Book Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Mommadeez4u

Bastard coated bastard w/ bastard filling
#1
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Highly recommended, excellent writing. Here is the review which sold me on it:

Sunday Book Review
‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,’ by William Finnegan
By THAD ZIOLKOWSKIJULY 13, 2015

Photo


Kapalua, Maui, 2005. Credit Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Most canonical accounts of surfing, from Captain Cook to Tom Wolfe, are written by nonsurfers who tend to wax gooey about the sport’s joys while getting its mechanics and ethos laughably wrong. Yet when surfers themselves began to write about it, in the 1960s, what they produced was usually bad in other ways — pretentious, semiliterate, purple or merely slight. It came to seem that surfing, like some pagan mystery cult, might simply defy literary representation, remaining properly understood only by initiates who were too busy surfing to learn to write.

Then, in the summer of 1992, there appeared in The New Yorker a long, two-part article by William Finnegan titled “Playing Doc’s Games” that was instantly recognized as a masterpiece. A wise, richly atmospheric account of riding the gelid, powerful gray waves of San Francisco while negotiating the demands of a fanatical surfer-oncologist named Doc Renneker, “Playing Doc’s Games” combines the deep knowledge of a widely traveled hard-core surfer, the observations of a born ethnographer and the wry aplomb of a New Yorker staff writer. The theme is Finnegan’s growing ambivalence about surfing, his conviction, set off against the foil of Renneker’s unwavering zeal, that he has given more than enough lifeblood to this sport or “path” or whatever it is. For Finnegan, a great deal of whose identity is bound up with surfing, this ambivalence amounts to a personal crisis; but it is also the crucial literary prerequisite, providing the critical distance that allows Finnegan to see surfing with unparalleled clarity.

“Playing Doc’s Games” frequently alludes to other chapters in Finnegan’s storied surf life — Hawaii, the South Pacific, Indonesia — but in the nearly 25 years since its publication, there have been only rumors of the memoir that seemed an inevitable outgrowth of the article. With “Barbarian Days,” we finally have that extraordinary book in full, including, largely unchanged, “Playing Doc’s Games.” It is in many ways, and for the first time, a surfer in full. And it is cause for throwing your wet-suit hoods in the air.

Raised in Southern California during the 1950s and ’60s, Finnegan learned to surf there and in Hawaii, where his father, who worked in television, moved the family for two stints of work when Finnegan was in early adolescence. The depictions of his humiliating treatment as a haole (white) student in a Hawaiian middle school are harrowing and characteristically droll and psychologically insightful. He fares considerably better in the water, where he wins the respect of the locals; has his first, terrifying taste of big waves; and finds himself fully bewitched: “I did not consider, even passingly, that I had a choice when it came to surfing. My enchantment would take me where it would.”

Where surfing took Finnegan was around the world. The post-“Gidget” boom of which he was a part made the sport an iconic, global phenomenon, but it also caused breaks from Malibu to Pipeline to become miserably crowded. As a consequence of this ruination, and the era’s broader idealism, adventurous surfers like Finnegan went in search of solitude and the perfect, prelapsarian wave. Along the trail, he and his travel companion found themselves carrying the weight of more than just their backpacks and surfboards. On the one hand, “chasing waves in a dedicated way was . . . dynamic and ascetic, radical in its rejection of the values of duty and conventional achievement.” On the other, “being rich white Americans in dirt-poor places where many people, especially the young, yearned openly for the life, the comforts, the very opportunities that we, at least for the seemingly endless moment, had turned our backs on — well, it would simply never be O.K. In an inescapable way, we sucked, and we knew it.” In other words, once it emerges from the adolescent-rebellion stage of its development, surfing presents itself as a problematic passion, and it is one of this book’s many great strengths that it unflinchingly addresses the various forms this problem takes as Finnegan grows up, commits to a career as a journalist and has a family.

Yet find the perfect, empty wave Finnegan did, back in 1978, off a tiny island in Fiji. The moment of revelation is the surfing equivalent of Keats’s “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”: “We turned and trained our binoculars on the tiny island across the channel. We were looking straight into the wave. . . . It was a long, tapering — a very long, very precisely tapering — left. The walls were dark gray against a pale gray sea. This was it. The lineup had an unearthly symmetry. Breaking waves peeled so evenly that they looked like still photographs. . . . This was it. Staring through the binoculars, I forgot to breathe for entire six-wave sets. This, by God, was it.”

