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Book Review: Salt By Terry Fitzgibbon

“More and more I find myself talking to the sea,” admits poet Terry Fitzgibbon, whose latest work, Salt, Coastal Connections is a 160-page love letter to the sea. Mark “Curly” Thomas gets his hands on a preview copy of this impressive body of work.

Available November 9, 2023

As surfers, we are drawn to the ocean. It’s our playground, our solace, our connection with the magnificence of nature. Sometimes we can’t even explain why we love the sea so much. We just know that we always feel better, and healthier, after being in it.

Every now and again a book comes along that articulates that love. It’s a rare thing. Salt, with 70 poems by lifelong surfer, Terry Fitzgibbon, matched with a stunning array of evocative photographs is that book.

It is a very special book because it puts into words and through pictures our primal relationship with the ocean that surrounds us.

Award-winning photographer Kim Westerskov (left) and poet Terry Fitzgibbon collaborated on this latest book, Salt. Photo: Kim Westerskov Collection

“This is an expression of my love affair with the ocean,” said Terry, now 75, a surfer “hooked for life” since the age of 15, and a former Otago/Southland regional champion.

“This is an expression of my love affair with the ocean.”

Terry Fitzgibbon, poet

And in detailing this love story, Terry is putting into words the love that all of us have for the ocean, not just surfers, but fishermen, sailors, divers, and beach walkers.

“It’s my spiritual passion and the prime inspiration for the creative side of my life,” writes Terry, an illustrator, author, and poet.

Author and poet Terry Fitzgibbon at Blackhead, Dunedin, in 1973. Photo: Kim Westerskov Collection

His love for the ocean and desire to protect it runs like a rip tide through every page of this important book, as does that of chief collaborator and lifelong friend,  photographer Kim Westerskov.

Kim himself puts it very well in the preface: “Being anywhere near the sea is good for us. Very good for us.”

He describes Terry’s poems as “poignant love songs to both the sea and people”.

Terry speaks of a synergy between the pair: “What’s important about Kim’s photos is that he’s like me … a romantic.”

Terry Fitzgibbon (left) and Kim Westerskov flatted together in Dunedin in 1971. Photo: Kim Westerskov Collection

That synergy is apparent in the book, with each poem married to a matching image, making for a powerful expression of all that is awesome and sacred about the ocean.

“Every time I head beachwards
It’s still fresh and inviting” Terry writes in Still doing it, a poem that speaks of the thrill all surfers get each time they enter a break, regardless of how long they have been surfing.

But you still crave the pull
That draws you back
It’s the ocean in you
Heart surging to sea rhythms

… from The Ocean in You

What surfer can’t relate to the irrepressible lure, the tidal force of the ocean’s call upon us?

…it’s nature’s
awesome offering
just waiting there
for free
if angst looms
it seems to dissolve …

… from How’s it Going?

These are timeless themes, the simplicity, purity and healing properties of the ocean, which belongs to us all, and our need to protect it from degradation.

Environmentalism runs strongly through the words and photos in this book, a call for us all to do our part to fight pollution and plunder, lest we lose something of such immense value to so many.

Terry Fitzgibbon, 75, still surfing – these days on the Kapiti Coast. Photo: Terry Fitzgibbon Collection

Terry puts it succinctly in his afterword.

“Turn your back on this splurge of so-called economic progress to look beachward, heft your board under your arm, or your child, and head for the briny.”

He urges us to explore the ocean but to also become a custodian of it. We can start by immersing ourselves in a copy of this beautiful book.

270mm x 270mm
160 pages
Available in all good bookstores from November 9.
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