Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Waves of Warning 02

Addicted to Perfection - Chapter 2 of Part 1 of WAVES OF WARNING by Glenn Hening

[ Also available in Word format at: 02Addicted%20to%20Perfection.doc ]

L.J. Merrill strained to keep his camera steady against the porthole window of the rear door. The reef ten thousand feet below him was shrinking in his viewfinder as the turboprop began to turn back towards Easter Island. He pressed a tiny button on the camera to use the digital zoom and get a last few seconds of data. Then the pilot made a final adjustment to his course, and Merrill lost sight of his target completely. He pressed the stop button, lowered the camera, and pushed his face sideways against the glass to get a last glimpse of the nameless reef with perfect waves all around it.

Turbulence rocked the plane and Merrill instantly wrapped his arms around the camera and crouched to the floor. Then the turbo-prop fell into an air pocket, leaving him weightless for a second before bouncing him hard on his ass. For a moment the plane steadied, and with a surfer’s grace and balance he stood up, ready to make his way back to his seat. Though he was wearing a button down shirt tucked into pressed khakis and a leather belt with matching walking shoes, he looked every bit the consummate waverider as he gracefully stepped across the floor moving unpredictably beneath his feet.

The turbulence worsened and the plane’s tail began to flex. Merrill stayed low, as if going through the tube of a wave, while protecting the camera like a baby. Passengers were starting to panic, but not him, not with his goal only a few steps away. Oblivious to the erratic roars of the engines and the frightened cries of the passengers, he waited for the precise moment when opportunity would come out of chaos. Years of surfing gave him perfect timing. His chance came in a split second, and with two quick steps and a lithe movement, L.J. Merrill was back in his seat.
He quickly placed the camera between his knees and buckled the seat belt. Then he held it tightly to his chest and closed his blue eyes. The plane did a sudden turn to the left, and then back to the right. It went into a dive and came back up, all the while shuddering and shaking like an off-road racing jeep on Mexican dirt road.
“Shit, maybe this is really it!” he said loudly.

He heard the man next to him begin to pray in a soft voice. Merrill’s thoughts raced through his life the way he heard it happened at death’s door.

Suddenly the turboprop was flying perfectly steady, almost as if nothing had ever happened. He continued to grip the camera tightly until he realized they were flying in “clean” air again. He heard passengers talking excitedly to each other and the voice of the captain apologizing for the rough ride and promising smooth going for the rest of the flight.

He loosened his arms, and looked at the camera. He was not going to die. In fact he had a whole new life right there in his hands. He smiled, until a jolt of desire shot through him with the urge to power up the camera and see the images he had recorded. But he resisted the impulse, though not without a conscious effort. He put the camera in his aluminum briefcase and snapped closed the latches. He did not need to look at the forty five seconds of digital images right now. What he had witnessed through the viewfinder was clear in his mind’s eye, having seen it in his dreams for years.

* * *

For the cognoscenti of world-wide surfing adventure, L.J. Merrill was a legend. He always traveled alone, showing up solo on the epic days at surf spots around the globe, from France to South Africa, from Central America to Western Australia, in jungle zones, lonely atolls, offshore islands and the inaccessible edges of every continent. He had survived in the most primitive conditions imaginable without giving it all a second thought: third world trains, malaria and dysentery, buses bulging with peasants, fetid ports full of thieves: nothing fazed him. His survival instinct had seen him through tight spots time and again as he discovered new destinations while always searching for the same thing.

L.J. Merrill was strung out on the rush that could only be found inside the liquid tunnels of perfect waves.

However, L.J. Merrill was no ordinary surfer addicted to the adrenaline and endorphins of surfing’s ultimate moments. He was meticulous and focused as he chased the dragon around the world. Meteorology, topography, oceanography, wave physics and historical research were the keys to getting what he needed. He had been able to turn his jones into a career scouting for surfing’s largest commercial travel company, Geosurf, and escort clients to the company’s resorts.

But as with every junkie, the threshold high became harder to find. Although the waves were great at the Geosurf resorts, to L.J. Merrill they were now little more than methadone. He was able to maintain, but the craving of those pure first hits never left him. The time came when he became convinced he needed one more big score, one final discovery of a high that would last.

For years he had used archival satellite imaging and detailed hydrographic maps to discover new surf spots. But now what he needed seemed to be in the gaps not covered by the photos or the charts. He turned to the Internet, but the results were disappointing. The on-line satellite images of the distant regions of the seven seas were crude at best and he was unable to locate what he was looking for.

However, out of all his research he slowly distilled data pointing toward a zone of seamounts and atolls in the far reaches of the South Pacific. He re-focused, knowing he needed to dig even deeper by seeking out eyewitness accounts from those who had actually sailed those waters.

Whenever his flight paths gave him a day or two of layover anywhere near a maritime museum, he would spend every possible minute looking for clues in the charts, logs and voyage reports from the age of sail. Once, when Geosurf needed him to get from the Caribbean to Southwest Africa, he arranged to fly from Miami to London instead of directly to Cape Town so he could spend a day at the British Navy’s Admiralty archives.

