The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth
From Chronicle Books
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A hundred miles off the California coastline, a fabled peak rises from the depths of the North Pacific, stopping just twelve feet short of the ocean's surface. Legends and grave warnings surround this submerged mountain, known as Cortes Bank–rumors of lost ships, spinning compasses, of bus-size sharks and man-size lobsters. Yet, the most daring of big wave surfers head out to the Bank for one simple reason: it is home to the biggest rideable wave on the face of the Earth; a swell of massive proportions that surges in from out of nowhere like a monster.
In this meticulously researched, salt-crusted adventure tale, journalist Chris Dixon hits the high seas to bring the secrets of Cortes Bank to the surface, drawing readers into the harrowing world of the most enigmatic rock in the sea and the tremendously dangerous big wave surfing that occurs above it. He recounts stories from Greg Long, Brad Gerlach, Mike Parsons, and a cadre of divers, explorers, sailors, nation builders, and lunatics who have all tried their luck at Cortes Bank and barely lived to tell of their encounters. This astounding true story of the Everest of the sea will captivate anyone with a curiosity about, and respect for, the vast and unknowable ocean.
What is Cortes Bank?
- A lost Channel island 100 miles off the coast of California
- A serious navigational hazard that nearly sunk the longest ship in the US Navy
- A graveyard of lost ships
- Home to lobsters the size of men and sharks the size of buses
- Site of the strangest nation building project in the history of mankind
- Site of the most dangerous missions in the history of surfing
- The producer of the biggest rideable waves on earth
About the Author
Chris Dixon is the founding online editor of Surfer magazine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, Surfer, and Surfer's Journal. He lives in Charleston, SC.
Praise for Ghost Wave
"Ghost Wave takes us to a place of almost mythic power and tells a story that unfolds like a long ride
on a killer wave. I can't imagine doing what those surfers are doing out there on Cortes Bank--and
I can't imagine a finer book about them. This is a beautifully researched and compellingly written
book. I read it straight through from the first page. Terrifying."
-Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
"Mystery shrouded, invisible from shore, riddled with hazards real and imagined, the Cortes Bank is a
sort of Rubicon. Only a handful of surfers have crossed to the other side. In Ghost Wave, Chris Dixon
traces the Bank's maritime history, the fanciful civilization of Abalonia, and the absolute madmen who
chase shifting peaks in the open ocean."
-Scott Hulet, editor, The Surfer's Journal
"You approach Ghost Wave" expecting a story about a wave. What you leave with is a new, perhaps previously unknonwn fascination with indigenous peoples and nautical sciences, addiction psychologies and crackpot entrepreneurialism...all presented with positively Melvillean wrath to emphatically measure the true Everest of the Pacific against all other bathymetric monsters. -Matt Pruett, Surfline
"As surfers launch into the takeoff zone near Bishop Rock - the spot's highest outcropping, and thus responsible for a perfect, peeling wave - they ride above the jagged ruins of the Jalisco, an ill-fated freighter from the mid-1960s. Countless other tales come to life, the result of official documentation and Dixon's educated excursions through myths, rumors and flights of fancy."
-Bruce Jenkins, The San Francisco Chronicle