Derek Dunfee’s Book Is a Remarkable Piece of Work on So Many Levels

by Alistair Klinkenberg April 24, 2022 2 min read

Derek Dunfee’s story is equal parts tragic and inspiring.

As talented with a blade underarm as he is with his eye pressed up against the viewfinder, a lifetime’s worth of concussions have left DD unable to practice either of these passions to his talent’s extent. In short, he can’t take photos anymore, and his surfing is limited to zipping along two footers (three-foot max) at his beloved Windansea. However, Derek’s not one to sit at home and lick his wounds. In fact, he’s used his misfortune as an opportunity to raise awareness as to the severity of repeated head injuries, and, he’s put together a remarkable book: Waking Up in the Sea.

From Derek’s chapter as a boatman in Fiji.

Waking up in the Sea is a document of a freewheelin’ surfing life. Not your average surfing life, a life spent travelling the globe hanging on the fringes of surfing’s big wave elite, with all the moments and access that holding a position in that line-up holds. Rather than your regular, typo-riddled memoir, it’s a sprawling travel document fit for the coffee table, featuring carefully constructed images captured by a gifted lensman with a unique take on chasing mega swells around the world. Derek’s photography doesn’t focus on the money shot — rather the intimate, human and natural moments in between. The result, printed large and tastefully designed (again, by Derek) is surf print at its finest.

Double D in more physically able days.

Derek writes profoundly about his travels and multiple concussions throughout Waking up in The Sea. Which is notable considering how difficult he finds concentrating, and how much trouble he has with his right eye (currently, he’s operating with around 25% function). It took Derek two years to get what he wanted on the page, which he subsequently self-published, and honestly, it’s a beautiful piece of work. Visually striking, thoughtfully compiled, it’s a fitting tribute to a wild existence that transformed into a mammoth personal struggle.

Derek (left), pushing the limits of the selfie in his chapter as a photographer.

Derek’s decided to release a digital version for free out of the goodness of his heart and his desire to spread his truth. Download it, admire the sprawling thoughtfulness of his body of work, then hit him up and buy a hard copy and keep it forever. A more worthy cause you’re unlikely to find.

Grab a free digi copy here, then a hard one here.

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