West of Jesus

This article is more than 14 years old.

"Even if you're not superstitious, you don't scream at something that covers three quarters of the planet."

So writes Steven Kotler in response to his former friend and surfing instructor, Chris Marchetti, who was known to respond to wave-less days by shouting "Bring it on!" at the horizon.

Kotler himself may strike some readers as superstitious. He will strike others as nuts. He travels around the world in pursuit of a legend that has a character known as "The Conductor" controlling the winds (and, in some cases, the automobiles) of surfers. While Kotler never does discover the origins of the legend, he does have the opportunity to explore such concerns as near-death experiences and out-of-body adventures. He quotes great surfers, but he's also in touch with neuroscientists and T.S. Eliot.

In short, Kotler's book is exceptionally ambitious. The author is a surfer and something of a daredevil. He's also a voracious and curious reader inclined to juxtapose literature, science, mysticism, and extreme sports in ways that wouldn't occur to many writers. The result is often thought-provoking and always entertaining.

This program aired on July 20, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.