Pulitzer prize winner and a book about surfing at the top of Obama’s reading list, now a movie? Amazon Studios has tapped Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan to adapt the memoir for the big screen. If you surf – scratch that – if you are a human being, and have yet to read William Finnegan’s odyssey/memoir Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, find yourself a copy. This book definitely changed my life. For the better, I think – if deepening my own obsession with surfing is a positive. Barbarian Days describes Finnegan’s lifelong relationship with surfing that takes him from Ventura, Calif. to Hawaii to famous surf spots the world over before they were even discovered.
According to Deadline, Gaghan will write and direct the movie, and Finnegan will be an executive producer. “There are great surfers and there are great writers, but so rarely is this the same person,” Gaghan said. “Bill is both, and he has written about surfing in a way that is interesting to non-surfers. He just opened it up. Probably because it’s not really about surfing, it’s about time, and mortality, and how a deep, guiding passion can hold us back and propel us forward in unpredictable ways. It’s one of those rare books that once you read it you can’t stop thinking about it.
As for myself, I’m a bit skeptical as to how well this work of art will make the jump from book to film. To me, what elevated Barbarian Days from ‘good’ or even ‘great’ to ‘absolutely legendary’ was the language. William Finnegan’s diction, his pacing, and deep insights are pure, fucking gold. The way he uses these surf stories to draw profound conclusions on the question of what it means to be a human is staggering. As a writer and philosophy nerd he is everything I could ever aspire to be and more. My copy of the book is filled with highlighted passages, a collection that grows every time I re-read the book and am struck by Finnegan’s words in a new way.
For proof of what I’m saying, check out this short video above of some chillaxing surf clips overlaid with Finnegan reading some of his most well-known passages from the book. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites as well: “…surfing harbors this paradox: a desire to be alone with waves fused to an equal desire to be watched, to perform. The social side can be competitive or a pure yearning for companionship or, most often, both.”