As part of the Byron Writers Festival, William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life" will be at the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre the evening of Saturday 6th August.
The event is called "A Surfing Life: William Finnegan in conversation with Sean Doherty".
Should be interesting - it's not everyday a Pulitzer Prize winner comes to town.
Tickets $30 at http://byronwritersfestival.com/festival-2016/tickets/
The guy tells a good story.
Yeah, it was a great read, my non-surfing (but constantly reading) wife enjoyed it too, but not as much as me. Many episodes in there of finding themselves in growing swells and treacherous conditions, only a surfer knows the dread.
Where are you based Batfink? Can you make it to Lennox?
Although it's only scheduled to go for 1 hour 15 minutes, I think it'd be worth the $30.
Good to hear your endorsement of the book, I'm looking forward to reading it in the near future.
Great read - can I ask why the $30. I am assuming Bill is just travelling thru, (maybe spending a few reminiscing days at Kirra !)
It's part of the Byron Writer's Festival Tones - nothing for free these days!
Hope you enjoy that evening, those of you fortunate enough to go. Please report back.
I was part of the early Madeira movement, spending about a year of my life in Jardim do Mar between '95 and '02, alternating between blissed out and scared witless. Barbarian Days is a stunningly good account of that time - and a damn fine read in general.
I'm down in Sydney AndyM, eastern beaches but not Bondi, and not really Bronte, and you can't surf Coogee, and half way to the next beach, but don't want to give too much away about my secret spot.
So no, Lennox is a bit far to go for the day/night. Otherwise definitely worth the $30 I reckon.
hundred buck flight to Ballina I'll pick you up from the airport BF, stay at mine no probs.
Just read the Byron Writers Festival Program. Apparently the conversation is between Bill, Doherty and Occy.
Would pay $30 to hear Bill speak, not sure I'd drop thirty to hear Occy's gibberish.
Good deal Batfink...
I thought I saw somewhere that Occy had dropped out - now that's a sweetener.
Freeride's got heaps of jew in the fridge too.
Yep, Occy's out.
I checked flights the other day and they were more than $100. Was looking at around $300 return, which is almost worth it to take double helpings of FR's jewies but not quite.
haha, I wish. can;t catch one to save my life.
you going to see Bill Andy?
Yeah mate, got my ticket.
He is 'in conversation' in Newcastle too, next week, as part of the Newcastle Writers Festival program. I'm going, should be great.
He's also at Berkelouw at Mona Vale on August 2.
As much as I enjoyed Barbarian Days and respect Bill Finnegan I suggest extreme caution in the vicinity of a Writers Festival. After all there will be writers there and writers are professional loners who loathe any form of social contact....unless they are the centre of attention. Consider, writers are compelled by their profession to spend their lives alone in garrets, basements or bedrooms considering some aspect of human nature in great detail. This is not a lifestyle geared to optimism and a generous interpretation of human nature. Even when, as with Finnegan, they choose some light and vaguely uplifting theme, misanthropy is never far away. Be warned, never ask a question, seek an autograph or, even worse, attempt to engage an author in casual conversation. You will be patronised to within an inch of your life and left with a permanent overwhelming sense of inadequacy that can only be dealt with through that ever false balm of substance abuse.
Been ruminating on the theme of misanthropy myself lately.
“The one thing in me more powerful than a general misanthropy is an inescapable compassion for individuals.”
― Jasper Sole
“The multiplication of our kind borders on the obscene; the duty to love them, on the preposterous.”
― Emil Cioran
Forget yourself and try to catch a couple of relaxing waves at the Bukit and you'll know what I'm talking about.
PS- So, party at Freeride's ?!
I dare anyone to ask and get a selfie with William hehe
OK it is an semi-official Swellnet challenge...first posted selfie with Bill. Prize? C'mon Stu, an upgrade? A free Swellnet leggie? ( You must have a few left).
Was it Terry Fitzgerald who said in an interview words to the effect of 'out- arroganting' the French? Just have to be strong and if it comes to it, it's duelling misanthropic vibes at ten paces ;).
I'm sure if Bill tries to surf the Point he'll be bought back to Earth.
I can imagine. Although I'd be more concerned about the aspiring and tortured artists in the audience. All jokes aside I'm hoping it will be a good listen.
Bill will just have to try to avoid meeting the attendees. Writers say that it is the problem when you write a memoir. Readers feel entitled and impelled to tell you their own life story, and not in a quick way.
Attendee: 'Hello Bill, well I first surfed Kirra in 1978, blah, blah, blah..... Then in 1982, I went to Bali for the first time, yada, yada, yada.....'.
