Jack London is a writer — rather famous one too. He wrote The Call of the Wild, The Sea-Wolf, Iron Heel, White Fang and tons of other famous novels in the early 1900’s that you may have been told to read and probably didn’t. Turns out London wrote about surfing too. In 1907 he was in Waikiki and wrote A Royal Sport: Surfing in Waikiki. It includes some of the most interesting words ever penned about our outlandish activity. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Where but the moment before was only the wide desolation and invincible roar, is now a man, erect, full statured, not-struggling frantically in that wild movement, not buried and crushed and buffeted by those mighty monsters, but standing above them all, calm and superb, poised on the giddy summit, his feet buried in the churning foam, the salt smoke rising to his knees, and all the rest of him in the free air and flashing sunlight, and he is flying through the air, flying forward, flying fast as the surge on which he stands. He is a Mercury — a brown Mercury. His heels are winged, and in them is the swiftness of the sea.
Now that you know London can shred, you’ll be happy to know he was a fucking maniac too. He was a destructive, alcoholic madman who grew up in Oakland as an oyster pirate. He was so mad that he wrote an autobiographical book about the ravages and pleasures alcohol had on his life, in hopes of turning people off it (prohibition was a major topic in this period, and London oddly enough was all for it) despite admitting he never planned to give it up himself. What a contradictory rebel! I love this dude. And unfortunately for London, the book does little to dissuade, and really just makes you want to go buy a round for all your friends after surfing big waves and put Black Flag on the juke box. Anyway, the book is called John Barleycorn (London refers to alcohol as John Barleycorn, as if it’s a person) and it is one of the most useful and entertaining books you’ll ever read. Here in chapter 2 Jack explains the two kinds of drinkers:
There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers. There is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers. This is contrasted to drinkers such as the narrator, who are possessed of imagination and become drunk more in brain than in body. To them, John Barleycorn sends clear visions of the eventual pointlessness of life and love and struggle.
The point of all this was to suggest a good book, somehow relate it to surfing and give you something to talk about over beers this weekend. Hope it works. If not, at least there will be fireworks. —Travis