Bucky McMahon

Feb 12, 2009
Outside Magazine
Bucky McMahon

Bucky McMahon

Bucky McMahon was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1955, the youngest of four siblings and doubtless the beneficiary of the Roman Catholic ban on birth control. Nevertheless, a certain winsome helplessness and beaver-like dentition (christened Michael, he was soon known as Bucky) preserved him through the "dark years" until the sudden eruption of consciousness--or memory, at least--chasing a butterfly, net cocked overhead, into screeching traffic in Coral Gables, Florida. His other family nickname, acquired soon after, was "Nature Boy," for the many small animals he captured and brought home to be his totems. In 1963 the family relocated to Neptune Beach, where the young dude became a fanatical surfer and tireless player of pick-up sports of all kinds. He did not apply himself academically, attended college reluctantly, and affects to remember much of this poorly. After a series of Raymond Carver-esque dead-end jobs, complicated by not quite Carver-esque drinking, he declared a "do-over," returned to college, and, paying for the classes himself, actually attended them faithfully. While a graduate student at the Florida State University Creative Writing Department, he began publishing short fiction, a comic strip (Fat Rabbit, with Tim Hoomes), as well as a weekly humor column, "Barmadillo," for the Tallahassee Democrat. In 1992, he published his first feature article for Outside magazine. That was the beginning of a long strange career in the travel/adventure biz, the best of which is collected here. His yarns have been anthologized in the Best American series, once for Travel and once for Sports. A certain sentence, long and spiraling, and right on the gleeful brink of syntactical smashup, was chosen as one of the 70 greatest sentences by Esquire magazine (along with efforts from old friends Ernest "Papa" Hemingway and Scottie Fitzgerald). In 2005 he was awarded a novelty plaque by his sister, Molly, which reads, "If you haven't grown up by the age of fifty, you don't have to."

Where the Walking Shark Lives
It's the antithesis of the bleached-out, overfished reefs that divers find around the world—a place where the sea is still bursting with life, and hope for the ocean endures. Pull on a tank in Indonesia's remote Raja Ampat and witness diving's final frontier. Pinto Mean!
The perils of raising a grumpy colt. (FEAR OF) Armadillos
Some say they're cute. I say they're evil. Jungle Gym
Welcome to Bigfoot's winter hideaway, where unclimbed mountains, roaring whitewater, and a new luxury eco-lodge await you. In Tobago, It’s All Good
Exploring the oldest protected rainforest, the soft coral reefs, and the all-night fĂȘtes of the Caribbean's farthest reaches. Field Notes: Cirque du Sailor
Amid big-league swells, the world's fastest ocean race runs aground in Baltimore. Surfing
The clan with a plan. Field Notes: How Swede It Is
Few races reveal as much about those who run in them as the all-but-flawless O-ringen. Sue Here Is an Expert on Lowland Tubers
And nine other signs that your trip is in trouble. Bag It
Remember, whatever you pack, someone has to carry. A few tips on what to leave home without. Uh-Oh - Here Comes the Easy Part
When traveling, danger lurks at the most innocuous moments. The Punks
A few words on those priceless athletes who dare to be unlikable. Blissful Indolence Made Simple
A Florida stream, an inner tube, and no ambition in sight. Deeper
To the peerless Moles, practitioners of the gloomily claustrophobic sport of freshwater spelunking, the ultimate accomplishment is finding a virgin cave. Goatsucker Sighted, Details to Follow
Strange beast plunders Puerto Rico, Florida, Mexico. Livestock drained of blood, entrails. Citizens ignore authorities' appeal for calm. The Hydroponic Dreams of Laird Hamilton
He was born in a bathysphere, baptized in surfboard resin, raised in the rainforest in Hawaii. Who else is ready to ride the biggest wave on earth?
Filed To: Books, Culture

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

What You Missed

Our most important headlines, sent to you every weekday.

Thank you!