In this revelatory and original book, award-winning author of the acclaimed surf memoir On a Wave illuminates the connection between waves, addiction, and recovery, exploring what surfing can teach us about the powerful undertow of addictive behaviors and the ways to swim free of them.
Addiction is arguably the dominant feature of contemporary life: sex, gambling, exercise, eating, shopping, Internet use—there's virtually no pleasurable activity that can't morph into a destructive obsession. For Americans under the age of fifty-five, the leading cause of death is drug overdose. But there is another side of addiction.
In some instances, the very activities that can lead to addiction can also lead out of it. As neurologists have recently discovered, surfing is a kind of study in the mechanism of addiction, delivering dopamine to the "pleasure" center of the brain and reshaping priorities and desire in a feedback loop of narrowing focus. Thad Ziolkowski knows this dynamic intimately. A lifelong surfer, he has been surrounded by addiction since his boyhood. In this unique, groundbreaking book, part addiction memoir, part sociological study, part spiritual odyssey, Ziolkowski dismantles the myth of surfing as a radiantly wholesome lifestyle immune to the darker temptations of the culture and discovers among the rubble a new way to understand and ultimately overcome addiction.
Thad Ziolkowski is the author of the memoir On a Wave, which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award in 2003, and Wichita, a novel. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, Artforum, Travel & Leisure, and Interview Magazine. He has a PhD in English Literature from Yale University and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the Associate Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, CUNY.