Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.
Finnegan shares stories of life in a whitesonly gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world’s greatest waves. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.
Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art. Today, Finnegan’s surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.
Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, is surfer and former war reporter Chas Smith’s wild and unflinching look at the high-stakes world of surfing on Oahu’s North Shore—a riveting, often humorous, account of beauty, greed, danger, and crime.
For two months every winter, when Pacific storms make landfall, swarms of mainlanders, Brazilians, Australians, and Europeans flock to Oahu’s paradisiacal North Shore in pursuit of some of the greatest waves on earth for surfing’s Triple Crown competition. Chas Smith reveals how this influx transforms a sleepy, laid-back strip of coast into a lawless, violent, drug-addled, and adrenaline-soaked mecca.
Smith captures this exciting and dangerous place where locals, outsiders, the surf industry, and criminal elements clash in a fascinating look at class, race, power, money, and crime, set within one of the most beautiful places on earth. The result is a breathtaking blend of crime and adventure that captures the allure and wickedness of this idyllic golden world.
Conquering the Impossible is the gripping account of Horn's grueling 27-month expedition by sail and by foot through extreme Arctic conditions that nearly cost him his life on numerous occasions. Enduring temperatures that ranged to as low as -95 degrees Fahrenheit, Horn battled hazards including shifting and unstable ice that gave way and plunged him into frigid waters, encounters with polar bears so close that he felt their breath on his face, severe frostbite in his fingers, and a fire that destroyed all of his equipment and nearly burned him alive.
Complementing the sheer adrenaline of Horn's narrative are the isolated but touching human encounters the adventurer has with the hardy individuals who inhabit one of the remotest corners of the earth. From an Inuit who teaches him how to build an igloo to an elderly Russian left behind when the Soviets evacuated his remote Arctic town, Horn finds camaraderie, kindness, and assistance to help him survive the most unforgiving conditions.
This awe-inspiring account is a page-turner and an Arctic survival tale in one. Most of all, it's a testament to one man's unrelenting desire to push the boundaries of human endurance.