by Globe correspondent Pat Bigold.

From fabled Waikiki Beach, one of the places where the homeless congregate on O'ahu, to the neighboring islands that conjure the image of paradise to planeloads of tourists who arrive daily, there is increasing tension between the thousands of homeless people, their advocates, and state, city, and county governments.

Darlene Hein, a homeless advocate who works at Waikiki Health Center, said there's an inevitable tension between homelessness and tourism.

"Obviously if visitors go to the beach and see homeless people, it just doesn't suggest the image of Hawai'i and aloha," said Hein.

Fueling the ill feelings is a new state law that went into effect in May allowing police to arrest homeless people if they return within a year to a spot from which they were rousted.

It's why Hawai'i will make the National Coalition for the Homeless' "Meanest States" list for the first time next month [September], debuting at No. 3, according to coalition cofounder Michael Stoops. Meanwhile, Honolulu will jump from No. 19 on the "Meanest Cities" list to No. 9. … [Stoops] cited not only the new state law, but earlier actions, such as police sweeps of beaches and parks, the removal of benches where the homeless slept in Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, and the installation of razor wire under viaducts.

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