Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Waves of Warning 05

Chapter 5 - Deal

[ Available in Word format at: 05%20-%20Deal.doc ]

“Well, that was a waste of time. I wonder why Cheryl had me show up in the first place. I can’t surf those waves.”

“Sure you can, haole girl. Tow-in easy, no problem.”

“No problem until you fall, Sonny-boy,” said Heath Larson.

The elevator door opened and they walked across the lobby past several Wavelife employees who were surprised to see the two Wavelife heroes in person on a normal business day. As for Aleja Gracellen, nobody quite knew who she was, but she must have been somebody if she was with Larson and Noaloa.

“Have you ever done any tow-in surfing?” said Larson as he held the door open for her.

“No, and I don’t plan to, although I must admit the footage I’ve seen of you makes it look like fun.”

“I surf da place no problem, dey gimme mo money.”

“You already make more money than you know what to do with, Sonny-boy,” said Gracellen, never one to mince words with surf stars. She noticed the cold, damp wind had picked up a bit.

“Heath, there’s no way the surf’s any good.”

“Yeah, but getting some exercise beats sitting in a conference room. And fifty bucks says the world champ is too hung over to run to the pier and back.”

“You’re on, brah!”

The Hawaiian took off across the parking lot, last night’s party hound turned into a competitor who hated to lose.

Larson looked at Gracellen. She shrugged.

“Sure, why not?”

They caught up to Noaloa half way across the lot. When they got to the street, the men turned left but Gracellen cut to the right.

“Sonny-boy, wait a sec! Hey Aleja, where are you going?”

Gracellen turned and ran backward as she yelled, “The Newport Pier is right down the street. Anybody can do that. Let’s see you guys run to the Huntington Pier!”

Noaloa and Larson looked at each other, but Gracellen did not wait for them to decide.

“And if I beat you both, you guys each owe me a hundred bucks!”

* * *

“We'll give you a hundred grand worth of shares and you can use Wavelife surfers in your ads free of charge. And we’ll throw a five-star contest at any Geosurf resort you want. Plus a t-shirt,” said Roberto Mercante.

“Your stock’s headed south, I don’t need surf star endorsements, and contests are more trouble than they’re worth. But we can start negotiating on the shirt. Just what are they worth these days?” said Clark, knowing that Sonny-boy Noaloa liked wearing t-shirts with his fat paychecks silk-screened on them to intimidate his competitors.

“About 37 cents net, but for you we’ll make up a special one with a check for a million dollars on it,” Mercante said.

“A million dollars? You know it’s a sign of the times when seven figures sounds like chump change,” said Ian Clark, feigning a yawn. Then he leaned forward, clasped his hands on the table in front of him and zeroed in on Mercante.

“How much do you think it will cost you to exploit that place?”

He glanced at Cheryl Corlund, who appeared to be paying attention. But just to make sure, he began firing off costs one after another.

“You’ve got to bring it all to the customer, no? Design new lines around the conquest of the reef! Production costs! Point-of-sale displays! Sales team training! Travel costs! New trade show booths! Buyer parties!” Clark winked at Mercante, knowing his wife was obviously not amused.

“Need I go any further? Oh, wait a sec, what about the upside? The stock goes up, the points you pay the banks go down, the factors are your pals again, and you’re flush! So, a million bucks? Try again, but first take a look at this.”
Clark pulled another disk from his shirt pocket and sailed it across the room. Mercante caught it with one hand.

“What's this?”

“It’s a copy, yours to keep, deal or no deal. Why don’t you take another look to remind yourselves of exactly what’s on the table.”

Once again, the Geosurf logo dissolved into a menu of the best waves in the world. Only this time, the last item said “The Wavelife Ring of Power”, with a glowing blue circle surrounded by perfect waves.

Ian Clark noticed Mercante’s eager body language and was reminded of an old movie about a mysterious map and a remarkable discovery.

“You could call it surfing’s ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’! It could be your King Kong, Roberto,” he said, making no attempt to hide the snide tone to his remark, “And Aleja could be the beauty who tamed the beast! With Heath to save her in the nick of time!”

Cheryl Corlund knew the comment was right on target, but she said nothing and let Clark dig himself in a little deeper.

They watched the simulation again. Clearly, it was the heaviest surfing environment imaginable: the biggest, most remote, and most perfect set-up in the world.