Bill: 'Oh yes, that's very interesting. Look, I really have to get going.'
Never really understood writer's festivals myself. Used to attend the odd talk during Sydney's Writers Festivals but didn't ever get much from them; often it was an author repeating a chapter from their latest release, or a to and fro with an MC that covered already familiar terrain. Never did glean anything that I couldn't have from reading reviews, and the book of course, plus listening to RN.
That said, I've enjoyed talks by various authors who are also 'commentators' and can stray from their written work with ease.
Sean's a damn good MC, hopefully he can tease info out of Bill that he hasn't included in the book.
I wrote a brief ebook once - I'm going to bail Bill up and tell him all about it.
At the same time I'll be taking selfies.
Maybe you can get him to sign your Kindle Andy?
Stu above, if you ever get a chance to listen to Peter Fitzsimons, he can keep a room entertained.
He's no primadonna, and can hold his own; just sent me a pic of 5ft Padang on a borrowed board. I'm sure he would do well at the point - at least if there were some size.
Wish I could be there, but Welly-Goldy flights were stupidly expensive :-/
damn if its that good a book , when is the movie coming out for those of us who don't read books?
Feedback from those who went...?
And did anyone see old Bill in the surf?
He's on this weekend.
no sign of him at the Point today. pretty fun waves.
Get your ticket FR!
Oh....lucky I didn't buy a plane ticket, eh?
That would have been funny in hindsight...
probably scared after FReeglide threatened him in going out at the point!
For what it's worth, here is a photo of William Finnegan at Cloudbreak.
I heard Bill speak in Melbourne yesterday. Well worth the time, and I imagine the session at Byron will be better as the MC up there has a handle on surf culture etc. His commentary on the Gold Coast in the late 70's / early 80's is really interesting - kind of like a look at another country - or at least a country and a place that no longer exists. In some ways his job at the New Yorker is a dream gig for a surfer/writer - the only magazine I know of that would allow you seven years to write a single article... So if you're up that way, I would definitely shell out the 30 bucks ( and buy the book if you haven't already.
Finnegan says it took him 20 years to write the book. Not because it was hard to write, but because he had more important things to do. Though surfing is an intense personal interest for him, he always (rightly) saw it as trivial. His priority was writing about wars and justice and the life and death of millions, and not about the fun of splashing about in the water. Occasionally he would get back to his book about surfing.
There was a pretty good 20 minute interview with Finnegan on Radio National with Cassie McCullogh a week ago.
Island Bay, you were talking about Madeira - Finnegan mentions it in the RN interview (I haven't read the book yet) and says it's big, heavy and consequential.
You must have a few stories there. how did you end up in Madeira?
How heavy was the surf, what board/s did you ride and did you suffer any of the potential consequences?
If the geology is anything like the Canaries (which I had a surf at), there'd be some nasty sharp lava rock and if the vibe is anything like the Azores (which I visited but didn't surf), it's be pretty intimidating.
Yep, tons of stories - enough to bore you all to tears. For starters, Finnegan's account of Peter Spacek getting caught inside at Ponta Pequena, snagging his leggie on a boulder and almost drowning, is a ringer for one of my near disasters:
Walked down from Jardim do Mar one beautiful morning and paddled out into 6ft perfection, only it was 6-8ft by the time I caught my first wave. (I was on a 7'4 Maurice Cole, having severely dinged my other 7'4 and my head and back the previous day trying to get back in at W swell Jardim).
Soon it was much bigger, and I got lip launched on takeoff, tumbled underwater for 300m, then found myself in the 'Chamber of Horrors' - a massive pile of car-size boulders which traps the down-the-point sweep and makes the place dangerous. If my leggie hadn't finally snapped, after what seemed like ages held under, I would have drowned.
I walked back a relieved but broken man, and swore I'd never surf Madeira again. (Back on the horse two days later, though) That swell stepladdered so heavily, that it was 25ft+ by afternoon. Never seen bigger waves, and nobody surfed despite lots of 9-10ft boards around, so who knows how big it was. The points never closed out...
A lot of the time I was scared or at least very careful. The waves all break under massive cliffs, which are never far away, so takeoffs feel critical. The waves are heavy, but mostly not slabby. Paul do Mar, however, does a very decent Backdoor impersonation, with heavy, chandeliering barrels in crystal clear water, the boulders seemingly only a few feet away. Getting in and out is never a picnic.
In the Azores, did you go to Sao Jorge and see the surf spots on the north coast there? Madeira is a bit like that, only the cliffs are right in your face, with no flat land on the coast whatsoever.
