Includes bonus appearance by twenty-foot Great White shark!
The Pulitzer-Prize snatching surf pioneer and New Yorker staff writer Billy Finnegan aside, the once venerable magazine has dissolved into a hissy finger-pointer following leftist obsessions, race, Trump, “whiteness” as a synonym for evil etc.
Where it works, still, is in those little side pieces that provide a window into New York life, although even here political bunting still hangs over its railings.
In the January 18, 2021, issue, we find Jeremy Grosvenor, a fifty-year-old surfer, who decides to surf at Montauk for the entire daylight window of the winter solstice, 7:07 in the morning to 4:26 in the afternoon, to raise money for a local food bank.
Grosvenor exudes boyish, buoyant good nature, but he can get quasi-mystical when he describes “having faith in the sea as a sanctuary.” Known for his ability to ride waves on pretty much anything, from standard surfboards to a nylon mat, he had chosen, for the solstice, a twelve-foot foam board, on the bottom of which he had written “food.” He had also brought along an old red canoe, which he loaded with jugs of water, trail mix, a thermos of miso soup, and tinned sardines, and anchored just beyond the breakers. “So I can eat like a seagull,” he said.
Soon, Grosvenor’s big-haired, twenty-five-year-old son, Mamoun, arrived, an audiobook of Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” blaring from his car’s speakers. He had brought some doughnuts for his father, one of which he took along as he paddled out to join him. Grosvenor’s wife, Saskia Friedrich, an artist, showed up in painted jeans, a puffer coat, and a purple beanie, with their Australian shepherds, Vishnu and Blinky. She recalled how, when Grosvenor took her ocean kayaking years ago, they noticed a large shadow pass under their boat, and it turned out to be a twenty-foot-long white shark. “Jeremy’s got this almost yogic thing, allowing him to enjoy activities that would require us to overcome our natural discomfort or terror,” she said.
Later, as the sun seemed to be giving up the ghost, Grosvenor told a floating correspondent that the day had been mostly easy and pleasant. Despite all the hours in the elements, things had never become hallucinatory, although he had been moved to tears once, he said, by the merging awareness of the beauty around him and the suffering of the world. He had managed to keep warm, except in three of his toes, through physical motion and deep breathing, he said, “like a stellar sea cow.”
As dusk fell, a handful of spectators greeted Grosvenor’s landfall with cheers. Mamoun, wearing a “Free Palestine” hoodie, threw his arms around his father and, handing him the last of the doughnuts, said, “All right! Free doughnut! Black lives matter!”
Read the piece, written by New Yorker contributing editor and Vogue theatre critic, Adam Green, here.