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Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William…

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (2015)

by William Finnegan

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I have never surfed, indeed I've only been in the ocean a few times. yet despite my own lack of interest in the sport I found the author's story of his life in waves to be interesting and compelling, like being caught in a building swell I think.

the author is just a year or so older than I am, so his story and the social, cultural, historical background was also interesting to me.

This is the story of a life long obsession. It is interesting how such an obsession molded the author's life.

There is also a sadness to this story, beneath the surface. I am not sure how I feel about it. ( )
1 vote yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
I LOVED this book! A few personal biases - I am a surfer and I grew up in Santa Barbara during a similar time period. So I am predisposed to either love or hate every book about surfing ever:). I do like this book because it talks about waves and the ocean in a way that I really only think a surfer would be able to. To elaborate, I have read books about surfing where it was pritty blindingly apparent the author didn't surf - kind of like reading Point Break. However. I really think this book does a good job of describing the finer points of waves and surfing while still remaining mostly accessible. Some things you won't learn from this book: How to surf. How to read the waves. Where to surf or where the next waves are. What board to buy. This book is more about the surfing lifestyle during a particular time period with some ocean observations thrown in. The writing itself is tight and has some of the most concise and best descriptions of both the magic of catching a good wave and the terror of a REALLY bad wipeout that I've ever read. ( )
  Apstahl | Feb 20, 2019 |
I found much of the personal detail of this memoir to be uninteresting, but then what does one expect from a personal memoir of not the personal details of a life. On the other hand, as we caught up to the more recent years of the author's life, and particularly his unflinching recounting of the loss of his parents, I was deeply moved and glad I had both started and finished the memoir. ( )
  AdmiralAckbar | Oct 22, 2018 |
Barbarian Days is the story of the authors surfing life, from his childhood in Hawaii to traveling the world in search of great waves. The descriptions of surfing are very good, but I did find myself zoning out reading a lot of it. I was more interested in other aspects of the author's life, but once those parts pulled me in it would end and return to descriptions of surfing that would lose me again. I will definitely be interested in reading some of the author's other books about other aspects of his life. It sounds like he has had a fascinating life, but I am more interested in his experiences as a reporter/writer across the world than that of surfing. I did learn a bit about the surfing life and I really liked learning about Hawaii in the 1950s. ( )
  Cora-R | Jun 20, 2018 |
Loved Barbarian Days. This absorbing meditation on waves and those who chase and surf them gave me a serious case of wanderlust and made me view the ocean in a different way. ( )
  Elizabeth_Foster | Nov 3, 2017 |
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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 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 native 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. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world's greatest waves. As Finnegan's travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs.… (more)

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