"Do I look alright?" asks Westerly Windina for what must be the fifth time in the last hour. . .
In the sixties and seventies, Australian Peter Drouyn was one of the world’s greatest surfers. He pioneered an aggressive approach called “power surfing,” introduced the man-on-man competition format, and charged giant waves in Hawaii. A Zelig figure, he took on many roles—method actor, surf resort owner, wave stadium inventor, and modeling school founder to name but a few. About ten years ago the most unexpected change occurred: Peter became Westerly. “It was like a supernova,” remembers Westerly. “It just kicked in one night and bang, Peter was gone and Westerly was there.”
Beginning with her 2012 trip to Bangkok for gender reassignment surgery, Becoming Westerly traces Peter Drouyn's odyssey from pre-teen prodigy to global surf god to embittered has-been who struggles to rise again as the glamorous, phoenix-like, sixty-four-year-old Westerly.
"You've never read anything like BECOMING WESTERLY. Peter Drouyn is a character beyond the capacities of almost any novelist to imagine -- and then he turns into someone else. Jamie Brisick traces the emergence of Westerly Windina with so much empathy, eloquence, and patience. His book is dazzling, devastating, funny and surpassingly strange."
- William Finnegan
"BECOMING WESTERLY is a haunting and important book -- a reminder of what it means to be human, flawed, and occasionally fabulous."
- Karl Taro Greenfeld, Speed Tribes and The Subprimes
In the media
"Caitlyn Jenner is dinnertime conversation in households across America. We are learning a brand-new language. . . Jamie Brisick's 'Becoming Westerly' is an excellent place to start. . ." - Jacket Copy
"Renee Richards was the first prominent transgender athlete. Caitlyn Jenner surely is the most famous transgender with an athletic background. Westerly Windina may be the most fascinating. . ." - Jeff Baker
"In 2009 Jamie Brisick, a surf journalist who had been aware of Peter, travelled to Australia to write a profile of Westerly, but what what consequently happened became a far greater story than that. . ." - CNN
"Brisick takes surfing's inherent, paradoxical conservatism and subjects it to long-overdue scrutiny." - Alex Wade
"Almost any athlete who comes out as trans right now will be compared to Bruce Jenner, but the story of surf champion Peter Drouyn’s odyssey deserves equal attention. . ."
"an unforgettable portrait of a hard-won second act in an already exceptional life. . ." - Heather Seggel, Lambda Literary
"A Surfer's Perspective on Malibu in Flames" - Jamie Brisick at The New Yorker
More advance praise
"BECOMING WESTERLY is much more than a book about a celebrated surfer who becomes a woman -- in this case, a dude who becomes a diva. Brisick presents us with a case study of narcissism, of the pathology of celebrity, and a detailed look at the complex world of competitive surfing. It is a funny and painful book, too, and one I greatly enjoyed.”
- Paul Theroux
Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories, The Last Train to Zona Verde, The Great Railway Bazaar, Mosquito Coast
"In BECOMING WESTERLY, Jamie Brisick sketches with exasperated subtlety an antihero/antiheroine who is both maddening and captivating. The book describes how surfing itself moved from obscurity to the mainstream, and how one surfer moved from his place in the surfing mainstream into her highly personal obscurity. It is often hilarious, and also, ultimately, deeply empathetic and touching."
- Andrew Solomon Far From The Tree
“Jamie Brisick tells the unlikely story of how Peter Drouyn, one of Australia’s greatest surfers, morphed into the chanteuse Westerly Windina. At once candid autobiography, participatory anthropology, and cultural history, the tale of Drouyn’s metamorphosis is told with compassion, humility, and authority. Becoming Westerly is a remarkable book, proving once again that the truth is usually stranger than fiction.”
- Dr. Peter Maguire Law and War, Facing Death in Cambodia and Thai Stick
"What a wild and wonderful and fascinating journey our lives can be! BECOMING WESTERLY stands as beautiful evidence of this -- gorgeous proof of the ever-unfolding transformations many of us undergo -- and Jamie Brisick brings these changes to vivid and heart-rending life. A sometimes-brutal book, every page is marked with care, affection, friendship, and pure honesty."
