If I could travel to any time and place it would have to be Hawaii in 1866, to watch Mark Twain try and fail to surf with the locals. Even if I’m overestimating the potential for amusement here, at least I’d be in Hawaii.
While on assignment for the Sacramento Union in Hawaii, a job which launched his career as a writer, the 31-year old reporter “came upon a large company of naked natives, of both sexes and all ages, amusing themselves with the national pastime of surf-bathing. Each heathen would paddle three or four hundred yards out to sea (taking a short board with him), then face the shore and wait for a particularly prodigious billow to come along; at the right moment he would fling his board upon its foamy crest and himself upon the board, and here he would come whizzing by like a bombshell! It did not seem that a lightning express-train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed. I tried surf-bathing once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself. The board struck the shore in three-quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom at about the same time, with a couple barrels of water in me. None but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing completely.”
He wrote this in Roughing It. I think it might be my favorite bit of Twain’s prose and I’m inspired to start exaggerating like he did on a more regular basis.