Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
"Barbarian Days" is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life.
Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa.
A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. "Barbarian Days" takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses off the coasts of New York and San Francisco.
It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.
Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s.
He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly - he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui - is served up with rueful humor.