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Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks

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Have you ever seen a big wave? One that's twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty feet tall? Here's a better question: Would you ever surf a big wave? Sarah Gerhardt did--and this is her story. This tale of perseverance and indomitable spirit is about the first woman to ride the waves at Mavericks, one of the biggest and most dangerous surf breaks in the world. Have you ever seen a big wave? One that's twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty feet tall? Here's a better question: Would you ever surf a big wave? Sarah Gerhardt did--and this is her story. This tale of perseverance and indomitable spirit is about the first woman to ride the waves at Mavericks, one of the biggest and most dangerous surf breaks in the world.


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Have you ever seen a big wave? One that's twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty feet tall? Here's a better question: Would you ever surf a big wave? Sarah Gerhardt did--and this is her story. This tale of perseverance and indomitable spirit is about the first woman to ride the waves at Mavericks, one of the biggest and most dangerous surf breaks in the world. Have you ever seen a big wave? One that's twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty feet tall? Here's a better question: Would you ever surf a big wave? Sarah Gerhardt did--and this is her story. This tale of perseverance and indomitable spirit is about the first woman to ride the waves at Mavericks, one of the biggest and most dangerous surf breaks in the world.

30 review for Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks is a children's picture book by Bonnie Tsui and illustrated by Sophie Diao. It centers on Sarah Gerhardt, who is not afraid of heights or speed and the first woman to surf mavericks. Sarah Gerhardt is best known for becoming the first woman to surf Mavericks and is not only a pioneer in a male-dominated sport, but she has created a legacy in the world of big wave surfing. Tsui's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks is a children's picture book by Bonnie Tsui and illustrated by Sophie Diao. It centers on Sarah Gerhardt, who is not afraid of heights or speed and the first woman to surf mavericks. Sarah Gerhardt is best known for becoming the first woman to surf Mavericks and is not only a pioneer in a male-dominated sport, but she has created a legacy in the world of big wave surfing. Tsui's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and informative. Tsui's present-tense text effectively conveys Sarah's determination as well as the excitement of the sport, occasionally ranging to provide needed context, such as the atmospheric conditions that make big waves. Backmatter includes a timeline. Diao's illustrations are extraordinary. Emphasizing the breathtaking landscapes, they treat readers to mostly double-page spreads that allow them to feel like they are in the middle of the ocean with Sarah. The premise of the book is rather straightforward. Sarah Gerhardt began surfing at a young age in Hawaii and quickly learned that she loved surfing big waves most of all – waves as high as 50 feet tall. She learned how to calmly hold her breath when she fell and to be patient finding surfing companions at a time when surfing was a male-dominated sport. Like many girls and women across sports, she had to wear gear and use equipment designed for boys and men. When she moved to California as an adult, she was determined to conquer the Mavericks surf break, and in 1999, she became the first woman to do so, demonstrating that victories can happen every day, not just at major competitions. All in all, Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks is a sunny surf outing from start to end.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    An empowering story about Sarah Gerhardt, who overcame great odds, excelling in a sport breaking ground for the women who would follow her to become world famous surfers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mutually Inclusive

    Sarah and the Big Wave by Bonnie Tsui is a wonderful picture book biography that tells the story of Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to surf Mavericks. Young readers will learn about Sarah’s journey to become a pioneer for women in surfing, including her challenges, such as finding gear in the right sizes and finding a welcoming group of friends to share her passion with. Sarah and the Big Wave shares a wonderful lesson of following your passions and persevering through challenges. And of course, Sarah and the Big Wave by Bonnie Tsui is a wonderful picture book biography that tells the story of Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to surf Mavericks. Young readers will learn about Sarah’s journey to become a pioneer for women in surfing, including her challenges, such as finding gear in the right sizes and finding a welcoming group of friends to share her passion with. Sarah and the Big Wave shares a wonderful lesson of following your passions and persevering through challenges. And of course, this is a great pick for young surfing enthusiasts. I really love the illustrations by Sophie Diao! The way she captured both the beauty and movement of the ocean was really stunning. The back matter also contains a wonderful timeline of the history of women in surfing from the 1600’s to 2020, making it a great resource for educators. Bonnie Tsui is an author and journalist who lives, swims, and surfs in the Bay Area. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at bonnietsui.com. Sophie Diao is an artist and illustrator based in San Francisco, California. Please visit her website at sophiediao.com to learn more about her and her work. I also want to thank Henry Holt Books For Young Readers for proving me with a review copy of Sarah and the Big Wave. I loved learning about Sarah, and I’m so glad to share her story with you all. Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads | Storygraph