When the clip ended, Mercante turned back to Clark and laughed.

"Ok, Clark. You can have the keys to the front door. You can have anything you want. I want to surf that place!”

Clark laughed, too.

“That's big of you, Roberto. Your whole company for the best wave in history - now that IS being authentic. Thanks, but no thanks - the rag trade would be bad for my health,” he said with a knowing laugh.

He turned to Cheryl Corlund because it was time to get serious.

“Ok, Madam CEO, what’s your offer?”

Cheryl Corlund had barely glanced at the screen and had paid scant attention to the antics of Clark and her husband. They were like two monkeys scurrying around for peanuts compared to what was on her mind.

When Wavelife’s troubles began to mount, she had called in some old Harvard MBA chums to tackle the problem, and a number of scenarios were fleshed out after weeks of work with division heads and marketing experts. However, when Wilson and Massara reviewed the various alternatives, they sliced the proposals to pieces. At the end of the day, nothing penciled out for the company in its existing incarnation.

Then Wilson and Massara had come up with an idea. The way out was to pull off something rarely done on Wall Street anymore: a leveraged buyout. If she could execute an LBO, and then sell the company, her seasickness in the surf industry would be over. It would be like stepping onto dry land after a season in hell trying to sail a drunken boat across a stormy ocean. However, to get investment bankers interested in underwriting the buyout, she would have to show them something to pique their curiosity, if not their greedy instincts, and after seeing Larson’s reaction to Clark’s reef, she had exactly what she needed. And, as it turned out, she could treat the reef as if it was a lease on some wilderness acreage where there “might be” oil and gas reserves.

There are no guarantees the reef could ever become a fixed asset. Its value is unknown, and that would be the key to skirting around the insider trading laws. And it may never be worth a dime to anyone until Heath and Sonny-boy ride the place. After the LBO is executed.

And the beauty and the beast angle with Aleja? I hate to admit it, she thought, but the idea had merit.

She looked back at Clark and responded in a soft, friendly voice.

“We'll joint venture a surf camp on the nearest island under Wavelife’s name, pay for all the infrastructure, pay you to run expeditions to the reef, give you 10% of the net profits from sales of site-related garments, and cross-promo with Geosurf for three product cycles.”

Cheryl Corlund low-balled with the best of them, but that was exactly what she wanted Clark to be thinking, and his response was pretty much what she knew it would be.

“You pay for everything, provide an unsecured loan of fifteen million to Geosurf, give me twenty-five percent of the gross on everything coming out of, what did I call it, the Wavelife Ring of Power? And I run the show, period, on-site.”

“What about contests?” interrupted Mercante without having to look at his wife to know his part in her strategy.


“Special events?”

“Not yours. All mine, and your employees have to surf in 'em. With you as sole sponsor, of course. One-point-five mill would buy you signage above the title.”

“Then what's in it for us?”

“The honor of doing something for the sacred soul of surfing,” said Clark, with just a hint of a tent-show preacher in his tone.

Cheryl Corlund’s voice cut between the two men.

“I'm here to do business, Mr. Clark. Apparently, you are not. Why don't you just go peddle your ego someplace else?”

Her husband caught his cue and quickly added, “But when can I go surf that place, bro?”

Ian Clark laughed loudly.

"Good cop - bad cop! You two are really something. Biggest company in the surf industry, and I hear your parties are pretty wild, too. Oh, by the way, how are the kids these days? Did they graduate yet?”

Clark was really pushing it. He knew that he was up against a powerful tag team in Cheryl Corlund and Roberto Mercante, so it was no holds barred. The two Mercante teenagers were infamous in Orange County for their parties and had been already been kicked out of two private high schools. It was below the belt, but to Ian Clark it was fair. This was not about making nice.

“Okay, let’s cut the crap. What’s your best offer?”

“Why don't we just buy Geosurf and you can work for us?” Roberto liked the idea of owning access to the best waves in the world, and Geosurf had every license worth having.

The CEO glanced at her husband. It was time for him to butt out.

Her eyes locked with Clark’s.

“I don't want anything more to do with you than I have to. Here are my terms,” she said, having already considered her SEC filing dates, next year’s trade shows, production lead times, sales teams orientations, LBO due diligence issues, her current cash-on-hand, and the fact that next year’s selling season coincided with the Southern Hemisphere’s winter surf.