- William Lychack, The Architect of Flowers
"Brisick’s BECOMING WESTERLY is as compelling and magnificent as Westerly Windina herself -- so charming and formidable, lonely and controlling, fierce and coquettish, and, like Marilyn Monroe, the woman with whom she most identifies, always far larger than life. In his intimate and amazing portrait of this formerly renowned male Australian surf champion now turned female entertainer, Brisick has undertaken a remarkable and riveting investigation of human identity in all of its complexities."
- Richard McCann, Mother of Sorrows
"What happens after the endless summer? BECOMING WESTERLY is what happens. Jamie Brisick has given all readers one shaggy, tasty gift: not only the history of surfing, as seen from inside that raging, curling wave (quite an accomplishment in itself) but the more intimate struggle that comes from being alone with your aloneness. The transformation of Peter Drouyn -- troubled narcissist, influential surfing genius -- into wannabe starlet Westerly Windina is every bit as absorbing as it is frustrating, as charming as it is essential."
- Charles Bock, New York Times bestseller Beautiful Children
"Whitman wrote, 'I contain multitudes,' and he might have had this book in mind. BECOMING WESTERLY is the story of surfing great, Peter Drouyn, and his subsequent transformation, via a sex change operation, into aspiring diva Westerly Windina. But it’s also a tale of the writer, Jamie Brisick, and his efforts to understand what -- for lack of a more specific term -- it all means. In the process, this engrossing narrative raises a series of questions rather more profound than you might expect: Who are we? Where do we begin? Where do we end? Is there such a thing as destiny? Are we riding the wave or a part of it? And as with the best books, in the end it’s our own lives we examine.”
- Jim Krusoe, Parsifal
"Brisick shines a brilliant light on the fascinating Ms. Windina, at once damsel in distress and Superwoman. The surfing scenes are riveting—written with an excitement and an immediacy that only a lifelong wave rider can pull off.”
- James Frey, A Million Little Pieces
"From deep inside the barrel, Jamie Brisick recounts the tale of the waverider who revolutionized pro surfing with man-to-man heats and then became a woman -- having thought of herself as Marilyn Monroe all along. With this compassionate, funny, and wrenching book, Brisick has taken his impressive work to a new level, establishing himself as a fine observer of life's currents, on land, sea, and inside the heart."
- Deanne Stillman, Twentynine Palms
"Surf is beige. Never the act and not the characters but the representation. It is monochromatic, conservative, bland. Feathers are better left unruffled, I suppose, but son of a bitch, thank God for Jamie Brisick. He decided to write about an ex-pro surf legend that has decided to become a woman.
"BECOMING WESTERLY is, above all, a great story but it is a difficult story and Jamie tells it perfectly. Peter Drouyn/Westerly Windina is, at turns, inspiring, brave, massively selfish, narcissistic and Jamie never pulls a punch.
He lets all the variables of an extremely complex person breathe. He ushers the reader in to a bizarre world and allows for multiple possible conclusions. And the way he paints the surf backdrop is amazing. The interviews, descriptions, historical and modern nuances…. Just very very very well done. It is journalistic art.
“If I were ever to become a woman, or male model or Vegas showman, I would want Jamie Brisick along for the ride. Shall we dance, darling?"
- Chas Smith, Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell
"A strange, exhilarating, ultimately uplifting ride. Jamie Brisick is the perfect guide into the life of an amazing ninja-level surfer, provocateur, and diva."
- Matt Warshaw, Encyclopedia of Surfing
"In the conservative, boy's own world of contemporary surfing, Westerly Windina is a gale-force breath of fresh air."
- Sydney Morning Herald
"Westerly and Peter are two of the greatest characters to ever grace surfing, two titanic life stories, and with BECOMING WESTERLY Brisick has written incredible portraits of both. A story of the glory and terrible burden of ambition for greatness, and greatness unrecognized. Beautiful, sad, and full of hope."
- Surfing World
A former professional surfer and a Fulbright scholar, Jamie Brisick has written extensively about surfing for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Surfer's Journal. Drawing from his life in surfing, Brisick provides a nuanced portrait of two extraordinary people in one, and a very personal account of the courage and self-belief it has taken for Peter to become Westerly.