Wiliam Finnegan
January 28, 2011 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Playing Doc’s Games by William Finnegan (The New Yorker, 1992, long) is probably the best article on surfing ever written.
posted by puny human (5 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Great article. Thanks for the post.
posted by Gankmore at 12:29 PM on January 28, 2011

I love love love this article. Used to have an old photocopy of it we'd pass around like a mystical text. Thanks for posting!
posted by dontoine at 4:34 PM on January 28, 2011

Great essay, thanx for posting this.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:06 PM on January 28, 2011

This guy is almost impossibly amazing -- check it out:

Mark’s parents were divorced when he was thirteen. He lived with his mother, a former fashion model, but he and his father, a psychiatrist, remained close. Even when Mark was a teen-ager, he and his father were always together: golfing, fishing, hiking, camping, travelling up and down the coast. (They even hopped a freight train once.) The news that his father might have cancer—news that came while Mark was in pre-medical studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz—had a profound effect on Mark. He began to study cancer with an intensity that convinced many of his friends that his goal was to find a cure in time to save his father. As it turned out, his father did not have cancer. Mark kept on with his cancer studies. His interest was not, in fact, in oncology—in finding a cure—but in the field of cancer education and prevention. By the time he entered medical school, he was the director of a project called the Biology of Cancer, sponsored by the American Cancer Society; had created, with another student, a series of university courses on cancer; and had co-authored “The Biology of Cancer Sourcebook,” the text for a course series that has since been offered to more than forty thousand students on some seventy-five campuses. While Mark was still in medical school he received a National Honors Citation from the American Cancer Society and was named a director at large on the board of directors of the California division of the American Cancer Society. He also co-wrote a second book, “Understanding Cancer,” which became a best-selling university text; it is currently in its third edition, with Mark, who has written a series of updates, now listed as the sole author. Although his medical specialty is family practice, Mark continues to lecture throughout the United States on cancer research, education, and prevention.

“The funny thing is, I’m not really interested in cancer,” Mark says. “I’m interested in people’s response to it. Heart disease—cardiovascular disease, stroke, arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, hypertension—kills three times as many people as cancer does. But if you ask people what they fear most the answer you hear most is cancer. And when someone actually has cancer it really strips away the bullshit. Akira Kurosawa made a great movie—‘Ikiru,’ which means ‘To Live’—about a man who discovers he has a terminal cancer and who only then finally sets out to live. A lot of cancer patients and survivors report that they never really lived till they got cancer, that it forced them to face things, to experience life more intensely. What you see in family practice is that families just can’t afford to be superficial with each other anymore once someone has cancer. Corny as it sounds, what I’m really interested in is the human spirit—in how people react to stress and adversity. I’m fascinated by the way people fight back, by how they keep fighting their way to the surface.” Mark claws at the air with his arms. What he is miming is the struggle to reach the surface through the turbulence of a large wave.

posted by dancestoblue at 5:41 PM on January 28, 2011

I remember reading this when it came out.

I've remembered it often ever since. I doubt a single late fall has gone by that I haven't thought of the quote one guy makes paddling out in heavy, messy surf, something like, "November is big and stupid."

It's rare to read a surf story in a mainstream mag (not the best description of the New Yorker but I mean it terms of not being a surf-centric publication) that gets surfing right.
posted by ecourbanist at 9:37 AM on January 29, 2011

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