“Heath Larson, and/or possibly other surfers to be named later, in the water riding the place exactly as you showed it to us between June 21 and August 17, or you sign Geosurf over to us lock, stock and barrel,” she began.

“June 21 is the first day of summer, but what’s August 17 about?”

“Don’t interrupt me again, Mr. Clark,” said Corlund, knowing this all had to happen according to schedule and that the reef could not come with any strings attached.

“All rights to the reef will belong to Wavelife and all permits will be in our name. If we decide we want to do anything out there we own all on-site events and you will not be involved in any way, shape or form other than consulting at our discretion.”

Clark wasn’t about to say a word. He knew there was more to come.

“I will hand you a check for two million dollars as soon as the first wave is ridden by Heath Larson within the given performance period. We will subsequently pay you twenty-five percent of net profit from site-related apparel up to another two million. If you cannot get Heath on these waves,” she pointed to the screen, “between the specified dates, you give us the keys to Geosurf Expeditions.”

“Well, uh, I don’t know, uh, but what - - -”

“But what?”

Clark knew the term “net profit” didn’t mean a thing, and he knew Corlund understood that as well. He detected an urgency in her voice, despite the clipped tones she used to intimidate him, and so he countered without ever forgetting for a second that he needed cash, and fast, or remembering what would happen if he didn’t deliver.

"Two now, two when Larson takes off. No back end.”

“One point five now, one point five on his first wave, paid end of August, no back end.”

“If he surfs the place on June 21, I don’t want to wait.”



“There will be a check waiting for you at the reception desk on your way out.” She pushed her chair back, went around the conference table and picked up the disk before walking over to Clark and extending her hand. “It’s a handshake for now. Tell your lawyer to clear his calendar for next Tuesday at 10 am. We’ll all meet right back here to sign papers. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a corporation to run.”

Just before she walked out the door, Cheryl Corlund paused and turned around. “I want a game plan from you guys before you leave the premises,” she noticed her husband was staring at the screen, “So listen carefully,” Mercante heard her words and immediately turned around. “I don’t care what it costs as long as it comes out of your surf team budget, Roberto. I’ll need forty-eight hours notice before Heath hits the water, and none of this ‘Well, we thought a swell was coming’ bullshit. Is that understood?”

Corlund’s husband took a deep breath. He owed Wavelife’s success to his wife, and he knew she expected results.

“Loud and clear,” replied Mercante.

“What about you, Mr. Clark? Can you do it?”

“Well, - - -”

“Well what? We’ve got a deal, or don’t handshakes mean much to you?”

“I can do it,” he said, though he knew he would have said anything just so he could walk out the door with cash-in-hand.

“I’m sure the two of you will be a great team together,” she said without looking back as the door closed behind her.

The two men sat for almost a minute looking at the image on the screen. Neither wanted to say the first word, but Clark was prepared with an icebreaker.

“You know, it must be hard to stay in touch with reality in a place like this,” said Clark, leaning back in his chair and sweeping his arm around the conference room, “so I thought I'd bring along a little air freshener.”

He pulled out a small joint of Durban Poison, the near-psychedelic weed grown in South Africa. He lit it up and offered it across the table.

“Fucking Clark, what the hell are you doing?” said Mercante, holding up his hand in refusal.

As the fabled smoke from the African Horn expanded in his lungs, Clark started to get up to exhale out a window. Then he realized that they don’t open in skyscrapers, so he simply exhaled over the table.

“Sorry to smell up your inner sanctum, but I forgot there's no way to get fresh air into these corporate monuments,” said Clark, “and I just thought we could get on the same wavelength, Roberto.”

But within seconds he was rambling on about how Wavelife’s surfers should not use special boards or technology, the publicity angles they could push, t-shirt designs, floating houseboats filled with spectators, and worse.

As Clark spewed, Roberto thought about what his wife wanted from him. The company’s future depended on his creating a new surfing sensation, something he’d done many times at trade shows, contests, and parties. But this time there would be no fall-back position if he failed. This had to be the genuine article, and there was no room for Clark’s stoned nonsense.

“Shut up, Clark. Maybe you didn’t hear some of the terms, but as I recall you are now a paid consultant. Heath Larson would never go for what you are talking about.”