Though he was researching primary sources as if he was a doctoral candidate, the information was sketchy at best. Sea captains of tall ships were rarely more than cryptic in their daily logs, and their end-of-voyage reports were usually just as terse. Occasionally he found an entry such as, “Water discolored brown. Breakers.” or “Reef sighted. Course altered.” If the latitude and longitude had been recorded, he’d check to see if the ship had been within range of known seamounts, atolls and islands.

He then scoured maritime museums and on-line catalogs to find the original charts used by captains sailing through nearby island archipelagos. One in particular attracted his attention. It was from a voyage of a French ship in 1827 to the Gambier Islands, southeast of Tahiti. The chart had a number of handwritten annotations, which translated into “Hazardous Reef” and “Large Breakers”. The zigzag of the captain’s course through the reefs and low-lying atolls showed how lucky he had been to escape after risking his ship by sailing through those waters. To Merrill, the chart looked like a beautiful, celestial constellation. To that lucky captain, however, his chart was a navigator’s nightmare.

Merrill then cross-referenced the chart against de-classified undersea topo surveys done for the U.S. Navy by NASA. When he found some rough evidence corroborating the account of the French captain, he knew he was on to something.

His next step was to research ships reported lost anywhere near those remote waters before charts were printed delineating sea lanes giving wide berth to the archipelago. He found a smattering of data from survivors’ accounts, and one or two logs that had survived along with the captains who wrote them. But this turned out to be a dead end as there was no indication that the ships were wrecked by running aground on the type of reef he was looking for. In the end he could only conclude that if such a catastrophe had happened, and indeed several ships were reported missing with all hands lost and no wreckage found, then the logs would never be found since they – and the captains who wrote them – had gone down with their ships.
For a while he was stymied until his thoughts turned to a story familiar to anyone interested in the history of the sea, the famous tale of the mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty. The course of the mutineers might have taken them through the archipelago in question. Perhaps they had witnessed what no man had seen before or since and, other than the French captain and his crew, survived to tell the tale.

After almost two years of digging, L.J. Merrill finally found exactly what he was looking for in the research library of the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. The librarian gave him a reproving look as he let out a surfer’s hoot of excitement while turning pages over two hundred years old of log entries written by Fletcher Christian.

After deliberately setting a course into uncharted waters to avoid capture, the mutineers sailed for days without sighting any atoll or island, only to be suddenly surprised at night by the sound of booming explosions. They dropped sail and waited for dawn. As the sun rose they could see, dead ahead, a reef that surely would have sunk them. Only through sheer providence were they able to sail around its perimeter and avoid catastrophe. Christian’s account concluded with a key phrase: “The large rollers became breakers when obstructed by the reef. Our ship could have been swallowed by their gaping mouths had fortune not been with us. We avoided the shoal and stayed with the swells to continue our voyage.”

Merrill closed the log, knowing the reef narrowly avoided by the mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty could very well be where he’d find the waves of his dreams.

He began to build up his theory piece by piece. The mutineers had sailed from Tahiti to their last redoubt, Pitcairn Island. Since they took no latitude and longitude sights, he had to recreate their probable course by comparing the speeds of normal winds and currents with the hull speed of the Bounty. Double-checking the mutineers’ diaries, he narrowed his search to a triangular zone of a hundred square miles due south of the Actaeon Islands.

Now he needed to directly address several critical issues.

First, he needed reefs fully exposed to the south and thus well outside the effect of any swell “shadowing”, or reduction, caused by blocking atolls and islands, a common situation throughout Polynesia. He went back to his database, re-checked all his charts, and found an area free of any shadowing. There were several seamounts in the zone, though no reefs were indicated. But he pressed on as if there were.

Next he needed water temperatures warm enough for the propagation of certain species of coral which grow gradually into long, gently sloping reefs. He checked existing temperature data for that part of the Pacific, and though the data was rough, there were indications of warm currents flowing through the area.

This was a major advance for L.J. Merrill because it solved what had been a recurring problem in his explorations to find perfect waves in Polynesia. The biggest waves were often too hollow and too powerful to ride because they came out of extremely deep water and broke all too abruptly on shallow coral shoals. However, there was an excellent chance that, thanks to prevailing water temperatures, the reef that almost sank H.M.S. Bounty would have a gentler slope that would build waves more gradually and cause them to break less precipitously.

He began to feel he was definitely on the right track. All the preliminary indicators were in place: the ship sinkings, the mutineers’ diaries, the lack of swell shadowing and the water temperature. When another piece of the puzzle fell into place, L.J. Merrill knew he was closing in on the reality of his surfer’s dream in a very remote region of the South Pacific.

