Read: Barbarian Days

Permalink 4 Comments


Buy this book. Get the paper version.

Okay, if you have ZERO interest in surfing, I mean ZERO, then don’t buy it, but if you have ever had fun in two-foot shorebreak slop then this book is for you. If you do know about surfing, the fear and fascination, then get multiple copies. Give them away to your friends. William Finnegan’s “Barbarian Days” is a book about a surfing life. His. Trust me, surf talk gets old, but when I say surf talk I mean the cryptic, California, stoned mumblings that pass for conversation between certain types of individuals. Finnegan on the other hand writes beautifully about what surfing means, how it feels and how it becomes more than a passion. Ask yourself this. Why do perfectly successful, intelligent, talented people throw away everything they have and dedicate their lives to chasing waves? They do it because surfing is a unique combination of things unlike anything else. And every time you enter the water the experience is different.

Hard to explain if you haven’t done it, but Finnegan does a wonderful job of telling a well rounded story about friendship, travel, culture, distress and the mistakes and miracles that happen along the way. A surf book winning the f%$#$#@ Pulitzer? You might know Finnegan from his other books, or perhaps from his work at The New Yorker. He’s lives a real life, meaning extensive travel, extensive reporting and extensive involvement in the pursuits he deems worthy or important.

I read this book in Maine and Texas. Far from what I would call classic surf haunts, but it made me want to find my old Landcruiser and rip off a high-speed burn to Matagorda Rivermouth to do battle with the sharks, oil, sea lice and mosquitoes. Just like I used to do in college. Leave Austin late on Friday, be back before class on Monday. TERRIBLE surf. Sleeping in a hundred degree truck with windows up due to the bugs, lying awake waiting for dawn and another chance at windblown shoulders. In photo school design class I always created surf mags.

Go get your copy and quit wasting time.

Comments 4

  1. Hahaha! What a great post to read as I board yet another plane. Surprised I haven’t seen this from you sooner.

    I’ve bought and given away so many copies of this book already. I’ve read mine twice. Growing up in Ventura and Honolulu? One of the first guys to see and surf Tavarua? Big wave riding in OB and Madiera? Teaching in South Africa? So many gems. So many amazing people, locales and stories. One of the original definitions of a hellman. Such an amazing life story.

    Definitely recommend reading his journalism work.

    1. Post

      I can’t imagine paddling out at new places in dark, cold, sharky spots. And then doing it again and again.

  2. I think I’ve said it before here but I’m really enjoying your Read series of recommendations. My Kindle is currently stacked up with samples of the majority of the books you recommend. Especially enjoying the sense of adventure, risk,play, and the natural environment that seem to be inherent in most of them. Just what I need right now.

    1. Post

      Reading has become such an important part of my life. I can tell, almost immediately, when I meet someone new whether or not they are a reader. Conversation with readers is thrilling. With non-readers, or internet brains…not so much.

Leave a comment