Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing

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9780062202529: Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing
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A finalist for the PEN Center USA Award for Nonfiction

Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, is surfer and former war reporter Chas Smith’s wild and unflinching look at the high-stakes world of surfing on Oahu’s North Shore—a riveting, often humorous, account of beauty, greed, danger, and crime.

For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, swarms of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans flock to Oahu’s paradisiacal North Shore in pursuit of some of the greatest waves on earth for surfing’s Triple Crown competition. Chas Smith reveals how this influx transforms a sleepy, laid-back strip of coast into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca.

Smith captures this exciting and dangerous place where locals, outsiders, the surf industry, and criminal elements clash in a fascinating look at class, race, power, money, and crime, set within one of the most beautiful places on earth. The result is a breathtaking blend of crime and adventure that captures the allure and wickedness of this idyllic golden world.

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A finalist for the PEN Center USA Award for Nonfiction

For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, Oahu's paradisical North Shore turns into a fiery hell. Its normal population of sixteen thousand more than triples and this explosion of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans creates one of the most combustible milieus on earth. Waves, like gold and oil, are a limited resource and, as such, are fiercely fought over by the visiting hordes, the surf industry, other Hawaiian islanders, and North Shore residents. The otherwise sleepy North Shore becomes a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca.

It takes uniquely fearless men to paddle into thirty-foot waves breaking over a razor-sharp reef hidden beneath three feet of water. Death and maiming are regular occurrences during North Shore winters. Yet when the sun dips, the fearless become truly scared. You see, the ocean has rules. The men who haunt the land do not. And so they whisper about helter-skelter violence dished out by larger-than-life Hawaiians. They whisper about being choked, slapped, and bloodied for breaking unspoken codes of conduct. About the protection money extracted from the surf brands that want to hold their contests on the North Shore. About drug running, fights, and maybe even murders. And then they return to multimillion-dollar beachfront homes and drown their anxiety with cocaine and booze. But they know they are not safe. Because no one is ever safe here.

The surf world is far more volatile and complex than outsiders know or popular depictions would have us believe, and the North Shore during winter is its most extreme representation. It is downright dangerous but also exhilarating, and this story paints a true picture of what it feels like to be in the middle of it all. It is both a breathtaking and wildly funny tale of beauty, wickedness, and the unyielding allure of ocean waves in all their glory.

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