He knew that El Niño, a warm water phenomena that caused sea levels to rise, was being exacerbated by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a large scale transfer of heat around the Pacific Ocean. And now, global warming was accelerating both natural phenomena, resulting in sea levels rising as much as a meter in a few specific areas of the South Pacific. One of those areas included the zone identified by Merrill through his research. There might be a chance that the reef, if previously too shallow to ride, might now be surfed safely thanks to an extra cushion of water.
Finally, one last body of information had to be acquired. He needed to know about the prevailing winds in the triangular zone, and he got what he wanted from the oceanography department at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His contact there, an old surfer and world famous scientist named Bill Patzert, had helped him find the water temperature data he’d used to solve the coral species problem.

Merrill gave him another call and was lucky that Patzert had the time to find and analyze the detailed wind information Merrill needed. He was even luckier when Patzert called back and told him it was possible for passing fronts to generate northerly winds instead of the normal southeast trades that dominated the area. Those rare winds would be critical, because the raw power Merrill wanted would have to be refined for the waves to be ridden safely. When Patzert told him the northerlies could occur any time from August to October, Merrill knew there was only one piece left in the puzzle. And he already had it.

He knew there could be some big swells coming up from the Southern Ocean during those months, and in fact, the biggest Southern Hemisphere swell to ever hit Malibu had occurred in August.

L.J. Merrill knew what he wanted, he knew where it was, and he knew when to go. The totality of his theories indicated a high level of probability concerning the reef, the weather, and the waves. He was ready to score his high. Now he had to figure a way around his next big problem: he had a job.

Merrill’s scouting skills had once been the key to Geosurf’s success, and in the beginning he had been treated like a partner by the company’s owner, Ian Clark. However, the relationship had become strained over the years as his love of the far frontiers began to clash with the facts of life in the surf travel industry. Clark had more than enough business at existing sites and didn’t need him making more discoveries. But Merrill had never saved up much money, and when Clark offered him contracts to guide tours to places he’d discovered years ago, Merrill signed them.
Yet despite the fact he was on a short leash, L.J. Merrill felt blindly optimistic when he sent Clark an outline of his plan to find the last, best big wave arena on earth. Without divulging too much of what he knew, he tried to convince Ian Clark that chartering a seaplane simply had to be done.

The response was not what he expected. Even though he had found all the company’s prime surf sites, Clark told him in no uncertain terms the days of chartering seaplanes to follow his hunches, with Geosurf paying the bills, were over.
Merrill was stunned by Clark’s rebuff. But like a child who just cannot face the realities of a divorce, he convinced himself if he just tried hard enough, he could make everything all right again.

Then L.J. Merrill got lucky. After giving surfing lessons to some French millionaires at the Geosurf resort in Tahiti, he received instructions from Clark to catch a flight to Chile where he would shepherd a group of California surfers to the rugged southern coast.

Merrill knew the flight would take him close to the remote archipelago of his research. Since Geosurf flew clients on Trans Pacific Airlines quite frequently, he tried to go through channels to see if the pilot could make a change in course to allow Merrill to possibly shoot some video from the plane. The flight operations manager at the airline office in Papeete listened politely to Merrill, and then just as politely refused the request.

That only made him more determined. He had been in situations like this before, dealing with officials in countries around the world, and he knew what to do next.
On the day of the flight L.J. Merrill arrived early at the airport. Having learned the name of the flight’s pilot, he waited until he saw the man coming through the lobby an hour before the flight was scheduled to depart. He struck up a conversation with him, and a minute later an envelope changed hands containing a slip of paper with several sets of latitude and longitude figures. The envelope also contained a thousand dollars in cash.

Two hours after take off, the plane made a change in course. The captain radioed he was avoiding some threatening clouds, and thus nothing was perceived to be amiss back at Trans-Pacific’s flight operations office in Tahiti.

A few minutes later, L.J. Merrill checked his GPS unit. It confirmed they were flying over waters once sailed by the Bounty’s mutineers and now affected by both the cycles of natural change and the follies of man’s excesses. He turned on his digital video camera as he took it out of his briefcase before heading to the rear of the plane where he would get the most unobstructed view possible. He was looking for the ultimate wave, and though it was October and late in the season for the Southern Hemisphere, he knew a big swell was running – and he might never get a chance like this again.

* * *

L.J. Merrill had a familiar warmth inside him, that of an addict who had just scored. He had found the ultimate perfect wave breaking in the most remote archipelago in the South Pacific. No one but him knew of its existence. Certainly it had never been surfed, since the ruler edged waves breaking perfectly along both sides of the wide, elliptical reef would have been impossible to ride before the latest and most powerful El Niño had raised sea levels to all-time heights. He was sure of his data and sure of his instincts. This was it, the last great find in modern surfing: the most distant, the most powerful, and the most beautiful waves on earth.

He pulled the seat belt a little tighter as he stared out the window and watched the Southern Hemisphere’s panoply of constellations begin to brighten the deep blue of the heavens. He finally let go of all the tension in his body and thought of the wonders of the universe and life itself.

