Another Surfer Ruining the Reputation of Surf Writers as the Lowest Form of Literary Life
Were you intrigued last week when former professional surfer/current professional writer Jamie Brisick (“a man of some refinement despite being born a surfer”) put forth his ideas to ban foreigners from the private waves of Malibu? Perhaps you thought a fabulous idea?
If you did you are aware of Jamie’s outlooks and way with words. It’s nice to read a conversation like this and pretend that surfing is more than just a selfish water-based activity.
I suppose this is a good point for Bill Finnegan to enter the conversation. I joked with Finnegan recently that he’d ruined the reputation of surf writers as the lowest form of literary life… A reputation we hadn’t worked very hard at all to achieve. You know Bill and his memoir, Barbarian Days well. How you think it changed the wider opinion of surf writing and even surfers themselves?
I met Bill Finnegan eight or nine years ago, but I’ll digress for a moment. We know surfing well and we write for some of the same magazines and it’s not a hugely lucrative career. A while back I had the realisation that if I’m going to be doing this thing that’s not going to be earning me a whole lot of money, I’m not going to sit here and wait for the editors to give me an assignment, I’m going to go and find things that interest me and that I can maybe learn from and I’m going to write about them. William Finnegan had written that piece, Playing Doc’s Games, and I read it and I thought that that was the gold standard as far as surf writing goes, and he lived in New York and I lived in New York at the time so I pitched the idea of doing an interview with him for The Surfer’s Journal. I met him and we became friends. While he was writing Barbarian Days, which has just won the Pulitzer Prize, we would have dinners every few months and he’d talk about the writing of it and he would say, “Oh, it’s going to be a disaster” or “It’s not working.” I’ve never been so close to watching an artistic process that would go on to become a massive success, seeing it from the very beginning and seeing the self doubt that even a guy of Bill’s stature experienced. It’s encouraging—it reminds me to never give up on those projects close to the heart. But to get to your question, Finnegan has raised the bar in a huge way. He’s changed the perception of surfers. He’s made us look really good.
We are very near finishing Westerly (feature-length doc, about 7 years in the works), and we are very, very excited about that. I’d insert a backflip emoji, but I don’t do emojis. Well, sometimes. I have a friend called Derek Hynd who doesn’t do high-fives. My love for him grew when he told me that.