Showing posts from July, 2017

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan

I have come late to Finnegan’s celebrated book, ‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life’. It sat, unread, by my beside for months, and I was never sure what my hesitation was. Perhaps the singularly glowing reviews in the New York Review of Book, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal following his awarding of a Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography. A Pulitzer! For a book about surfing! Or perhaps it was the claim (I can’t remember where), that this book would change the surf writing genre. Books about surfing's past are a growing genre of non-fiction. As men who started surfing in the 50s, 60s and 70s head into their sunset years, the scramble to claim their place in the surfing past appears to have come upon them suddenly and absolutely. This genre has a big market. Thousands of surfers - like them, who knew them, or who admired them – love reading these stories to reflect on their own surfing lives and histories, while the current affinity for the apparent “golden era of surfing” …

The 13th Doctor


Somewhat strangely, I wasn't bothered about who played the next Dr (although, I do have a soft spot for Idris Elba), but when I watched this I felt so stoked and excited!

Tennis isn't surfing but it's still really sexist

Men's sport is most often talked about just as 'sport', while women occupy a different world of women's sport.

Sir Andrew Murray is NOT amused with your casual sexism! — Jamie (@_JamieMac_) July 12, 2017

It's only just after 9am, and this is already likely the best thing I'll see today.

This is not the first time Andy Murray has defended the achievements of women in tennis.

Such corrections aren't only made by Andy Murray, but male sportspeople are otherwise rare in their support of women athletes. Women, in particular Serena Williams, often have to do the work of reminding journalists and other athletes of their achievements in the big picture, not in a stand-alone women's category. When one reporter asked "There will be talk about you going down as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. What do you think when you hear someone talk like that?", Serena famously replied "I prefer the word ‘one…

Become Ocean - John Luther Adams

Since watching Musica Surfica, I've thought a lot about intersections between classical music and the sea. I'm not going to bang on about that today, but I did want to share one of my most treasured oceanic musical discoveries, Become Ocean, by John Luther Adams.

Instead of riffing on a sense of the sea from afar, of watching it, or being awed by it, this 45 minute composition takes you under the water, under the waves, onto the ocean floor. You float bout with the swell and fall of the sounds, carried along to the point where it's barely possible to notice it any more, where the weight of the water - of the music - disappears.

I go back to this composition a lot, and highly recommend exploring his catalogue of work - songs of the wind, of birds, of light. The capacity to communicate space through words, colour or music fascinates me, and I've rarely heard a place - under the sea - so perfectly achieved as in this.

From on high

I'm always learning new things about the coast, the beach, the surf, the waves. Mostly though, it's with my feet planted firmly on the ground, or floating in or on the sea. I know the ways different waves form up and crash from the water. I know how the sand looks on the ocean floor bottom from sticking my face through the surface, diving down to touch it, or being scraped along when I wipe out. I know the rocks from headlands or from avoiding them at different tides, the shoreline from how sand sticks to my feet, from beach-combing, sun-baking, digging holes, building castles, I know the littoral zone from wading on long walks, paddling with children, passing through on my way to the surf. I know the effect of coastlines swell lines from sitting on headlands, walking up cliffs and watching from on high, but always with my feet planted firmly on the ground.

Drones have shifted some of that, but most of the drone images I have seen have been of people surfing waves, not of coas…

History of surfing in Lennox Head

Australian surf history has a pretty consistent narrative that tends to focus on people rather than places. That people are so key to how we talk about the surfing past in Australia means that there are legacies that get protected, businesses that rely on particular myths, and ego that rely on the status. I'm not saying any of this is terrible, I'm just saying...

But I just saw a call for submissions and participation in a history of surfing that is specifically related to a place, rather than a person or technological development: Lennox Head. The history is to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Lennox National Surfing Reserve in February 2018. The project seems to be called, 'Surfing Lennox'. You can find more details here.

Lennox is a beloved, localised and popular place, with it's own tensions and importance when it comes to surfing in Australia and the world. I'll look forward to hearing more about this project as it goes along, and to buying the res…

Sustainable Surfing

These days, most of my writing about surfing appears in academic publications, which means all my work is hidden behind really expensive paywalls. Because the main role of academics is to contribute to public knowledge, that the public can't access our work is one of the terrible paradoxes and most unethical things about contemporary academia - we're bound by our industry to publish in academic spaces. It's why I feel a responsibility to write here and in other mainstream and accessible places as well. I've not been very good and keeping to that commitment, but writing more on this blog one of my goals for this year.

In the mean time, a new book with lots of research about surfing, Sustainable Surfing (edited by Greg Borne and Jess Ponting), has offered full and free access to anyone for the next 60 days. I'm not sure you can print it out (people more clever than I can likely find ways around that), but if you're interested in reading some work on sustainabilit…