But just as he began to float on his high, anxiety sliced through his mind. He came down fast, but it was a familiar feeling and he reacted with the aplomb of a veteran addict. He opened his briefcase, put a data stick in the side of the camera, and downloaded the image stream to make sure the data was secure. Then he put the seat back and ran the images over and over again behind his closed eyes, knowing that this time the high was going to last for a while.

Four hours later he came to when the captain announced they were approaching Santiago. He buckled up and considered Clark’s instructions to meet the tour group and guide them to surf spots he had discovered years ago. But, like a junkie who knows exactly who he is, he knew he’d have no second thoughts about blowing off an appointment that clashed with his need.

And how long do you plan to stay in our country?” asked the customs official.
“Unfortunately my plans have changed and I’ll be leaving for California as soon as possible,” said Merrill.

The official stamped his passport, and he went to the nearest payphone. He knew Geosurf’s owner would not want to hear about any change in plans. And even if Clark was willing to listen, he’d tell Merrill now was not a good time and any ideas about scouting would have to wait.

But patience is not a word from an addict’s vocabulary.

“Ian, this can’t wait! This reef has got the best waves I’ve ever seen! I’ve got to get out there right away!” Merrill said to himself, rehearsing his pitch as the call went through.



Coming up in Chapter 3:

Veteran surf scout LJ Merrill has 45 seconds of video of the most perfect big wave he’s ever seen – and he’s ready to tell his boss all about it. But Ian Clark realizes that Merrill’s discovery is worth much more to surfing’s largest corporation than it would ever earn as another resort in Geosurf’s worldwide chain of surf camps. The only problem is that Merrill would never agree to selling out to Wavelife International – for the kind of cash Clark needs to stay out of jail... Chapter Three – Two Seconds.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Waves Of Warning 01

Part One

The First Winds of Winter

Chapter One: A Wayfinder
- Chapter 1 of Part 1 of WAVES OF WARNING by Glenn Hening

[ Viewable in Word format: 01%20-%20A%20Wayfinder.doc ]

A star-filled dome of deep blue ran down to the horizon all around the voyaging craft, its three hulls slicing relentlessly forward through the waves of the South Pacific. A crisp north wind filled the sails as the last edge of the night’s storm swept away to the east. A sharp, thin crescent moon was setting in the west.

A lone figure emerged from the streamlined shelter on the deck of the center hull. For six nights and days he had voyaged across the Nebula Archipelago, a vast array of reefs and islands, with no charts or GPS to guide him. He was a modern man navigating with the knowledge and skills of ancient Polynesian mariners. He was a wayfinder.

He made a final course adjustment while the last of his guide stars was still visible in the sky ahead. He dragged his hand through the water and noticed a slight change in its temperature. Then he sat down in front of his mainmast and closed his eyes to feel the swell patterns now that the storm was gone. He waited to absorb and interpret all the motions of his voyaging craft before he finally smiled. He knew exactly where he was – and he would soon arrive at his destination.

The trance of his concentration softened. He envisioned his wife, her face glowing in the candlelight, looking down at their two children fast asleep. Then he saw the three of them standing at the edge of the lagoon next to his mentor, decades of knowledge in his wrinkled face framing a broad smile and bright eyes. They all raised their arms and voices in greeting as he drifted home across the still water.

The voices faded to silence as a low roar grew in his ears, bringing him back to the present moment and the tasks before him. He opened his blue eyes to the tinge of light in the east and the sight of spray rising from the open ocean dead ahead. Seconds later he heard the distinct explosion of a big wave breaking, like a herald announcing a message of power from the mighty spirits of the timeless seas.

The sun touched the horizon. The tri-hulled craft rose to the top of a rolling wall of water. From its summit he caught a last glimpse of his guide star and a clear view of his goal. The first bright rays of dawn lit up the sea. A wave of emotion flooded through David Helmares, a feeling of revelation and promise he had known only once before in his life, when he first saw the Pacific Ocean.

David was eight years old and his family had just flown across the country from New York following his father’s career to Southern California. They had arrived at night, and he was barely awake during the taxi ride from LAX to the Surfrider Inn overlooking Santa Monica Bay. His mother put him in his pajamas, and he was sound asleep the minute his head touched the pillow.

The next morning came cold and clear. It was January and a low winter sun brightened the room and opened the boy’s eyes. His family was asleep, but David was too excited to stay in bed. He got up, opened the sliding glass door, and went outside to the balcony.

Below him was a broad beach of white sand. Beyond it, the blue Pacific stretched away to a crisp horizon. Santa Ana winds whistled a breeze out across the sea. Small rip
pling waves lapped against the shore. David stood transfixed for almost a minute as the colors and the vista created a memory that would last a lifetime. Then his mouth opened wide. “Wake up, everybody! We’re here!”

