Waves and Beaches

The Powerful Dynamics of Sea and Coast

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Pub Date 16 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 19 Jan 2022

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The Bestselling Classic Updated for Surfers, Sailors, Oceanographers, Climate Activists, and Those Who Love the Sea

First published in 1963 and updated in 1979, this classic was an essential handbook for anyone who studies, surfs, protects, or is fascinated by the ocean. The original author, Willard Bascom, was a master of the subject and included a wealth of information, based on theory and statistics, but also anecdotal observation and personal experience. It brought to the general public understanding of the awesome and complex power of the waves.

This revision from Kim McCoy adds recent facts and anecdotes to update the book’s relevance in the time of climate change. One of the most significant effects of global warming will be sea-level rise. What will this mean to waves and beaches, and what effects are we already seeing? New text and photos cover events such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina flooding of 2005, and the 2011 earthquake and resulting devastation in Fukishima.

As well as students, surfers, and the general public, this updated edition of a beloved classic is an essential handbook for climate scientists and ocean activists, providing clear explanations and detailed resources for the constant battle to preserve the shore.

The Bestselling Classic Updated for Surfers, Sailors, Oceanographers, Climate Activists, and Those Who Love the Sea

First published in 1963 and updated in 1979, this classic was an essential handbook...

A Note From the Publisher

WILLARD BASCOM (1916-2000) was an engineer, adventurer and scientist, as well as a writer, photographer, painter, miner, cinematographer, and archeologist, who first proposed using Neoprene for wetsuits to fellow scientist Hugh Bradner. He authored several books, which include the topics of waves, geology, archaeology, poetry, and oceanography. In his book Deep Water, Ancient Ships he first proposed the hypothesis that anoxic water in the Black Sea would preserve ancient Black Sea shipwrecks. He led the first test drillings for Project Mohole, and was project director from 1960-1962. Bascom was a consultant to the Advisory Committee on Government Organization. He also served as the Technical Director of the Advisory Committee on Civil Defense of the National Academy of Science and National Research Council. He is the original author of Waves and Beaches, first published in 1963 and reissued in 1979 (Anchor).

KIM MCCOY (San Diego) is an oceanographer and adventurer who has been seduced by beaches and observed waves on all seven continents; smeared in the fluid mud of the Amazon, journeyed along the Mekong, Nile and Mississippi Deltas, traveled the Australian coastline, plunged into the Antarctic Ocean (without a wetsuit), crossed the Pacific, Atlantic, Drake's Passage on ships and sailed a boat from Africa to the Caribbean. His ocean research began where the land and sea merge - with surf zone wave dynamics and continues today with the coastal effects of climate change. Expeditions from the tropics to polar oceans with multinational academic, commercial and governmental institutions helped McCoy pioneer advances in instrumentation, underwater communications, autonomous underwater vehicles and free-diving. Educated in Germany, France and the US, McCoy was presented with the Scientific Achievement Award in 2018 for his work as a Principal Scientist with NATO in Italy. Prior to Italy, he managed Ocean Sensors, Inc., was the Marine Technology Society Chair for Oceanographic Instrumentation and was awarded several patents. He recently completed an Ironman and says he will continue to swim, dive, surf, rock climb and paraglide until motion stops, viscosity ceases, buoyancy is overwhelmed.

WILLARD BASCOM (1916-2000) was an engineer, adventurer and scientist, as well as a writer, photographer, painter, miner, cinematographer, and archeologist, who first proposed using Neoprene for...

Advance Praise

"The essential guide to waves, winds, and the wonders of the watery world."

James Nestor, New York Times bestselling author of Breath and Deep

Adventure Journal, Spring 2021 (review)

"What The Joy of Cooking is to home chefs, Waves and Beaches has been to sea lovers for nearly sixty years. The comprehensive tome is part fundamental instructional and part voluminous love letter to the alchemy of where land meets the sea. Willard Bascom, an engineer, adventurer, photographer, cinematographer, and scientist who pioneers a number of ocean technologies, including being one of the first to suggest neoprene as a wetsuit material, wrote the book in 1963. When Bascom died in 2000, oceanographer Kim McCoy, Bascom's friend and protégée, inherited the beloved manuscript. This third edition reflects both authors and their seventy years of experience on shorelines on all seven continents, as well as an updated devoted to the history and effects of climate change. Four hundred pages stuffed with physics illustrations, encyclopedic, test, and gorgeous photography makes for essential reading that belongs on the bookshelves of all coastal explorers."

"The essential guide to waves, winds, and the wonders of the watery world."

James Nestor, New York Times bestselling author of Breath and Deep

Adventure Journal, Spring 2021 (review)

"What The Joy of...

Marketing Plan

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National media campaign including print reviews, online features and author appearances on radio & podcasts.

