Surf’s Up! William Finnegan’s ‘Barbarian Days’ wins 2016 ‘William Hill Sports Book of the Year’ award


William Finnegan’s surfing memoir ‘Barbarian Days’ has won the 28th ‘William Hill Sports Book of the Year’ award, the richest and most prestigious sports literature prize.

Described by judges as ‘compelling elegiac and profound’, Barbarian Days is the first surfing-based book to win William Hill’s literature prize.

Finnegan a New Yorker magazine columnist has already won critical acclaim for his tales of 1960’s surfing counter culture in California and Hawaii, having received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and having featured on President Obama’s summer reading list.

Barbarian Days was announced as the winner of the 2016 Award by judge and broadcaster John Inverdale at an afternoon ceremony at BAFTA in central London.

Broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson, joining the judging panel for the first time this year, said: 

“Although the author himself acknowledges the scepticism of some about whether surfing is a sport, the judges felt that Finnegan’s account of the physical and psychological drive to achieve athletic perfection make Barbarian Days a worthy winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. The autobiographical detail and precision of the writing also make it rewarding to those who might think they would struggle to get on board with surfing as a subject.”

As 2016 ‘Sports Book of the Year’ winner Finnegan takes home £28,000 in prize money plus a £2,500 free William Hill bet and an exclusive day at the races courtesy of the bookmaker.

The American joins an illustrious list of SPOTY past winners including Nick Hornby, Duncan Hamilton, Donald McRae, Anna Krien and David Goldblatt.

William Hill spokesman and co-founder and Chair of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said:

“Compelling, elegiac and profound throughout, Barbarian Days offers a revelatory and often dramatic study of the elegant art of surfing. As we follow William Finnegan’s story we see not just the maturing of a boy into a man, but of a rebellious soul coming to terms with society on his own terms. We also see, as we so often do, how sport reflects politics, economics and an ever-shrinking world, as surfers fight to protect their hidden beaches and continue their search for new waves to master. It’s a widescreen, technicolour winner: with a Pulitzer Prize and now the Bookie Prize to its name, surely Hollywood cannot be far behind.”

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