November 4th, 2013

Welcome To Paradise, Now Go To Hell – Chas Smith

Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, is surfer and former war reporter Chas Smith’s wild and unflinching look at the high-stakes world of surfing on Oahu’s North Shore—a riveting, often humorous, account of beauty, greed, danger, and crime.

For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, swarms of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans flock to Oahu’s paradisiacal North Shore in pursuit of some of the greatest waves on earth for surfing’s Triple Crown competition. Chas Smith reveals how this influx transforms a sleepy, laid-back strip of coast into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca.

Smith captures this exciting and dangerous place where locals, outsiders, the surf industry, and criminal elements clash in a fascinating look at class, race, power, money, and crime, set within one of the most beautiful places on earth. The result is a breathtaking blend of crime and adventure that captures the allure and wickedness of this idyllic golden world.

This debut effort from Smith, a war correspondent turned surfing journalist with a cruel, sometimes witty eye, is a mix of reportage and gonzo journalism for the surfing set. Mixing shameless, fey bluster that he dubs Trash Prose and occasionally trenchant observation, Smith delves into the scene surrounding the big-money surfing contests on Oahu, Hawaii’s legendary North Shore. As the pro circuit arrives for the winter wave season, Smith sketches an exposé of the tensions between local Hawaiian surfers and low-level gangsters and the established surfing professionals, surfwear brand representatives, and out-of-towners during this seasonal demographic change. Smith’s favorite subject, however, is himself: he sees himself as an outlaw raconteur whose articles garner so much resentment he gets roughed up at a party. He also provides endless descriptions of his wardrobe—he calls his style his version of Island Dandy, which is purposefully at odds with everything Oahu’s North Shore stands for. If Hunter S. Thompson circa Hell’s Angels merged with a fashion critic to write about surfing for Maxim, the result might be similar. Smith’s approach is myopic, writing for an audience that already knows the sport and the names. There are some astute observations (particularly his analysis of why surfing is essentially a lonely sport), but ultimately the book fails to reveal much beyond the author’s considerable self-regard.

“His book is ostensibly about surfing on the North Shore of Oahu, but he seems to spend most of the book talking about himself.”

welcome-to-paradise-now-go-to-hell-chas-smith

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