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Jamie Brisick has spent more than four decades deeply immersed in surfing, first as a professional surfer in the '80s and '90s, and since then as a writer, photographer, and filmmaker. An author of several books, an editor of international surf magazines, and a Fulbright scholar, he is an astute observer of the culture. In conversation with Chris Gentile, founder of Pilgrim Surf + Supply, and through a selection of his photographs, Jamie will discuss his life in surfing, as well as show excerpts from a few of his favorite surf films, which include Jack McCoy's Stormriders, Greg Schell's Chasing the Lotus, and Alby Falzon's Morning of the Earth.
Jamie Brisick is a writer, photographer, and director. He surfed on the ASP world tour from 1986 to 1991. He has since documented surf culture extensively. His books include Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn's Transformation into Westerly Windina, Roman & Williams: Things We Made, We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations, Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and The Eighties at Echo Beach. His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer's Journal, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He was the editor of Surfing magazine from 1998-2000, and is presently the global editor of Huck. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles.
"You've never read anything like BECOMING WESTERLY. Peter Drouyn is a character beyond the capacities of almost any novelist to imagine-and then he turns into someone else. Jamie Brisick traces the emergence of Westerly Windina with so much empathy, eloquence, and patience. His book is dazzling, devastating, funny, and surpassingly strange." - William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days
"BECOMING WESTERLY is much more than a book about a celebrated surfer who becomes a woman-in this case, a dude who becomes a diva. Brisick presents us with a case study of narcissism, of the pathology of celebrity, and a detailed look at the complex world of competitive surfing. It is a funny and painful book, too, and one I greatly enjoyed." - Paul Theroux, Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories, The Last Train to Zona Verde, The Great Railway Bazaar and Mosquito Coast
"Brisick shines a brilliant light on the fascinating Ms. Windina, at once damsel in distress and Superwoman. The surfing scenes are riveting-written with an excitement and an immediacy that only a lifelong wave rider can pull off." - James Frey, A Million Little Pieces
"From deep inside the barrel, Jamie Brisick recounts the tale of the waverider who revolutionized pro surfing with man-to-man heats and then became a woman - having thought of herself as Marilyn Monroe all along. With this compassionate, funny, and wrenching book, Brisick has taken his impressive body of work to a new level, establishing himself as a fine observer of life's currents, on land, sea, and inside the heart." - Deanne Stillman, Twentynine Palms, Mustang, and Desert Reckoning
"Jamie Brisick tells the unlikely story of how Peter Drouyn, one of Australia's greatest surfers, morphed into the chanteuse Westerly Windina. At once candid autobiography, participatory anthropology, and cultural history, the tale of Drouyn's metamorphosis is told with compassion, humility, and authority. BECOMING WESTERLY is a remarkable book, proving once again that the truth is usually stranger than fiction." - Dr. Peter Maguire, Law and War, Facing Death in Cambodia and Thai Stick
"What happens after the endless summer? BECOMING WESTERLY is what happens. Jamie Brisick has given all readers one shaggy, tasty gift: not only the history of surfing, as seen from inside that raging, curling wave (quite an accomplishment in itself) but the more intimate struggle that comes from being alone with your aloneness. The transformation of Peter Drouyn-troubled narcissist, influential surfing genius-into wannabe starlet Westerly Windina is every bit as absorbing as it is frustrating, as charming as it is essential." - Charles Bock, New York Times bestseller Beautiful Children
"Whitman wrote, ‘I contain multitudes,' and he might have had this book in mind. BECOMING WESTERLY is the story of surfing great, Peter Drouyn, and his subsequent transformation, via a sex change operation, into aspiring diva Westerly Windina. But it's also a tale of the writer, Jamie Brisick, and his efforts to understand what-for lack of a more specific term-it all means. In the process, this engrossing narrative raises a series of questions rather more profound than you might expect: Who are we? Where do we begin? Where do we end? Is there such a thing as destiny? Are we riding the wave or a part of it? And as with the best books, in the end it's our own lives we examine." - Jim Krusoe, Parsifal
"BECOMING WESTERLY is a haunting and important book-a reminder of what it means to be human, flawed, and occasionally fabulous." - Karl Taro Greenfeld, Speed Tribes and The Subprimes
"What a wild and wonderful and fascinating journey our lives can be! BECOMING WESTERLY stands as beautiful evidence of this-gorgeous proof of the ever-unfolding transformations many of us undergo-and Jamie Brisick brings these changes to vivid and heart-rending life. A sometimes-brutal book, every page is marked with care, affection, friendship, and pure honesty. - William Lychack, The Architect of Flowers
"BECOMING WESTERLY examines a difficult life with clear-eyed compassion, a story that helps us better understand how we all can become authors of authentic lives." - Kem Nunn, Chance
"A strange, exhilarating, ultimately uplifting ride. Jamie Brisick is the perfect guide into the life of an amazing ninja-level surfer, provocateur, and diva." - Matt Warshaw, Encyclopedia of Surfing
"Westerly and Peter are two of the greatest characters to ever grace surfing, two titanic life stories, and with BECOMING WESTERLY Brisick has written incredible portraits of both. A story of the glory and terrible burden of ambition for greatness, and greatness unrecognized. Beautiful, sad, and full of hope." - Surfing World
"If Augusten Burroughs had surfed, he might have come up with something like this sharp, witty, poignant, heart-wrenching, ribald memoir-although Jamie Brisick brings a sweet and aching humanity all of his own. The life of a professional surfer is sometimes idealised as an Endless Summer of girls and parties. This is the real deal of the messy, confounding, intoxicating rollercoaster of growing up with a head full of dreams and the insecurities of being on show and constantly judged as a professional athlete while tripping about the planet trying to work out who you are. Brisick is honest, funny, masterful and never hits a dud note." - Tim Baker, author of Occy, High Surf, Bustin' Down the Door, Surfari, and Australia's Century of Surf
"WRITTEN ON WATER is the closest you'll get to being a pro surfer on the contest circuit without actually being a pro surfer on the contest circuit. It's also as close as you'll ever get to being neck deep in the briny blue without getting your feet wet. Brisick's surf memoir is as languid and hypnotic as the sea itself; the pages roll by in perfect sets, and, like a good day at the beach, you won't want it to end." - Jason Crombie, Editor in Chief, Monster Children
"Brisick's the writerly equivalent of those surfers - those bastards possessed of effortless power and timing - that you can't turn away from watching (or in this case, reading...)." - Graeme Murdoch, Editor of White Horses
"A touching memoir about family, loss and a life spent in the waves. A child of the Southern California Dream, Jamie escapes into the fantasy world of professional surfing while his family is ripped from within by his beloved elder brother's drug addiction and eventual death. The tales of hope and heroism on tour are a surreal contrast to the frightening truths awaiting him at home. This book is a powerful and painful antidote to the Jeff Spicoli vision of the inarticulate doper-surfer, and to the equally inaccurate idea that surfers are somehow immune from normal human concerns." - Nick Carroll, author of TC
"Imagine Holden Caulfield went surfing. With charming candour and vivid prose Jamie Brisick takes the reader on a compelling ride through the fluoro-tinted, idealism of the ‘80s pro surfing scene and the suburban dystopia he had to escape to make it there. Insightful and funny, Written on Water strikes an engaging balance between a surfing subculture that has never been so evocatively traversed and the sometimes tragic struggles of a middle-class, Californian family." - Luke Kennedy, Editor of Tracks