That said, it can be a place of total bliss. Double OH right points, warmish water (like Lennox), seldom crowded, real open ocean power. The winter of '95, it was offshore and cranking 60 days in row.
Also quiet village life, cheap wine and good food, warm sunshine, and a good group of mostly older guys from all over.
I lived in flat Copenhagen, Denmark, at the time, and would fly down for 2 weeks, a month, or two months at a time in N Hemi winter. Having not had decent waves since dry season Indo trips, it was always a sinking feeling showing up with a couple of 7'4s, hoping it wouldn't be massive. I borrowed an 8'4 at times, but never got good enough or confident enough to ride 9-10ft boards in really big waves there.
First trip was in Feb '95. I think the Surfermag article came out just before that. True to his humble self, Sam George managed to name a spot after himself - except everybody ignored that :-)
Compared to the Canaries, Madeira feels much more primordial, much heavier, but with none of the extreme localism of say Tenerife. Weather is much iffier, often catching the tail end of Atlantic fronts, while the Canaries bask in the sun a few hundred k's to the south under the ridge of high pressure.
Island bay, personally that Jardim do Mar/ Madeira section in Barbarian Days was the highlight of the book for me and pretty much made me feel i was there in a weird sort of way......sounds as though maybe you should write your own version as there seems to be lots of stories worth telling,thanks for sharing a small piece.
Thanks, Simba. I was afraid that I'd gone off on some big listen-to-me wank, but I miss the place.
I'll leave the story telling to Bill Finnegan; he does it so much better than I ever could, but there are lots of interesting stories from the place. There's an article in an old'ish Surfer's Path by or about Terence Wood (the same Terence that Finnegan mentions; a good friend of mine), talking of surfing Jardim on a big day, and not being able to get in. Again, eerily like what Bill describes in Barbarian Days.
I say that in no way to imply that Finnegan plagiarised that story, but to show that there are 'archetypal' stories from Jardim that represent what many surfers there have gone through there.
"Enough to bore you all to tears"
Not at all mate, nicely written!
Would be great to hear you tell some stories in more detail - there're so many potential classic yarns floating around the Swellnet site that never get told, it's a bit of a shame.
You definitely didn't go into self-indulgent territory in my books.
Sounds awesome. One of the older Lennox locals was on the Madeira wagon from day one.
It's a great regret to me that I didn't get there before they ruined it.
It's not too late, Fr76. The main point at Jardim is not nearly as good as it used to be, but still a bloody good wave. Ponta Pequena and Paul do Mar still pump, as do the north coast left points - and all the secret spots.
I'm going back soon - maybe in December.
Bought the Finnegan book for my old boy last year. Snuck in a chapter or two. Wrong chapters by the looks. Madeira! Fine golf course as well as plonk. Also you can marvel at the drainage system built by slaves. Mental.
Got a bit of a slave-owner vibe about the joint too. Well, defo in Funchal.
I was there pre-Jardim make-over. The whole island's rooted now. Wouldn't bother. Missed it, comrades.
As for hearing authors speak, check out any audio of Henry Miller. Yes, THE Henry Miller. Everything and anyone else just don't cut the mustard.
Very kind offer freeride but pretty busy down here and won't be able to get up there for Saturday night. I'll take Stu's word for it regarding flight costs.
Re the book recounting episodes at Madeira/Jardim, yes, I found them mesmerising. A surfer will read them with different eyes, having flashbacks of their encounters with a building swell and thinking 'fark, how do I get in?'
I read some passages and he was talking about growing swell, failing light, really difficult passages to get in and he's writing 'I'll just get one more', and I'm thinking 'get the fark out of there!'
And blindboy, love your work. Writers and misanthropy, there's a lot of truth in that. :-)
The most poignant part of the whole book was when Bill goes back to Cloudbreak 30 odd years after surfing it as a deserted atoll and stays at the resort. He breaks his favourite Owl Chapman board out in the surf and takes it out the back of the resort to leave it on the rubbish dump of other broken boards.
Had a 7 or 8 hour reading binge yesterday.
I'm not blown away by the quality of his writing but it still really shines in patches - he's got a poet's eye for waves.
The strength of the stories is fantastic though, his initial experience at Tavarua is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Kinda felt the same way; Finnegan isn't a stylist whose prose you admire while reading it. His style is no style, just seamless syntax that removes all impediments so the reader feels impelled to keep going without distraction.
Years ago I did a graphic design diploma and the typography teacher drilled into us that the best font is the one you don't notice while reading it.
Finnegan's 'style' is a little like that.
got my tickets.
tell you what, it took a lot of inner convincing to hit pay now and spend $30 (60 actually I'm taking the missus) to hear a bloke talk about surfing.