Spooky Sunday Surfin’ Sunday Review
The Science of Surfing: A Surfside Girls Guide to the Ocean
Author/Artist: Kim Dwinell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Format: Paperback (6″x9″)
Pages: 112, full color
Reading Age: 9-12 years (grades 4-7)
SkeletonPete is a Hodad….
I’m not a swimmer. It wasn’t that I didn’t have access to the shoreline. Coney Island was a subway ride away. I could’ve easily hitched a ride to Rockaway Beach. Maybe the shock of Grandpa throwing 4-year-old me into the surf (expecting a miraculous Johnny Weissmuller moment that didn’t happen) put the kibosh on any further encounters with Davy Jones’s domain.
Even so, not being able to swim a stroke never impeded my appreciation for the art and skill of surfing. I spent many a Saturday afternoon glued to the TV watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports broadcasts of the Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Classic. Aside from the sport itself, I found the associated outsider kitsch of Big Daddy Roth’s Surf Fink’s, Annette Funicello trading in her rodent-eared headgear for a beach blanket, and the allure of ghosts in invisible bikinis totally irresistible.
So it was of great interest when an opportunity to review author and artist Kim Dwinell’s newest book, The Science of Surfing: A Surfside Girls Guide to the Ocean, came my way.
The graphic novel is Dwinell’s third dip into the sea-centric world of the title characters. Her two previous books introduced surfer friends Sam and Jade in narrative adventures. The Science of Surfing takes a S.T.E.A.M.y sidestep into Earth’s watery ecosystem and features the young ladies as guides. These aquatic Virgils lead readers through 5 installments that tutor on such subjects as the physics of wave formation, planet preservation, the dizzying range of oceanic lifeforms, to a thorough treatise on how to surf.
The book is dense with information but unfolds in an easy to grasp progression. Side bars pepper the text with cool facts. For instance, “Dolphins sleep with half their brain off, half on, to stay alert and breathe!” There are also valuable visual insights like how to differentiate a shark fin from a dolphin fin.
Charts and graphs are integrated into the scenes in clever ways to keep data from getting too dry (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and readers are often reminded of what was taught previously to support another concept later in the guide.
Dwinell’s line work has a fluid quality that perfectly compliments the easy going nature of her leading ladies. Her panel art has an inherent kinetic energy and consistently captures peak action points, much like animation key frames. So, it was not a surprise to learn that she spent part of her career as an animator and currently teaches a university level course on the discipline.
At the heart of the book is how to ride the ocean on a board. The author, a surfer herself, has her cartoon surrogates impart lots of information on the proper handling of a surfboard and yourself when attempting to catch a wave. Ocean etiquette and surfer jargon are covered as well. I’ve been listening to The Lively Ones’ “Goofy Foot” for decades and never knew what the term referred to… until now.
The book’s final chapter offers suggestions on how to lend a hand locally in pursuit of caring for our liquid resources and avoiding a worldwide wipeout.
It’s no spoiler to say single use disposable plastics are poison to the planet and especially to sea life.
The range of topics covered in The Science of Surfing can serve as an excellent catalyst for teachers to build any number of school projects around. It’s science fair gold, and at under ten dollars for a physical copy would be foolish to pass up.
I’m positive this book has the potential to inspire young readers to future goals not only as athletes but as veterinarians, biologists and conservationists.
I would love to see the author create a follow-up that highlights the indigenous origins of surfing, its past and present heroes and heroines, as well as its imprint on nearly every facet of pop culture.