The sun rises quickly in the South Pacific and was soon three hands above the horizon. David could see rainbows starting to form in the spray of the waves breaking less than half a mile off his bow. He looked into the transparent sea below him. The deep blue of the open ocean was giving way to the emerald and turquoise of Ka’unua, the most revered place in the wayfinding traditions of the Marulean sea people.

Located at the focal point of an underwater mountain range, Ka’unua transformed raw oceanic power coming up from the Southern Ocean into perfect patterns of wave energy. The reef was a timeless source and center for the navigators of Marulea. It was their Valhalla, and it was where David Helmares would perform rituals to become the next chief navigator of his adopted people.

He lowered his sails near the southern end of the reef and drifted in slowly. He needed an exact understanding of the challenge ahead. He saw the next set of swells approaching. He raised a sail for a few moments to let the wind push him a little closer to get a clear view of what he had to see.

The first swell was about twenty feet high when it peaked and split into two breaking waves that went in opposite directions and continued breaking down both sides of the elliptical reef. Each swell in the set was successively bigger, yet they all broke with the same symmetry. The waves followed the curves around the reef until, like soldiers closing ranks, they met at the entrance to the lagoon where they stopped breaking and re-formed back into rolling swells to continue their journey northwards across the Pacific.

David Helmares was in the presence of the ultimate surfing dream come true. Yet he was not watching with a surfer’s eye for riding the waves, but with a wayfinder’s gaze of study and respect.

He checked his position and set a sea anchor to keep his voyaging craft almost stationary in the current and the wind. He continued to watch the swells until the last and biggest waves of the set had rolled all the way to the north end of the re
ef. Having learned all he needed to know, he turned his attention to the first task that would take him into the heart of the energy at Ka’unua.

He paused and considered his timing and the conditions. The winds from the north blew clouds of spray off the peaks of the swells coming from the south. The rays of the morning sun were shining out of the east at a perfect angle. He smiled with well-earned confidence, dove off the bow, and began swimming west to see the crystal circle of all colors.

The impact zone was quiet except for the foam swirling in eddies of white and turquoise. He heard the call of a bird and was no longer alone. He looked up to see the kindred spirit of the Marulean wayfinders, a wandering albatross, circling on motionless wings.

He swam into the shallow waters until he could stand on the reef. Breathing rhythmically, he riveted his attention on the horizon to the south. He thought of the countless times he had scanned horizons as a surfer, impatient for another thrill, and realized he was now waiting for something of much greater meaning.

He did not wait long. The horizon itself seemed to rise up. The next set of waves was approaching Ka’unua. He began swimming with all the strength he’d built up in anticipation of this moment.

He made it over the first swell before it broke, and reached the crest of the next with seconds to spare. Then he saw what he came for.

The third swell was much, much bigger but he knew where it was going to break and he knew he was in exactly the right place. He became one with the last moments of silence all around him, watching as Ka’unua transformed raw oceanic power into exquisite natural perfection.

The wave began to break. A thousand tons of water arched up and out into mid air, forming a translucent arch high above him. For an instant he was inside a wondrous liquid cathedral. Then gravity and momentum began to change ineffable beauty into deadly force.

One last look and he dove deep.

A massive liquid guillotine slammed down behind him and detonated an explosion. Shockwaves bounced off the coral, but David was ready. With his long arms stretched above his head and his body streamlined for maximum speed, he was propelled out of the impact zone and towards the surface.

He surfaced kicking hard with his arms raised high. He was surrounded by the cloud of spray left hanging as the wave roared on down the reef. The sun was to his left. He looked to his right.

A fantastic prismatic vision was revealed in the cloud of spray. The crystal circle of all colors was about twenty feet from him, a completely round rainbow floating just above the surface of the sea.

His hands reached out as if he could touch the circle’s apex. He opened his arms wide and lowered them slowly tracing the rainbow from top to bottom. When his hands finally touched, he stopped kicking and settled back down into the sea.

He quieted his mind and soul to secure the image in his memory forever. Seconds later the spray began to dissipate in the wind. The vision slowly disappeared until suddenly there was nothing left for him to see.

Now it was time to survive.

The next wave of the set was even bigger and already breaking. David exhaled all the air out of his lungs and dove quickly to the bottom to firmly grasp handholds on the reef an instant before exploding turbulence enveloped him. He released his consciousness and banished panic from his mind while he waited for the maelstrom to subside. Then he rocketed to the surface.

He inhaled three deep breaths, emptied his lungs to reduce his buoyancy, and dove to the bottom. Once more he held on to the reef with all his strength to withstand the energy scouring across the coral. Then he surfaced, inhaled, and dove again, and again and again and again, matching his cycle of survival with the rhythm of the set. Though each wave was successively bigger, he held his ground through all of them by holding on to Ka’unua.

Finally he surfaced and saw nothing to the south but the flat line of the horizon. He smiled, and then began to laugh loudly. But his laughter was not of arrogance. He was full of life’s purest joy, and it was close to a minute before he returned to the world around him.

