Watch: William Finnegan // Barbarian Days

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

I've never been particularly fond of writer's festivals. Mostly I've been disappointed when authors I enjoy simply read their works verbatim with no added insights or observations, or when their voice isn't much of a reading voice at all. In the same way that David Beckham was a fascinating soccer player, till you heard him talk about it, some authors have great voices for writing, and only writing.

Not so William Finnegan.

In this short clip by Darius Devas, the author of Barbarian Days gets it right on both counts: among excerpts from his memoir he adds unique observations on the surfing life, and they're clearly enunciated in Bill's relaxed delivery. It's a shame it's not longer.

Stay tuned for more shorts like this from Darius in the coming weeks.

Comments

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 10:25am

Cool. One of my all time favorite books. His words capture the feeling of surfing and being a surfer better than most. The video suits his narration.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 11:34am

Lovely to just listen to nice words spoken well.

Fond memories of long talks with Bill overlooking the point at Jardim, after a "vigorous session", i.e. frightening and elating.

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 11:52am

He did a pretty good interview on RRR a couple years back. I can’t find the link anymore though..

I am the bone

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 12:51pm

Here's the link to the RRR interview (although it's only available to members - must be because it's an old one). Will give it a go as I didn't hear it at the time.

https://www.rrr.org.au/on-demand/archives/1351-william-bill-finnegan-rad...

Barbarian Days was a cracking read.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 1:05pm

Nice. Looking forward to seeing more of Darius's work. Aside from surfing he's done some great films with themes on mental health and the stolen generation. A lovely guy too...onya mate!!

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 2:38pm

Yeah, I've known Darius for a while. He's done some great stuff in the past and he's also got some good work on the boil.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 at 6:20am

Loved Barbarian days and could relate to the Fiji aspect of it running into John Ritter in Vanuatu probably a month or so after Williams encounter with John.But to me the section on Madeira and the fears and emotions he described were on the money .....describes surfing perfectly.

simba

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 1:58pm

Beautiful, thankyou.

the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 4:20pm

He's got the goods, not two ways about it. Barbarian will stand the test of time.

The U Turn
...a little Aloha goes a long way.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 4:21pm

" or when their voice isn't much of a reading voice at all" AKA Bill Bryson.

spencie's picture
spencie's picture
spencie commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 4:43pm

Really enjoyed reading the book a few years ago. He captures the essence of surfing in a way that few other writers can. Could relate to it and the characters in it having grown up and surfed from that era. The clip of the Pass made me realise why I left the area about 15 years ago for less crowded regions.

easterly

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 6:07pm

In his book a friend agreed surfing was a great sport
His reply it's not a sport but a path in life

upnorth's picture
upnorth's picture
upnorth commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 8:48pm

Could listen to him talk story for a while.
Re Barbarian Days - the best surf related book I've read, in fact streets ahead of anything else which makes me think I've missed something. There's another thread somewhere but can anyone suggest another read which compares to Finnegan's work?

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 at 3:48am

Upnorth, I haven't found anything remotely as good. No one that really manages to convey the surfing life, experience and obsession as well as Finnegan does. But I'm in the market for more.

Mountaineers seem to get it, and there are parallels between climbing and surfing. Walter Bonatti's The Mountains of my Life was good. Reinhold Messner's bio, too.

Helps if you're a mountain person, of course, but not strictly required.

Ted from the moon's picture
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Ted from the moon commented Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 at 1:41pm

Or you could watch Valley Uprising, The Dawn Wall and Free Solo. I would suggest watching them in that order. Epic set of films. I think climbing and surfing have a lot in common as well. The climbing films are much better than the surfing equivalents as well from a story telling perspective. Although I am hoping the new Michael Oblowitz film will be a ripper. His last one was.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 at 8:58am

Valley Uprising is a hoot!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 at 9:05am

I'll have to grab that one IB, thanks!

upnorth's picture
upnorth's picture
upnorth commented Friday, 14 Jun 2019 at 2:20am

Cheers IB will check those out.

If you are into mountain pursuits the Bothy Bible by Geoff Allan might be interesting, a run down of bothies in Scotland. Not all, there are still plenty of secret spots but a good selection. A good read from an interest point of view as each bothy has a history, many pre dating the clearances with the crofters making new lives in Oz among other places.

Some such as Peanmeanach have names with links to the Vikings and the norse system of land division. Pean derives from peighinn meaning 'pennyland'- 20 of these, each with a farm, made up an 'ounce land', an acreage capable of producing an ounce of silver in rent. Pretty cool to be able to pitch up there these days and still have a roof for the night and a fire for free. And of course if you get stuck on a Scottish mountain at any point you might be able to find refuge.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Monday, 17 Jun 2019 at 10:04pm

It's a different context, but to me Tim Winton captured something very special with a few of his descriptions in Breath.

ljsurf69's picture
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ljsurf69 commented Tuesday, 18 Jun 2019 at 7:03am

Here's the link to a classic surf article Finnegan wrote for the New York Times many years ago: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1992/08/24/playing-docs-games-part-one

SeppoSD

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 12 Jun 2019 at 8:55pm

Good words.

True, most sessions are unremarkable but when all the stars align and you get it 'on', it becomes so remarkable it's almost ethereal.

Enjoyed the book too.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 13 Jun 2019 at 3:03pm

add "180 degrees south" from patagonia to that list. has surfing and climbing.
valley uprising is so good.

the GF read barbarian days -- it gave her a vast array of language to relentlessly mock me with when i check out the surf...now she's all "waves are too fat, wide, blown out", "dredging too hard off the reef for you?"

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Friday, 14 Jun 2019 at 5:42am

Ha Ha!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 14 Jun 2019 at 11:04am

That was really powerful.

Sitting here utterly distracted from the surfer vibe this morning, just checking Swellnet intermittently to detox from a world of abstract figures when I clicked on this . Been a while since I’d read the book and lost a bit of appreciation for it during that time. I’d misremembered it for the overdrawn final chapters relating to the authors personal relationships.

Time for another look .

Maybe even the audio version if it’s read by Finnegan.

Thanks.

Clip was beautifully well made too.

seanedwards's picture
seanedwards's picture
seanedwards commented Saturday, 15 Jun 2019 at 7:08am

Audio book is read by the man himself, well worth a listen, I've done so 3 times.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Friday, 14 Jun 2019 at 11:34am

Very sweet meditation on surfing, really wonderfully put together.

"Most sessions were unremarkable."

It's true, but sometimes a shitty, onshore solo session out in the middle of nowhere can leave such an impression. You never know when the mood will catch you just right. Sometimes I can be out in the middle of a crowd and somehow be the only one out there.

How does one subscribe to a youtube channel. went looking on youtube and couldn't find anything.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Tuesday, 18 Jun 2019 at 4:56am

"Sometimes I can be out in the middle of a crowd and somehow be the only one out there."

That's profound man.

kahoona's picture
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kahoona commented Saturday, 15 Jun 2019 at 10:37am

So much online content steals time from us.
Not this.

Kahoona