Soundings: Season 5 Episode 12

William Finnegan

On Barbarian Days, long-form writing, conflict reporting, traveling, nonfiction narrative, surfing Long Island, and finding an audience.

Light / Dark

Award-winning author and The New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan came to surfing early while growing up between Hawaii and Southern California. He helped bring surf writing, as a genre, to the literary fore in 1992 with the publication of his two-part essay “Playing Doc’s Games” in The New Yorker, which chronicled both his and “Doc” Renneker’s pursuits at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. His 2015 memoir, Barbarian Days, which documented his surfing life, won the Pulitzer Prize. Beyond the surf, Finnegan has devoted much of his career to conflict reporting in regions ranging from Mexico to parts of Asia. In this episode, Finnegan talks with show host Jamie Brisick about the modern marriage of surfing and intellectualism, the importance of asking questions, writing, curiosity, outing himself as a surfer in the context of his career, Bali’s dystopian reality, the dissemination of surf culture, and how his experience as a teacher in South Africa during apartheid shaped him as a writer.   

Produced by Jonathan Shifflett.
Music by PazKa (Aska Matsumiya & Paz Lenchantin).

Feature image by Jamie Brisick.