David swam back to his voyaging craft. He lifted himself up on to the low deck in the stern, water falling off his tan body in warm clear rivulets. He looked to the south and saw another set of swells approaching the impact zone of Ka’unua. He did not watch them break. They were no longer a part of his quest. He went to the bow and pulled up the sea anchor. He stepped to the foremast and raised a small sail. He walked back down the center hull and sat with his hand on the tiller. He brought her around and headed north, staying well clear of the breaking waves, using the unbroken faces of the swells to push him to other end of the reef and the passage through the coral.

He reached the entrance, lowered the sail, and drifted towards the center of the lagoon. The roar of the huge waves breaking around the reef was incessant, but there was an exquisite quiet of protection surrounding him. The wind blew a low song through the rigging of the voyaging craft, and again David heard the cry of the albatross, now circling directly above the center of the lagoon where he would perform his next task.

David ducked into the shelter and moved the sleeping mat and pillow where he had taken his short rests during the voyage. He lifted a small board from the deck and reached down into the hull to retrieve a polished box of wood, its blond and purple grain smoothed from centuries of care. His mentor, Taveka, had given it to him when he began to teach David the history of the fifteen chief navigators of the sea people. While learning about each of the men who had voyaged throughout the Nebula Archipelago back through the centuries, he carved fifteen small objects out of black coral. They were all distinctly different, and after the three years of his apprenticeship the box was now full in anticipation of this day when he would present them to the fifteen souls swimming in the waters below.

He returned to the open deck, sat on the bow of the center hull, and opened the box. He extracted the first of the carvings, closed the box and dove off the bow. The water was crystal-clear and David could see concentric rings of colored coral below, and then around him as he went deeper and deeper. It took him almost twenty seconds to reach the final center of the formation and touch the white sand. There he buried his offering to Taveka’s father.

He began to sense the presence of Taveka’s ancestors all around him. He exhaled a long breath, and suddenly he felt as if he was surrounded by happy children watching bubbles dance to the sky.

With a broad smile on his face, David floated to the surface. He retrieved another carving, angular yet balanced, for Taveka’s grandfather. Again he dove to the white sand. This time he thought he heard laughing comments about the carving from the souls surrounding him. And for the next two hours the banter never ceased as an unmistakable presence of a brotherhood filled his soul while he honored each of Taveka’s ancestors.

Finally, the ancient box was empty save for one last object. It was for the navigator who first ventured out into the Pacific from the coast of South America. The stone carving flowed and curved from bow to stern, replicating a sea-going craft made of bundled reeds, shaped to voyage the oceans as the crescent moon sails the skies. David made his last dive and placed it gently on the white sand. He paused for a second, almost as if he expected to see the black coral craft float away and set sail for a distant shore.

Then he rose from the depths slowly, his heart filled with the gratitude and approval of the navigators as their souls spoke to his.

He surfaced to see the albatross gliding in a wider circle. He swam a short distance to the south until he was above the coral rings that encircled the heart of the lagoon. The coral formation had expanded with a new ring growing outwards during the lifetime of each navigator. He dove, touched the inner ring, and surfaced. He swam around its circumference, diving now and again to touch the coral, until he was back where he started. Over the next hour David repeated the ritual above each of the rings until there were only two left, the ring that had grown during the lifetime of Taveka’s father, and the outer ring of Taveka. This time he dove to find the most sacred object in the tradition of the chief navigators of Marulea, placed there by Taveka’s father at the end of his life.

When he came to the surface, he was wearing a heavy necklace carved from a single piece of aquamarine coral, its links symbolizing the unbroken spirit of the navigators and sea people of Marulea.

David found himself struggling as he swam the last lap above the ring of Taveka. Diving and touching the ring became more and more difficult until he found himself almost completely exhausted. But as he traced the lifetime of his mentor, he saw the beginnings of another ring that would grow during his own lifetime as Taveka’s successor.

Finally he completed the last circle and looked down into the depths at the apex of the ring. There Taveka would soon place the necklace where it would remain until David’s successor would find it a generation from now.

The sun was now low in the west, and as he swam back to his voyaging craft his thoughts ranged back and forth in time. He had seen the crystal circle, brought gifts to the souls of the navigators, traced their rings of coral and retrieved their necklace. He had arrived as a wayfinder. He was departing as the next chief navigator of Marulea.

He lifted himself out of the water and began his preparations for the voyage home. For a moment he had another thought of the future, of a day many years from now, when he would take his final voyage to this very place with the navigator who would succeed him. He looked up at the albatross circling ever higher above him, its effortless flight a graceful reminder of life’s eternal transitions through time in this world and beyond.

Then his body stiffened and his world stopped. Far above the albatross, metal wings began to shine in the golden light of the setting sun.

His heart froze. His mind reverted to logic, his first thought one of assessment. He was near the edge of the Nebula Archipelago and many hundreds of miles from all commercial, military, and cargo transport routes. There was no reason for a plane to be flying anywhere near Ka’unua.

