A Surfing Life

costa rica digital nomad

The world of surfing has captured the hearts and minds of souls around the world over the past 50 years and with its own unique lingo, secret sought after surf spots, and almost cultish following, surfing has drawn many a lost soul into its warm embrace.

Taking us to tropical islands and uncharted breaks in the middle of nowhere, surfers have always had an explorers’ knack for taking us into the unknown but few outside of the world of surfing have been able to grasp and understand just what draws those men and women to chase the perfect wave.

Author and surfer William Finnegan takes non-surfers into his world with his new book “Barbarian Days”, weaving together a tale that helps those outside the world of surfing to understand the inexplicable obsession with surfing and the magical quality of the sport. “Barbarian Days” comes out of 30 years of surfing, writing, and struggling to understand his own pull to the waves.

At the age of 26, Finnegan and his friend Bryan Di Salvatore, left their predictable and materialistic American lives to search the seas of the South Pacific, in search of the perfect waves and themselves. Both were working in non-writing jobs but believed deep down that they were in fact writers, and above all, surfers. Following their hearts and their dreams, they traveled the beaches of tropical islands, before the days of Google maps and GPS. Their trip included the discovery of one of the most famous waves in the world on the island of Tavarua in Fiji.

A precursor to “Barbarian Days” appeared in The New Yorker Magazine in the 1990’s. This two part series by Finnegan, entitled “Playing Doc’s Game”, gave great insight into the San Francisco surf scene emerging through the 1980’s. 7 years went into the making of “Playing Doc’s Game”, an almost seemingly short amount of time when compared to the long road which Finnegan traveled to produce the tale of self-discovery that is “Barbarian Days”.

While surfing has become a more mainstream sport in today’s world, many pioneers of the sport can still remember when surfing was gritty, unconventional, and counterculture. The right combination of athlete, thrill seeker, outlaw, and renegade had to come together at just the right time for a surfer to abandon everything he knew before and strike out on a adventure of a lifetime, in search of not only the perfect wave, but something deeper and more difficult to articulate. For those who don’t feel the pull of surfing, it may seem crazy, but Finnegan helps paint a picture of a world where the greatest love of your life is not your wife or your girlfriend, but that “wily mistress”, surfing. A clear understanding of the passion, and at times obsession, Finnegan explores the difficulties of traveling the world in search of something that he only could see clearly upon his return to the United States.

“Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan helps take all of us, surfers and non surfers, alike down the rabbit hole into the world of surfing and helps explain why this sport that existed on the margins just a mere 50 years ago is now one of the most popular sports in the world, seducing even the most mainstream and bashful to explore the lust and beauty of the waters.

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