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy Pickett

    Sarah Gerhardt grew up surfing little, medium, and – her favorite – big waves on Oahu’s North Shore, which is famous for its huge waves, some of which top the height of a five-story building! She later moved to California, where her new home was near Mavericks, the famous big-wave surf break. With its monster waves, “Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls” is a dangerous place to surf, and no woman had ever done it … until Sarah! Illustrator Sophie Diao captures Sarah’s history-making ride, and its e Sarah Gerhardt grew up surfing little, medium, and – her favorite – big waves on Oahu’s North Shore, which is famous for its huge waves, some of which top the height of a five-story building! She later moved to California, where her new home was near Mavericks, the famous big-wave surf break. With its monster waves, “Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls” is a dangerous place to surf, and no woman had ever done it … until Sarah! Illustrator Sophie Diao captures Sarah’s history-making ride, and its epic scale, in a made-for-storytime lift-up page. A timeline of milestones in the history of women and surfing complete this SWELL ;) picture book biography.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    Sarah had been waiting all her life for this wave. Before today no woman has yet surfed Mavericks. Today is the day. (Great fold out page to show the height of the wave.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erin Buhr

    This book is stunning. The brilliant blues of the ocean pour across the spreads and capture the enormous waves. This is a true story about the first woman to surf Mavericks, the giant waves at a particular beach in Northern California. Told with excellent pacing and still capturing her inspiring story as one of the first female surfers, this is an excellent read aloud.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Baby Bookworm

    This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily! Hello, friends! Our book today is Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks, written by Bonnie Tsui and illustrated by Sophie Diao, an exhilarating look at the life of big wave surfer Sarah Gerhardt. Two thousand miles and one week apart, a wave and a surfer both begin to move toward each other on a path of destiny. For the surfer – simply called Sarah – it feel This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily! Hello, friends! Our book today is Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks, written by Bonnie Tsui and illustrated by Sophie Diao, an exhilarating look at the life of big wave surfer Sarah Gerhardt. Two thousand miles and one week apart, a wave and a surfer both begin to move toward each other on a path of destiny. For the surfer – simply called Sarah – it feels like the wave she’s waited for all her life, ever since she was a very young girl learning to surf in California and Hawaii. Honing her skills, perfecting her timing, and learning how to handle her falls and hold her breath, Sarah finds that she has a passion for surfing “big waves” – swells that often crest at heights of fifty feet or more, and the most dangerous ones to surf. In addition to the challenges these big waves present, Sarah also has to fight the usual battles of a woman participating in a sport largely dominated by men: being forced to use ill-fitted equipment, dealing with prejudice, and being ostracized. Still, Sarah refuses to be held back, by man or by nature – after all, she was always destined to conquer the big waves. Wonderful. This atmospheric and exciting tale sweeps readers along at a brisk pace, giving just enough backstory and context to leave readers feeling informed but never bogged-down. The tone is a perfect balance – relaxed at times, pulse-pounding at others – making the reader feel as though they are right out on the ocean with Sarah as she navigates the real and metaphoric waves of her sport. The artwork is sublime, creating beautiful sunlit seascapes and expressive characters, and even a few visual gimmicks that work surprisingly well, such as a size comparison between a big wave and an apartment building, or a fold-out page to illustrate the scale of Gerhardht conquering a wave at the famed Mavericks. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ adored the illustrations. This is a wonderfully inspiring story sure to excite young bookworms, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved! (Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.) Be sure to check out The Baby Bookworm for more reviews!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sunday

