Searching for the Perfect Phrase

Finnegan is clearly enthralled by surfing. In long, beautifully rendered passages, he describes the giddy fear of big waves, the banter-filled morning surf check, and the jackpot sense of good fortune that comes from stumbling into a day of perfect waves and no crowds.

During the 1990s, the world at large finally came to view surfing as a permanent cultural fixture. No particular moment or event marked this shift. But more or less all at once, newspapers and magazines, novelists and documentary filmmakers, Hollywood studios and New York publishing houses—everybody seemed to realize that riding waves was no longer a novelty or curiosity. On the other hand, what d...

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