Surf, Sweat and Tears




“I don’t normally read books about surfers, but this is like Truman Capote,
with shorts.” —Lee Child

“Andy Martin, to his immense credit, knows that surfers are misfits and accidental comics, as well as great athletes.” —Matt Warshaw

“A sublime mixing of stoke and sorrow, hedonism and the macabre—skillfully and deftly penned by someone who had, and still has, intimate access to many of the key players."
—Tom Anderson, author of Riding the Magic Carpet: A Surfer's Odyssey to Find the Perfect Wave

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About the Book

This is the true story of Ted, Viscount Deerhurst, the son of the Earl of Coventry and an American ballerina who dedicated his life to becoming a professional surfer. Surfing was a means of escape, from England, from the fraught charges of nobility, from family, and, often, from his own demons. Ted was good on the board, but never made it to the very highest ranks of a sport that, like most, treats second-best as nowhere at all. He kept on surfing, ending up where all surfers go to live or die, the paradise of Hawaii. There, in search of the “perfect woman,” he fell in love with a dancer called Lola, who worked in a Honolulu nightclub. The problem with paradise, as he was soon to discover, is that gangsters always get there first. Lola already had a serious boyfriend, a man who went by the name of Pit Bull. Ted was given fair warning to stay away. But he had a besetting sin, for which he paid the heaviest price: He never knew when to give up.

Surf, Sweat and Tears takes us into the world of global surfing, revealing a dark side beneath the dazzling sun and cream-crested waves. Here is surf noir at its most compelling, a dystopian tale of one man’s obsessions, wiped out in a grisly true crime.

270 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-231-3 • E-book 978-1-68219-233-7

About the Author

Andy Martin author photo

Photo © Jessica Lehrman
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Alongside teaching French at Cambridge University and writing a column for the Independent newspaper in the UK, Andy Martin has travelled the world as a keen surfer. He got to know Ted Deerhurst when reporting on the international circuit as surfing correspondent for the Times of London. He is the author of numerous books including: With Child: Lee Child and the Readers of Jack Reacher, The Boxer and the Goalkeeper: Sartre vs Camus, Stealing the Wave and Walking on Water.


Read an Excerpt

“The ideal of sliding is therefore a sliding that does not leave any trace: that is, sliding on water.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness.

This is how Rabbit thought Ted had died:

It was one of those fall days with a foretaste of the winter to come. A big day at Sunset. Obviously Ted had to go for it even if he knew he shouldn’t. And he deserved respect for that. If he really was in as bad shape as they said he was, then he was a hero every time he paddled out. He could die at any moment in the water.

The pre-winter swell sparked off breaks all along the North Shore, but none more so than Sunset. Sunset was known for hoovering up every passing swell, something to do with the configuration of the reef. A storm way up in the Aleutians thousands of miles away and now, in the middle of the Pacific, the same pulse was cranking out perfect waves, almost like a machine. Of course there was no such thing as a perfect wave, there was only ever the wave that was in front of you, and if you surfed it then it was about as close to perfection as you were ever liable to get. On this particular day, Sunset was like an enthusiastic young dog you threw a stick for, jumping and leaping way up in the air, off the leash, running free, bounding up and down for sheer joy. But, by the same token, unpredictable, erratic, out of control.

And Ted was part of it. He was always part of it. He was a little bit like that young dog too. Or a flying fish, glinting silver in the sun. He thought of Sunset as his wave now. And he couldn’t not turn up on a big day. Especially this early in the season. It would be like a dereliction of duty. He would be like a deserter, chickening out under fire. Ted would never chicken out. The more anybody told him to go back and retreat, the more he would go forwards and push on even unto death. That was his way. He had, after all, only just turned forty. He wasn’t dead yet. So he paddled out. He would always paddle out, come what may. That was the thing about Sunset, it almost sucked you out regardless, the rip was like a conveyor belt, carrying you out into the great maw of the wave, all you had to was hop on. A few effortless strokes and you were right out there, way out the back, beyond the impact zone, where all these superb unbroken waves stacked up like planes over an airport waiting to descend. All you had to do was select which one you wanted to ride. Sunset had the feeling of inevitability.

Maybe it appealed to Ted’s sense of history. In a way this was about as primitive as you could get. As long as there had been oceans and islands, waves like these ones had slammed up against the shore. The ancient Hawaiians had surfed these very same waves – centuries before Captain Cook ever set sail, in the golden age before evangelical Puritans persuaded them to put some clothes on – and Ted was only carrying on an immemorial tradition. He really felt that. Like an Olympic athlete taking firm possession of a baton, passed on from one man to another, for ever and ever. A gentle offshore breeze pinned the waves back and groomed them neatly and held the door open long enough, just for you, almost like the elevator in a classy hotel, so you had time to get in properly before dropping down the face.

The set of the day manifested itself on the horizon. Wave after wave reared up out of the blue like hump-backed whales breaching. Not too many guys out on this glorious morning. Ted had the rare feeling that it was just him out here and the ocean. He could take his pick, like pulling a card out of a whole pack that a conjuror had fanned out in front of him. And lo, this one was his wave, no question about it. He positioned himself right on the peak, windmilled his arms, and leapt to his feet and without even thinking carved an effortless line down the face. He cranked out a bottom turn and then pulled up into a high line looking for a way in to something that did not yet exist. And suddenly there it was.

Behold the tube, the relentless, spinning, grinding core. The wave folded over, the curl was thrown out right over his head, and Ted found himself in the tube of his life. He was right in the belly of the beast. Notwithstanding all the high-performance acrobatics of the younger generation, this was surely the quintessence of surfing. If surfing had a soul it was right here, right now. Ted kept on driving down the line and with his right hand scribbled a message over the face of the wave, instantly erased all over again as the wave kept on spinning, like the wheels of an immense one-arm bandit. The curtain came down over Ted. Maybe he went too high, because the next thing he knew he was tumbling around in the vortex, dragged up and flung down again. They call it the snake’s eye, when the cylindrical core of a wave closes with someone inside. The eye blinked shut. On Ted. The evanescent architecture that is the interior of a wave collapsed. Like a tall building being demolished by a wrecking ball. With Ted inside.

Which is when, Rabbit thought, he would have had the seizure and therefore drowned. Unconscious plus underwater equals death in fairly short order. Sometime later the body was recovered and he was cremated and then they paddled out for him on a serene day at Sunset and formed a circle and all held hands and said what an all-time surfer he had been and this is the way he would have wanted to go and then scattered his ashes out on the water where he would always be remembered.

This was pretty much how Rabbit Bartholomew, world champion pro surfer, had seen Ted’s last wave, as he told me when I met him in Coolangatta, in Queensland. It was a scene that had replayed itself in his head, from time to time, over the last twenty years. He’d had it direct from Bernie Baker on the North Shore. Never questioned it. It was a good story. Made perfect sense. Ted would do just that, come what may.

Except that it didn’t happen quite like that. In fact, nothing like that at all. Rabbit had been severely misinformed. Not that I blamed him. The North Shore, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, was like a myth machine. Dreams and delusions proliferated like waves. Not too many of the inhabitants cared about the more complicated truth. Everybody lied, to themselves and others. And they had good reason, in certain circumstances, to avert the gaze. The code of omertà. The North Shore could legitimately lay claim to some of the greatest breaks on the planet. But it was for sure a place of heartbreak too.


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