I like to think I’m pretty adventurous. For a pussy. I lived on several continents and travelled to many countries but William Finnegan has me beat. His book ‘Barbarian Days’ chronicles a surfing life that saw him travel the world in search of the finest breaks, from his native Southern California to Hawaii, where he lived as a teen, to Fiji, South Africa, Madeira and beyond.
On the face of it then this book would appear to be for surfheads only. Yet Finnegan , a regular writer for the New Yorker amongst other august literary tomes, makes it fascinating for someone like me who has yet to stand upright on a board.
Whether he’s risking his life in a northern California sea or just struggling to make personal relationships work we go with him with a certain envy. For who among us has not dreamed of making life a constant adventure but somehow failed to follow through on those plans.
Barbarian Days is a timely reminder that living with risk is the only way to truly be alive.
Most of all it makes us understand that we don’t have to be exceptional at the things we love, as Finnegan admits there are far better surfers than him, we just have to be compelled to do them by some strange force that we barely understand but which we ignore at our peril.