Surfing Tropical Beats

Sam Bleakley, photos by John Callahan

Surfing Tropical Beats cover

Surfing Tropical Beats cover image

Surfing Tropical Beats book pages

Surfing Tropical Beats book pages image

Surfing Tropical Beats 1

Surfing Tropical Beats Haiti © JS Callahan photo

Surfing Tropical Beats 2

Surfing Tropical Beats Haiti © JS Callahan photo

Surfing Tropical Beats 3

Surfing Tropical Beats Haiti © JS Callahan photo

Surfing Tropical Beats 4

Surfing Tropical Beats Haiti © JS Callahan photo

Surfing Tropical Beats 5

Surfing Tropical Beats ©-JS-Callahan photo

Surfing Tropical Beats 6

Surfing Tropical Beats Vietnam © JS Callahan photo

Surfing Tropical Beats 7

Surfing Tropical Beats Hainan China © JS Callahan photo

In this much anticipated sequel to Surfing Brilliant Corners, Sam Bleakley and the surfEXPLORE team take us on a rollercoaster ride through Gabon, India, Vietnam, Algeria, China and Haiti, drumming up a tropical beat. Combining ‘Deep Travel’, John Callahan’s incredible photography and Sam’s performance writing, they capture the spirit of these turbulent coastscapes, blood racing, running on saltwater fuel. The wide belt around the Equator – the tropics – has become an alluring path for travel, but a region often steeped in war and environmental disasters. Sam and surfEXPLORE go off the regular route, carving a niche, collaborating with locals, documenting the occasion poetically and with precision. Where ‘waves transform from green glass to white foam, the surfboard is the frozen double of that transition – a rainbow bridge that allows you to step in the blink of an eye from inertia to adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy to the fear of the water-wrestling hold-down.’ The paradoxical red hot and cool blue of surfing, and the often icy logic of preparation for challenging travel, form a matrix from which springs a distinctive kind of writing as performance. By turns, surfEXPLORE gather their wits at the crossroads where ‘lovers part and souls get taken by the lost highway, lured down the wrong route.’

Sam Bleakley is a professional surfer, writer and explorer. He has been a multiple European, British and English longboard surfing champion, and is sponsored by Biomimetics Health Industries UK. He has an MA in Geography from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge and is currently researching a PhD in Travel Writing at University College Falmouth. He is author of Surf­ing Bril­liant Corners, and is widely published and featured in international magazines, including The Surfer’s Path, Wend, SurfNews and Pacific Longboarder. Sam lives with his family above Gwenver Beach, Sennen, Cornwall.

John Callahan is a freelance adventure photographer, celebrated for his vivid framing, vibrant colours and flair for capturing the character of coastscapes. He is one of the most widely published surfing photographers in the world. His images appear regularly in National Geographic Adventure, Lonely Planet Magazine, and Surf Trip Journal Japan. John lives in the tropical city-state of Singapore, and is the pho­to­grapher for Surf­ing Bril­liant Corners.

Sam and John have a combined work ethic that eclipses any sense that surf travel is an easy living. When they go to work, they go to work!

  • 1 surfEXPLORE
  • 2 Getting Traction in Haiti
  • 3 Gabon to the Point
  • 4 India Multikulti
  • 5 Vietnam Hot and Cool
  • 6 Algeria Under the Rainbow
  • 7 China Cat Sunflower
  • 8 Haiti Post Quake
  • 9 Haiti Apocalypso
  • 10 Infusion Surfing
ISBN: 9780906720851
1st edition
192 pages
143 colour photographs
220 x 170mm
Dis­trib­uted in Aus­tralia and New Zea­l­and by Wood­slane. Mandarin-language edition (see below) published in China by Hainan Publishing House, Haikou, ISBN  9787544340298

Surfing Tropical Beats Chinese edition front cover image

‘Best yet in Surf Travel Writing
… a vivid sense of place, …  a refreshing and word-class style of contemporary travel writing. Surfing is the lens to explore, but the heart of the story is people and place in areas usually represented as disaster zones. I have recently read books about Haiti, and none seem to capture the energy evoked in Surfing Tropical Beats. …  should appeal to all readers interested in adventure, travel and exploration.’ (SurfTravelBooks, 09.04.12)

