July 7, 2021 – Then came this: “That many surfers have struggled with drug addiction will probably come as no surprise.” If, like me, you’ve read more books about, say, the origins of the War of 1812 than you have about surfing, this fact likely will come as a considerable surprise, akin to suddenly discovering that America’s Cup winners are notorious for their love of shooting smack. But the evidence is in, and Ziolkowski provides a merciless roll call of surfing’s top-tier, style-setting giants dying of overdoses, getting shot in botched coke deals, being pinched for smuggling and generally ruining their lives.

Many of the most striking passages in “The Drop” burrow into the correlations between surfing and drug abuse, some overt and others hidden. For starters, the surfer and stoner archetypes hit American pop culture at roughly the same time, the former through the seminal surfing film “Gidget,” of which Ziolkowski performs a surprisingly fecund thematic excavation. An addict’s first hit and a surfer’s first wave are neurologically linked through the “thrill of being gathered up and borne along as if by magic.” While drug addiction eventually makes the abuser unemployable, Ziolkowski writes that the surfer will often “arrange to be underemployed.” Procuring street drugs, with their dangerously irregular dosages, can be an unpredictable but oddly thrilling ordeal. Surfing, too, is thrilling precisely because of its unpredictability — which Ziolkowski says accounts for its so far total failure to register as a spectator sport.