    Great for reading aloud in k-3 or recommending to students for independent/partner reading and student-led conversations on themes like perseverance, tenacity, courage, women breaking gender barriers. Diao's bold and beautiful illustrations capture how remarkable the ocean and its waves are as well as the magnitude of the waves. LOVE the timeline at the end that reveals how women have ALWAYS been a part of surfing dating back to the "oldest known surfboard" belonging to the Hawaiian princess Kane Great for reading aloud in k-3 or recommending to students for independent/partner reading and student-led conversations on themes like perseverance, tenacity, courage, women breaking gender barriers. Diao's bold and beautiful illustrations capture how remarkable the ocean and its waves are as well as the magnitude of the waves. LOVE the timeline at the end that reveals how women have ALWAYS been a part of surfing dating back to the "oldest known surfboard" belonging to the Hawaiian princess Kaneamuna back in the 1600s and another Hawaiian princess introducing surfing to Europeans in the 1890s. WISH Tsui and Diao had shared some of their research and choices in an author's note - just for accuracy and authority purposes. I found video of Dr. Sarah Gerhardt on the internet - surfing some amazing waves. Think students would love to see this - might help students who have not been to the ocean or are not familiar with how waves work. PAIR THIS TEXT WITH - If you are studying waves, earth's motions, etc. with students, look for GIDGET THE SURFING DOG by Rusch. Rusch includes more technical details on the art of surfing as it relates to waves and so forth while telling the true story of Gidget. If you are studying women overcoming obstacles in water sports, look for YUSRA SWIMS by Abery and TRUDY'S BIG SWIM by Sue Macy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Wow! The text flowed like a wave, moving the reader forward like a wave carrying a surfer to the shore. And the illustrations, provided the beauty of a day spent on the beach. I loved how every illustration of Sarah Gerhardt shows her body as strong and solid - even when being tossed about by a wave. There is an informational timeline about milestones in the history of women and surfing. It is disappointing but not surprising to learn that it was Western missionaries who discouraged women in Haw Wow! The text flowed like a wave, moving the reader forward like a wave carrying a surfer to the shore. And the illustrations, provided the beauty of a day spent on the beach. I loved how every illustration of Sarah Gerhardt shows her body as strong and solid - even when being tossed about by a wave. There is an informational timeline about milestones in the history of women and surfing. It is disappointing but not surprising to learn that it was Western missionaries who discouraged women in Hawaii from surfing. Prior to their arrival it was an activity engaged in by Hawaiian princesses. Even sadder is the fact that female surfers were not recognized until the mid-nineties and Sarah's story actually takes pace in 1999. Encouraging is that the international surfing authorities equalized prize money for men and women beginning with the 2019 season and in 2020 the world record for biggest wave surfed was held by a woman. As a biography of Sarah Gerhardt this book may be lacking but as a depiction of surfing, it earns the 5 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    3.75 Stars I really wanted to love this book, and it was great and interesting and go Sarah go, it wasn't enough for me to go to 4 stars or beyond I still think it is a great book, and should be read. I learned about a sport and a person I had never heard before. I think what bothered me was at the end, it ended so abruptly! I also would have liked to see a real picture of Sarah and her surf board. But again! Still a great story and worth reading! 3.75 Stars I really wanted to love this book, and it was great and interesting and go Sarah go, it wasn't enough for me to go to 4 stars or beyond I still think it is a great book, and should be read. I learned about a sport and a person I had never heard before. I think what bothered me was at the end, it ended so abruptly! I also would have liked to see a real picture of Sarah and her surf board. But again! Still a great story and worth reading!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jo Oehrlein

    Talks about the issues being one of the first female surfers (boards were the wrong size, clothing didn't fit). We get a little bit about wave formation and where the big waves come from. Like the fold out of the big wave that she rode. (Thank you for not making this a "turn the book" fold out) Talks about the issues being one of the first female surfers (boards were the wrong size, clothing didn't fit). We get a little bit about wave formation and where the big waves come from. Like the fold out of the big wave that she rode. (Thank you for not making this a "turn the book" fold out)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elena L.

    Inspiring true story of the first woman to surf Mavericks, filled with vibrant illustrations and captivating dialogues, I would recommend this book to everyone. ( I appreciated that both author and illustrator are BIPOC. ) [ I received a complimentary copy from the publisher - Mackidsbooks - in exchange for an honest review ]

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is not a very well done book. The illustrations are very bland/repetitive as there is lots of water in this book. The story is not very interesting. With a story like this, I'm not surprised it turned out to not be good because it's a very small/unknown accomplishment. This is not a very well done book. The illustrations are very bland/repetitive as there is lots of water in this book. The story is not very interesting. With a story like this, I'm not surprised it turned out to not be good because it's a very small/unknown accomplishment.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Krissy

    Adding this one to my biography read alouds. Not too much text which sometimes weighs down a read aloud. Liked illustrations- will appeal to kids.

  15. 5 out of 5

    kim

    simple, interesting

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  19. 5 out of 5

    Blair

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aniko Nagyne vig

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jj

  22. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexx Burris

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leslee

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rob

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bur Davis

  28. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Wright Oelkers

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