‘incredible photography’ (Carve Surfing Magazine, issue 132, 12.04.12)

‘Algeria in particular is a real eye-opener.’ (Wavelength Surf Magazine, on their ‘Most Wanted’ page, issue 214, 05.12)

‘a really incredible new book… It’s about travel, it’s about the environment and it’s most definitely about waves. But above all it’s about the human condition and in particular how the journeys to the highest mountains (or in this case the remotest waves) always take you through the deepest valleys. … A fantastic book which journeys into the heart of darkness where the music, the waves and above all the people give us hope.’ (Tim Kevan, The Barrister Blog, 02-05-12)

‘… lots of shots of Holly Beck and Baybay Niu, so definitely some surf girl style too.’ (Surf Girl, issue 37, June 2012)

‘En inglés, con fotos y reportajes sobre los remotos enclaves surferos… Combinando exploración con aventura al ritmo tropical.’ (3Sesenta, no. 156, June 2012)

‘Im SURFERS haben wir ja schon viele ihrer immer wieder ungewöhnlichen Reiseberichte veröffentlicht, und wer sie gelesen hat, weiß, dass es hier um mehr geht als nur ums Surfern selbst. Für jeden Reise-Freak unter euch ist dies mit Sicherheit eine spannende Lektüre!’ (Surfers, issue no. 90, June 2012)

‘Sam Bleakley has once again teamed up with John Callahan, taker of really quite awesome photographs. … [They] got stuck into some “deep travel” … with their route reading a little like a war/environmental disaster correspondent’s to do list. The result is an authentic account of some of the less fabled new frontiers in surf travel. Definitely a recommended read.’ (Cooler, issue no. 37, June/July 2012)

‘Though surfing is the vehicle, they are more than idle passengers, serious about getting under the skin of places… read Bleakley’s text for a dense, philosophical delving into the nature of what they do, or skim through to oggle John Callahan’s surf and travel photography. Both journeys are worth making.’ (Action Asia, May/June 2012)

‘One … travel writer worth seeking out for some rather leftfield angles would be the surf writer Sam Bleakley. He’s done two books of sort of surf-jazz-travel essays, which are excellent, and he has a very interesting stylistic approach …  They come with pretty fine photos too…’ (Tim Hannigan, Response to Alison Flood, Guardian, 10.08.12)

‘O jornalista Sam Bleakley lançou o livro Surfing Tropical Beats, com o registro de surftrips que fez em lugares exóticos, como Gabão, Haiti e Vietnã. As fotos foram tiradas por John Callahan.’ (Hardcore Brasil, issue 275, August 2012)

‘Sam Bleakley is a unique character in the surf world… Surfing Tropical Beats is his second compendium of travel writing… it’s not just about the search for waves in countries like Haiti, Algeria, Gabon, China and Vietnam. It is also a meditation on “otherness” and what can be learned from it. Sam’s key writing motif is jazz and surfing as interchangeable forms of expression, the wave dance mirroring the spontaneity of freeform jazz… to anyone interested in a wide-angle view of the surf world, and especially its colourful margins, this book offers real food for thought and pages of inspiration.’ (The Surfer’s Path, Issue 93, Nov/Dec 2012)

‘former Euro and UK champion longboarder Sam is a highly talented writer… whose travels are photographed superbly by Singapore-based John Callahan … In this book the group [surfEXPLORE] returns to places visited in the last one – Haiti and China – and makes startling discoveries in new places like Gabon and Algeria. Their adventures in these places, so far removed from standard surf travel locales, make great reading. … it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.’ (Pacific Longboarder, vol. 16, no. 2, 2012)

‘ten essays that show the qual­it­ies of a matur­ing writer.’ (Swell­net, 06.11.12)

John Cal­la­han est là pour pren­dre des pho­tos, avec une approche con­cep­tuelle. Son objec­tif est de cristal­liser la vie humaine, le vil­lage, les pêch­eurs… Sam Bleakley… est là pour capter ces petites choses de l’atmosphère et de l’ambiance, elles peuvent être eth­niques, eth­no­graph­iques, environ­nementales, etc. Nous pub­li­ons ses textes à tra­vers des livres (Surf­ing Bril­liant Corners et Surf­ing Trop­ical Beats)’ (L’Equipe adren­aline, 2015). Read the full art­icle here.


Back to top