The british isles has rich and storied surf history but for many years, not much of it was written down, that was at least until roger mansfield took the task in hand and started to write "the surfing tribe"
Originally released in 2009 and now back in a second, updated edition, it's a beautifully presented book, crammed with high quality photographs and little vignettes of the places and characters that have populated british surfing over the years. From the outside, its a mind boggling task to begin, even if you experienced much of it firsthand as Roger undoubtedly did. It must have taken a huge amount of work to bring it together. The resulting tome is well researched and lovingly written with a section for each of the surfing areas in the country, detailing the history of the scene in each place. The prose is easy to read if a little simple at times and the scope of the information is vast which perhaps necessitates the slightly simplified approach. While the focus is very much our own country's stories, the worldwide history of surfing is told in broad strokes which helps to contextualise our history within the greater whole.
Like much of history, it's the characters within the stories and events that make it interesting and as the name suggests, the sufing tribe is very much about people rather than places and things. With surfing's counterculture past it's little surprise that the book is filled with tales of wanderers, dreamers, chancers, visionaries and hustlers. Names that still grace our surf landscape today and names long forgotten, tales of derring do and those with better luck than judgement.What comes through it all is a peculiar britishness to surfing in this country, something the book rightly celebrates and something that we should be proud of and celebrate more than we often do. Surfing in our damp windy isle is not quite the same beast as it is in sunnier climes and this comes across well in "The surfing tribe".
All in all its a worthy addition to any coffee table or bookshelf. I like to think that I have a reasonable grasp on the past but I learnt many new things, not least about the stretch of coast closest to my front door. I enjoyed it and I think you would too!