Author events (virtual & in-store)

Available Editions

ISBN 9781938340956
PRICE $29.29 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, and the author for giving me the opportunity to review this book. While I’m not the ideal reader for this book. Most of it went over my head but I still enjoyed it.

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This updated edition of a highly technical book read by scientists, surfers and sailors offers new data relating to the sea and climate change. It’s filled with interesting facts, such as about efforts to convert ocean currents into usable power with tidal turbine systems; a history of tsunamis; and shoreline erosion. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I love this book! Having lived by the sea all of my life I enjoy any book about the sea. This book taught me things I didn’t know. Simply wonderful. I recommend it to everyone who is interested in things seashore
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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This is a spectacular book for a wide audience. It has a great deal of detail and includes the mathematical equations behind many of the relationships between the various factors that affect the movement of water and beaches for those readers that really want to know the physics behind wave phenomena. On the other hand, it also qualitatively describes these same phenomena for those readers that want more of an overview and wish to skip the detailed explanations. I would highly recommend this book for anyone that has ever wondered why waves come in "sets"; or where the beach sand goes in winter; or why riptides form and how to recognize where they are before you enter the water. This book is a must-have for the marine enthusiast's library.

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This book is a very timely and relevant update to original research by Willard Bascom (based on a book first published in 1963). This book goes into meticulous detail about all aspects of oceans, waves, beaches, etc. - from cities built on sand barriers, to the composition of the sand on beaches around the world. The photos are absolutely gorgeous and emphasizes the power and beauty of oceans. Parts of this book are accessible to a non-scientist reader like me, but other parts are written more for the scientific audience (I quickly read past all of the mathematic equations!).

This book is an important contribution to understanding the impact of climate change and rising sea levels around the world and on our society in terms of living choices, safe drinking water and the insurance industry.

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According to the book’s Preface, generations of scientists, surfers, and sailors have used Willard Bascom’s 1964 classic, Waves and Beaches, or its 1979 second edition, to understand the behavior of water waves and beaches. Growing up 1000 miles from the nearest ocean, I was not among those readers. However, I now live on an island along South Carolina’s Atlantic coast, and my interest in ocean science has climbed sharply.

Bascom was not an academic scientist, but a marine engineer, oceanographer, and adventurer whose enthusiasm for the science was communicated through his writing. He passed away in 2000, and decades after the second edition, Kim McCoy and Patagonia (the American outdoor clothing and gear company) have published a third edition. McCoy has added an update of nearly half a century of oceanographic science, the evolution of instrumentation, and a description of planetary climate change – while preserving a substantial portion of Bascom’s original text. I should mention that this edition also includes some stunning photography.

Unfortunately, I found the merge of two purposes and styles to not be smooth. On the one hand it is a science and engineering text, giving equations of idealized and observed ocean behavior. On the other hand, it is also a treatise on global climate change and environmentalism. In particular, in the opening chapters, the climate change topics seem simply inserted, when the overviews might have been wholly re-written. Especially irritating was the insistence that climate change be considered a literal wave. The very first sentence of the book defines a wave to be “an undulating form of energy propagating through a medium,” The human-caused component of climate change we are experiencing at this time involves transition of the ocean, permanent or temporary, but it is not that kind of wave.

Compare for example, the analytical style for both idealized and realized waves:

Wavelength L =( g/2π)T² where g is gravitational acceleration, T is period.
In real oceans of Earth, using metric system, L=1.56 T².

Wave velocity “celerity” C = sqrt((gL/2π)tanh(2πd/L)) where d is water depth
Convenient approximations are used:
• d/L > 0.5 is a deep water wave, tanh(2πd/L) is nearly 1, so C = sqrt(gL/2π)
• d/L < 0.05 is shallow water wave, tanh(2πd/L) is nearly 2πd/L, C = sqrt(gd)
• 0.05 < d/L < 0.5, use full equation
In real oceans of Earth, at steepness of 1:7, wave velocity is 10% more than theoretical value.

Wave steepness H:L, where H is wave height.
In real oceans of Earth, max is 1:7, with a 120° crest angle.

Internal Waves (on boundary layers of waters of different density).
N = sqrt( (gravity/density) x (delta-density/delta-depth) ) where N is buoyancy frequency.
Large N indicates stable stratification.

Wave velocity for Waves of Translation.
C = sqrt(gd) where g is force of gravity, d is depth of water plus wave height.

