On the shortlist of talented writers who’ve contributed to the surf literary canon, two in particular stand above the rest: William Finnegan and Jamie Brisick. During the three decades he’s been a staff writer at the New Yorker, the lion’s share of Finnegan’s writings have been on subjects completely unrelated to surfing – mostly politics, actually. But in August of 1992, the magazine published a two-part series called “Playing Doc’s Games” about legendary Ocean Beach surfer Dr. Mark Renneker that arguably may be two of the best surf-related non-fiction stories ever printed in a magazine. And, of course, Finnegan’s Pulitzer-winning 2015 memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, has been the subject of widespread critical acclaim and even landed on President Obama’s summer reading list.
Brisick’s career, on the other hand, stems from his years on tour as a professional surfer in the late 1980s and early 1990s that he parlayed into a stint as editor at Surfing magazine. Since, he’s written several books on surf history and culture including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and a recent biography on Australian pro surfer Peter Drouyn (now known as Westerly Windina) and her gender transition and multi-faceted career called Becoming Westerly.
On Thursday, the folks over at Birdwell Beach Britches brought the two together to talk all things writing and especially Brisick’s new book Dazzling Blue – which is a collection of short non-fiction taken from a series of posts written for Birdwell’s blog of the same name. “It’s a series of short pieces about things we do in board shorts,” Birdwell’s site reads.
The above is effectively a masterclass in writing about surfing and a must-watch for anyone who’s attempted to capture the sport on the page, or simply loves good writing.
And of course, check out Jamie Brisick’s new book, Dazzling Blue, here.