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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. This initial posting features 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.

Make sure to RSS the blog, check back weekly if you don't use RSS, and definitely tell a friend...


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


Anonymous Surf Kultura said...

This is definetely a great idea. I will post it in my blog. I have recommended the book several times.

Thanks Glenn and to the Legendary Surfers Blog.
Are you going to post the book under a Creative Commons License?

June 12, 2006  

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