In contrast, we have campaigning on climate change (Chapter 5) – “like in North Carolina where they passed HB 819 in 2012, have strangely banned policies from being based on climate change predictions. Unfortunately, six years later, in September 2018, Category 4 Hurricane Florence produced large storm surges and inundated much of the Carolina coastline and the offshore islands. North Carolina may have proved it can ignore the findings of climate scientists, but it cannot escape the impacts of climate change. Unfortunately for the US citizens living in these coastal areas, the US federal government has yet to provide a national policy on coast climate change.” … “In many other countries, including the United Kingdom, climate change is being maturely addressed by local councils and environmental agencies.”

Please understand that I actually fully agree with the book’s position on this and other things, but am using it now to illustrate the incongruous directions. I would like a quantified theory relating increased thermal energy of atmosphere and ocean to wave and beach behaviors. I would like a quantified theory relating sea level rise to wave and beach behaviors. Instead, it catalogs natural and man-made disasters of recent history. Climate science is a scientific study, not headlines. To me, it represents a lost opportunity to understand 21st century issues in the same analytical light that Bascom shed in the 1960s and 1970s.

All the joy for me came in the science and engineering text sections. I guess I’m still waiting for the fourth edition. Maybe I could even recommend inclusion of the propagation of acoustic and electromagnetic waves in ocean waters for that future edition.

I read a copy of Waves and Beaches; The Powerful Dynamics of Sea and Coast, 3rd Edition, by Willard Bascom and Kim McCoy in Protected PDF using Adobe Digital Editions, which I received from Patagonia through netgalley.com in August 2021, in exchange for an honest review on social media platforms and on my book review blog. I have learned since, that I was provided a pre-publication version, though the book had been published in March 2021.

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I will never look at the waves and beaches the same again. I was fascinate and amaze from the first page at how it all works and I would recommend that anyone who loves the ocean and beaches should read this book. There were parts that I didn't get or had to read a few times to understand but overall I enjoy the book and all of the pictures and illustration that are included will help you to understand the dynamics work. I read it a little at a time so I wasn't overwhelm.

One thing that amazes me the most are all the ships that still sink and all the debris that is hang out in our oceans, I wonder how it effects all the life forms in the ocean. It reminds me of all the space junk that humans has left in space.

I want to thank Patagonia and NetGalley for this wonderful book

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I read this book because I have been a beach person since childhood. Today I spend the late Spring and Summer living in a house with a view of Narragansett Bay. The rest of the year is spent in Florida, a short drive to Tampa Bay and the Gulf Coast. I call myself a flatlander, but one with a need to be near the sea. I used to swim along the coast for 45 minute stretches. I was a boater, today limited to kayaking. The coast is a place that provides me with a sense of inner peace that others find in the mountains.

The third edition of Waves and Beaches is an update of a text that the author of this edition notes he read in an introductory graduate course in oceanography. Don't let that scare you off. If you are a boater, whether sail or power, a kayaker, a paddle boarder, a surfer, a fisherman (or woman), or just somebody who loves being on the water or sitting on a beach, this book has a lot to offer.

While there is some simple algebra included to explain key concepts, one need not be a math expert to enjoy the text and the outstanding photos, graphs, tables and other illustrations. The old adage of "a picture is worth a thousand words" applies to those in the book, which offer not only great scenery, but excellent examples of the concepts presented.

McCoy has taken Willard Bascom's text and updated with many references to more recent examples of coastal processes and some brief insights into the implications of sea level rise. But mostly this is a book that addresses Waves and Beaches. I learned things that will be a benefit the next time I am at the beach or in my kayak, on a friend's boat or simply looking at the Bay from my front porch.

The book also includes chapters on beach erosion and coastal engineering methods used to protect those beaches, harbors and low-lying, populated areas. I found these chapters particularly valuable given the effects of hurricanes and storms where I live and the increased need for policies and investments to protect those areas already suffering from sea level rise and those that will in the future.

While I recommend this book to those I've identified above, one must understand that it is written more as a text rather than a non-fiction essay. This brings benefits and detriments for the reader. The material is highly detailed and somewhat technical in some areas, but it also is more exacting to the extent it provides simple algebraic formulas, graphs and lots of examples to describe the various kinds of waves, why they behave as they do, how to measure them, the processes that create beaches, etc.

I want to thank NetGalley and the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for this review.

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As previously noted, I’m obsessed with the ocean and am fascinated by waves, particularly rogue waves and other giant ones. I’ll be honest, when I picked this one up, I expected just a coffee table book with beautiful photos and some accompanying text. Boy, was I surprised. Sure, there are beautiful pictures aplenty, but there’s also hard science, interesting stories and anecdotes, and basically everything I ever needed to know about waves.

There are whole sections devoted to Boat waves, rogue waves, the surf, beaches, etc. I could go on for days. I read this little by little at bedtime, and I will definitely be revisiting some of the parts with the more mechanical explanations, equations, and models to better understand those sections. Also, whenever I want, I can just pop it open and look at the photographs. Winwin!

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