Lessons learned riding the waves

Warning: This Pulitzer-Prize winning “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan, is not for the faint of heart, and many of you may feel like you are reading your own biography!

Daily on Kauai, we see some of our most affluent professionals and the “just hangin’” living for the board! As it is with William Finnegan, it’s their daily breath.

Starting with his life as a young boy growing up in both California and Hawaii in the 1960s, we get to experience what it was like during the emergence of surfing in Western culture, when most were just becoming aware of it and there were no “corporate championships” to even speak of.

For many, surfing is a lifestyle, not a hobby. William Finnegan exemplifies the very essence of this understanding. During his youth, he sought the waves more than anything, and it became a calling that would drive him to travel the world, meet interesting and unusual people, as well as cultures quite different from his own. Amidst all of his pursuits for the elusive “perfect ride”, Finnegan also has to balance “reality” amidst all his exploits, namely his family, friends, finances, and the accountability of one’s actions (or lack thereof).

Finnegan also recounts candidly, with fascinating detachment, his darker sides of his drug use, recklessness, promiscuity, and immaturity. Yet through the tumult of the paths he had chosen, Finnegan manages to come through it all and still balances his life’s needs with the passion he carries in him for surfing. Indeed, his love for the experience of riding on the waves is poetically described throughout, written in a manner that fellow surfers will immediately identify with, and non-surfers will find intriguing and compelling.

This has been a big seller in our bookstore. Pick one up and discover why!


Ed and Cynthia Justus are owners of The Bookstore in Hanapepe.


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