Yes there was. There was a reason, and a jolt of recognition told him exactly what it was. Someone was looking for perfect waves - and had just found them.

His heart convulsed like the sea in an earthquake. A raw bottom of deep and painful emotions was revealed. Then a tsunami filled with the dredged slime of his past slammed into his soul with an unstoppable force.

The selfish and thoughtless aggression of so many surfers, including himself at his worst moments, filled his mind. The nobility of the Marulean navigators was swept away in a tidal wave of black rage. Like the violent cursing locals of so many great surf spots, he began screaming at the intruder.


As the words left his mouth, the metal flashed even more brightly. More obscenities filled the air. Then the wings banked towards the northeast.

The raging screams continued until the plane vanished into the sky. Only then did David Helmares begin to gain control of himself. When his voice finally went silent, he realized the albatross had vanished. No waves were breaking around the reef. All was quiet except for the echoes of his own words.

Then it hit him. The toxic suspicion and fear that had contaminated so many surfing communities around the world had now been brought to this holy place by his outburst.
His heart was overwhelmed by a surge of shame and remorse. The surfer in the plane had done nothing wrong. He was not the man whose actions had now brought hate to the waters of Ka’unua.

The last rays of the sun had long disappeared below the horizon before David Helmares began to compose himself by thinking of Taveka. His mentor had always talked about the importance of recognizing one’s failings, of being honest with every part of one’s self. David now realized the utter truth of those words, knowing he would live to the end of his days with the fact that his own selfishness had stained the most sacred day of his life.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Waves of Warning 00

Thanks to Glenn Hening's generosity and aloha, I am honored to be able to serialize his epic novel "Waves of Warning," here at LEGENDARY SURFERS.

We begin with Drew Kampion's foreward to the book, Glenn's introduction, and the table of contents. Future postings will take the book a chapter at a time. To find each chapter, just enter "Waves of Warning" into the website's internal Google search bar. For instance, if you are at the first chapter ("Waves of Warning 01," enter "Waves of Warning 02" in the search bar to go to the next chapter.


It's rare for a surfer to take up the ancient literary themes of courage, betrayal, greed, love, and exploration and bring them to life in the world of modern surfing, but that's what Glenn Hening does in this book.

I've known Glenn since he started surfing's most successful environmental organization, the Surfrider Foundation, some 20 years ago. Over the intervening years, through all his writings and efforts as a surfing activist, I have come to appreciate him not only for his cultural edgework but for his insatiable appetite for knowledge and making just the right connection to trigger new understanding. His personal background is unlike any surfer I've met, plus he's a really good surfer!

So, Glenn Hening is uniquely qualified to set in motion all the great themes of this major fictional work, to underpin them with experiential truth, and to take them in surprising directions. I doubt that anyone else in the surfing world could accomplish what he has in these pages.

Over the course of my rather extensive career as a surf writer (I've published several books and over a thousand feature stories), I've learned how challenging it is to write from "the core" while also speaking coherently to non-surfers about the ephemeral reality of riding waves.

Glenn Hening's grand tale rings true precisely because he is the genuine article - a core surfer with a unique gift for communicating (and revealing) some fundamental truths about human nature and the never-ending questions we ask ourselves about what are we doing with our lives and what the future will offer our children.

Enjoy and learn from Waves of Warning.

Drew Kampion

Bio note:

Former editor of Surfer magazine and currently American editor of The Surfer's Path, Drew Kampion is the author of The Book of Waves, Stoked! A History of Surf Culture, and The Way of the Surfer. A collection of his surf stories, The Lost Coast, was published in the spring of 2004.



For the first twenty years of my surfing career, I dreamed of the day when the most important thing in my life (other than my family and children) would be recognized by Jacques Cousteau or National Geographic as being worthy of their attention. I dreamed of the day when surfing would be honored and presented on a par with the great human endeavors and cultures.

That dream was part of why I came up with the ideas that grew into the Surfrider Foundation in 1984 and the Groundswell Society in 1995. One of the main reasons those organizations exist is to hopefully nudge surfing towards, dare we say it, respectability, while retaining the challenge and spirit that has driven so many, including myself, to make surfing our lifelong passion.

In 1998, that recognition finally happened. For the first time ever, there was a picture of a surfer on the cover of National Geographic. It was Laird Hamilton, one of surfing’s all-time legends, dropping down a really big wave that filled up the space inside the famous yellow border.

For a moment, I was stoked! It was a validation of sorts and honored surfing and people like Laird who pushed limits and found new frontiers to challenge themselves and others following in their footsteps.

Then I took another look at the cover, and my next thought drove me to write my first novel, Waves of Warning.

I wondered, “Do we really deserve this? Does surfing really measure up when it comes to all the great human endeavors covered by National Geographic? What is surfing compared to exploring Antarctica, sailing the tall ships a hundred years ago or today’s transoceanic racing yachts? How does the integrity of modern surfing measure up when examined from the perspective of the Polynesian wayfinder societies?”
I dug even deeper and more things occurred to me.

