William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize, in Hossegor: “I oriented my career to allow me to surf”

In English, this does not pose a problem, but it is true that the French translation has a particular resonance. It is to be taken in the historical and psychological sense, as someone foreign, an outsider, almost in reference to a different tribal group. And that’s what we were as surfers, in our pursuit of the waves, leaving everything…

In English, this does not pose a problem, but it is true that the French translation has a particular resonance. It is to be taken in the historical and psychological sense, as someone foreign, an outsider, almost in reference to a different tribal group. And that’s what we were as surfers, in our quest for the waves, leaving everything behind us, with different codes. It’s also this duality inside me, between the journalist and the man who worships nature and surfing.

Many surfers have written their biography, even very great champions, but without ever having the same success as your book… How did you manage to talk about surfing while interesting an audience of uninitiated people?

First, when you know your subject perfectly, you are comfortable talking about it and this allows you to present it well to others. Each time I introduced a technical term, I proposed its definition, without going into too much detail either, and doing so in small, spaced-out doses. My wife, who knows nothing about surfing, re-read me and sometimes censored me because I was getting too excited (laughs).

You have traveled all around the planet: what memories do you keep of your passages in France, and in particular on the waves of the South-West?

The first time I came to Biarritz in the summer, there weren’t any waves and I went to destinations with my head down. But I came back several times, including a session on a huge left… At Avalanche, I think, in the Basque Country. I had a friend there as my guide and we had some really good waves.

Today, surfing has changed a lot. How do you view the evolution of sport and technology, like the surf forecasts you missed so much on the trips of your youth?

I can’t thank surf forecast sites enough because today I have a family and a job, I live in New Work and I can’t wait on the beach forever for the waves to arrive (laughs). So I look at the webcams and the forecast sites and when they are good, I start to find excuses to go away because people wouldn’t understand if I said to them: “No, I’m not coming for lunch because it will be low tide. and the waves will be good (laughs). At the time, we had navigation maps, it was fun, but we had to have time. Forecasts are also useful to avoid putting yourself in danger. I remember a session in Madeira, where we were in the water and the swell got bigger very quickly. We were clearly in danger. I even remember this fishing boat approaching the line up to find out if we wanted to go back with them, but we didn’t understand each other.

You talk about surfing as an addiction. How has this served or harmed you in your career and in life in general?

First of all, I believe that like any addiction, we try to manage it so that it doesn’t become destructive. Then we use it. As they say, a good wave and your day is successful! People don’t realize the energy and benefits of surfing. I oriented my career to allow me to surf. Writing freed me up to devote myself to it completely freely, I planned my week according to the waves. Surfing is also something very instinctive, a sport that we internalize a lot. This develops a capacity for adaptation, resilience and concentration. I remember my sessions in Oceanside, near San Francisco, on beautiful breaks very similar to those of Hossegor. The water is cold, the waves often big and it’s the scariest spot I’ve surfed. When we surf a certain size, we win a victory over a force much larger than us. You have to be smart, resistant to get out of it and it’s a real life lesson every time. And these lessons helped me a lot to pass other ordeals… more earthly.

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William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize, in Hossegor: “I oriented my career to allow me to surf”