Now among the most renowned in the world, the Fijian break is one of perhaps a handful in its class that Finnegan has intimate, masterly knowledge of. Indeed, if the book has a flaw, it lies in the envy helplessly induced in the armchair surf-traveler by so many lusty affairs with waves that are the supermodels of the surf world. Still, Finnegan considerately shows himself paying the price of admission in a few near drownings, and these are among the most electrifying moments in the book.

There are too many breathtaking, original things in “Barbarian Days” to do more than mention here — observations about surfing that have simply never been made before, or certainly never so well: the postsurf moods of “pleasant melancholy” or “mild elation”; the “charged and wild inclination to weep” that comes in the wake of unusually intense rides or wipeouts; the unlikely facial expressions actually worn by a surfer in the act of riding a demanding wave; and visionary descriptions of oceanic beauty occasionally met with in surfing but seldom done justice: “It was midday, and the straight-overhead sun rendered the water invisible. It was as if we were suspended above the reef, floating on a cushion of nothing . . . . Approaching waves were like optical illusions. . . . And when I caught one and stood up, it disappeared. I was flying down the line, but all I could see was brilliant reef streaming under my feet.”

But a particularly remarkable feature of “Barbarian Days” is the generous yet unsparing portraits of competitive surf friendships that make up a major share of the narrative. As Finnegan writes: “Surfing is a secret garden, not easily entered. My memory of learning a spot, of coming to know and understand a wave, is usually inseparable from the friend with whom I tried to climb its walls.”

That perfect wave in Fiji now has a resort that costs about $400 a day. No matter — the wave is as sublime as ever, as the 60ish Finnegan discovers when he surfs it again as a paying guest in the final pages. The compromises and corruption on shore fail to contaminate or alter the joy-drenched, adrenalated play in the ocean. Wave and surfer are ageless. For surfing is a pagan mystery cult after all. And “Barbarian Days” is its “Confessions.”

BARBARIAN DAYS

A Surfing Life

By William Finnegan

Illustrated. 447 pp. Penguin Press. $27.95.
 

Creasy Bear

gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh
Donator
#2
Get a job, ya dirty surf rats.
 

Hudson

Supreme Champion!!!!!
Donator
#4
Pitted, so pitted!
 

Guilty Spark

It's freeing and refreshing
#5
I read this and enjoyed it but felt I didn't really connect with the author. His descriptions of surfing and the ocean are very well written but he seems like a lib douchebag.
 

THE FEZ MAN

as a matter of fact i dont have 5$
#8
Hey back off Warchild, seriously
Why? Because they are assholes? They are assholes that think they own the beach, I have had surfers walk right between me and my wife while fishing and paddle out, or worse surf right in on us, buy the way, not a person on the beach but me and my wife for 100 yd in either direction, happened constantly not to mention all the other asshole moves I've seen them pull in the parking lots or at the showers.
 

Mags

A.K.A. Chad
Donator
#11
And yet they manage to live without getting real jobs
and working their asses off.
Yeah but once they are older, they are still renting a basement apartment in their friends neighbors house at 60.
 

THE FEZ MAN

as a matter of fact i dont have 5$
#13
LOCALS ONLY, DUDE!!!

Lol I'm a fucking local, I've fixed the issue since the fucks usually don't have over sand permits, so I will just pack up my shit and move
 

THE FEZ MAN

as a matter of fact i dont have 5$
#14
Lol I'm a fucking local, I've fixed the issue since the fucks usually don't have over sand permits, so I will just pack up my shit and move
Oh and now I just keep a pistol in my truck so now I will just wave it around and tell them I will kill them
 

Creasy Bear

gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh
Donator
#15
The compromises and corruption on shore fail to contaminate or alter the joy-drenched, adrenalated play in the ocean. Wave and surfer are ageless. For surfing is a pagan mystery cult after all. And “Barbarian Days” is its “Confessions.”
You splash around in the water on a board. Get over yourselves.
 
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