“What about the environment? Do surfers really care that surf spots, and by extension the world’s oceans, are endangered?

“What are the consequences of the global consumer economy of which surfing is such a hedonistic example?

“What about the selfishness and localism that has stained the soul of surfing?
“And if waves are for free and you can’t buy a storm or a reef, how do we reconcile surfing’s natural spirit with the huge amounts of money being made in the surf industry?”

To answer these questions in contemporary terms may have resulted in a collection of essays, and indeed I have written for publication on localism and others that bear an activist scrutiny.

But to really get at some answers, I concluded that I would have to extrapolate, or grow logically, current trends in the surfing world to their extremes. I would have to throw together a lot of stuff about the accomplishments and cultures of surfers, explorers, blue-water mariners, and Polynesian societies and then heat up a story over time. Thus the idea for a novel was born.

Waves Of Warning is the result of six years of research, interviews, and acquiring dozens of books and hundreds of articles about surfers and the fields and individuals to which I would like surfing to be favorably compared. The process included interviewing Antarctic veterans, talking with Thor Heyerdahl, discovering rare books of Polynesian culture, researching the facts and lore of World War Two seaplanes, finding eyewitness accounts from the Age of Sail in maritime museums, and visiting ancient archaeological sites in Peru. And since I am also an active surfer, riding completely new surfboard designs and being a part of current events in modern surfing further added to the body of knowledge behind my first novel.

Yet throughout all the research, writing and editing, I became increasingly aware that conclusions will remain elusive when asking such questions as:
Do we, as surfers, really measure up as people of the sea?

Do our heroes merit genuine respect by surfers and non-surfers alike?
Do the accomplishments of our ‘surf culture’ outweigh the greed, violence, and selfishness so easily found in surfing today?

And most importantly, what are the dangers when modern surfers find themselves losing contact with the timeless nature of the ocean?

Of course, by the very nature of surfing, there can be no one answer to any of these questions. Indeed, each surfer will have his or her opinions based on their own ultimately unique and entirely personal experience in the surf zone, an oceanic wilderness where the waves we ride have been breaking for thousands and millions of years.

Yet, I wrote Waves of Warning because it is important to try and think clearly about the issues that prompted me to write this book. Here’s why.

One of my heroes is Fred Rodgers, the man who was on public television for thirty years reaching young and old with a gentle and powerful message about being true to one’s self and others. Towards the end of his career, he was asked if he could sum up any thoughts about the world as it has changed over his lifetime. He said, “I don’t know if, as human beings, we are made for the world we are making for ourselves.”

Waves of Warning is about the world of modern surfing that, in some ways, we are in danger of making for ourselves. Of course, there are thousands of surfers who are active stewards of the ‘aloha’ spirit, and we will never be able to ‘make’ the storms, winds, and waves that define the surfing experience. And if we get a bit arrogant and full of ourselves, getting caught inside on a big day will always put us in our place pretty damn quick.

However, if we don’t tend the soul of the surfing community, then we are not contributing to a positive legacy for future generations. If we allow commerce, competition and technology to erode our sensitivity to the simple experience of being with Nature, we lose our sense of curiosity and wonder about the fascinating world around us.

And if we, as surfers, ignore social and environmental trends that distance us from the feeling we had on our first wave, then what do we have to show for all that surfing has given us? Maybe we’re buying new surfboards and equipment all the time, collecting contest trophies or memorabilia without end, always dreaming of our next surf trip, and constantly trying to live the surfing lifestyle to the hilt. Yet something will be missing, and someday we might not even remember what it was, even though it will always be just beyond our finger tips, right in front of us every time we paddle out.

Glenn Hening, Oxnard Shores, 2005



Note: This single volume edition of “Waves of Warning” is the edited and condensed version of the entire story as first published last year. Readers of that original manuscript two-volume edition will note many similarities and yet some differences which I believe have enhanced the story and deepened the characters.

Part One

The First Winds of Winter
The Wayfinder
Addicted to Perfection
Two Seconds
Surf for Sale
Geevum, Brah!
The Skyhook
The Sea People
Surfing the Street
The Clean Up Set
A New Man
Big Time Being and Nothingness
Dog Days in the South Seas
The Mariners
The Orientation
The Shakedown Cruise
An Open Window
Waxing the Board
Sunrise Services
May Day

Part Two

Ancient Waves
June Gloom
For Immediate Release
A Toe-hold Position
The Aeolusean Agreement
“A navigator is never trapped.”
Surf City
A Signal from the South
The Ice Pirates
On Station – Standing By
The Long White Wings
Surfsailing the Agulhas
Humility and Cunning
K2 – The Second Katabatic
Caverns in the Rising Sun
The Ride of the Alba_Swords
Cross-currents at Ka’unua
Ancient Waves
The Nebula Archipelago