“But he has to have some sense of real adventure - real risk - survival on pure instinct –“

“Clark, we’re going to minimize every risk. Jet skis, personal GPS locators, oxygen bottles, – that stuff is standard these days, although maybe not for guys at San Onofre. Next thing I know you'll be telling me no lifeguards!”

Clark didn’t miss the dig in the reference to the surf spot known for its gentle waves, so he came right back at Mercante.

“How'd you guess?”

“Fuck you, Clark. You must have spent too much time with Merrill or something. Oh, and by the way, what’s he going to think about your deal with my wife?”

“He’s got nothing to do with this,” said Clark, and he felt himself lose some ground.

“Oh yeah? What, some seagull just plopped that disk down on your desk? Well, that’s neither here nor there. What concerns me is that you’re sitting here stoned trying to think straight about survival surfing.”

Clark may have been floating on a cloud, but he was ready with a lightning bolt.
“And your polluted version of life has you thinking any straighter? Just what kind of place you got here, Roberto? A monument to man's best instincts for making a buck? What's it all worth when it is nothing but marketing? Here's a chance to stand for something - or can't you get to your feet anymore when its time to go for it on the wave of the day?”

That one stung as Clark could see from the reddening of Mercante’s face. But though the mogul was ten pounds heavier after years of trade shows and hospitality tents, he was still a Brazilian surfer with a lot of pride.

“Well, at least I’m not afraid of drowning every time I get caught inside.”

That one stopped Clark in his tracks, until he remembered Mercante had spent a week with Merrill on a trip to a stretch of Moroccan coast leased by Geosurf to control access to a series of excellent point breaks. They must have talked some story about Geosurf’s owner.

“Fuck you, too, Mercante. You and your surf stars! How about just a compass?
Turn ‘em into real sea-faring ocean adventurers! You could have square-riggers as a backdrop at the trade shows! And just think! Wavelife would finally be totally core authentic! You know, kinda like climbing Everest without oxygen!”

“Clark, I’m not getting through to you! Without lifeguards and a personal locator system we'd never get the insurance. And you can’t catch those waves without jetskis.”

Clark lit the joint and took a hit.

“Oh, come on, Roberto, you’re Wavelife International! Think big!”

He handed the joint to Mercante, who took it and then surprised Clark by snuffing it out and flipping it back at him.

“Locators, jetskis and lifeguards or I won't be able to get insurance. And Response/Rescue will be a Stateside operation and not the local boys you have working for you at your island resorts. This thing has to work for my wife, Clark. Real money doesn't believe in Polynesian traditions, or haven't you learned that yet?”

Clark was too stoned to parry the thrust. His conscience was sliced open and a cascade of memories drowned his thinking.

He remembered all the promises to the locals he’d made while thinking he could do it with someone else’s money. He remembered the investment bankers on their yachts in Newport Beach glazing over when he tried to talk about indigenous franchises needing seed capital to create self-sustaining communities at surf sites around the world. Then the money market numbers started flashing through his brain and the meeting with his lawyers and his accountant about the registered letter from the IRS. The thought of handcuffs brought him back to reality in a millisecond. A big check was waiting downstairs. All he had to do was shut his mouth and go get it.

“All right, Roberto. Anything you say. What's next?"

“I’ve got to see this place for real, Ian, and as soon as possible.”

“I’ll book us first class roundtrips to Tahiti. I’ve got to do some business down there, so I'll meet you at Papeete harbor next Friday and we'll go have a looksee, just me and you. Oh, one thing, now that I think of it. I’ll need a non-disclosure from you.”

“And I’ll need an invoice for the tickets. We’ll square it up when we sign the contracts on Tuesday, okay?”

He stood up and extended his hand to Clark, who also got out of his chair. The two men shook hands, first as businessmen, then with locked thumbs in the classic “brother” grip.

“Ok, Ian. We’ve got some mutual interests, don’t we, bro? Speaking of which, where’s that DP?”

They sat back in their chairs and Clark lit the last of the joint and passed it across the table.

Now that the deal was done, Mercante saw no harm in getting high. He sucked a hit deeply into his lungs, and then tried to hand the glowing joint back to Clark.

"No thanks, I've had enough. See you in Tahiti.”

Clark stood up and walked towards the door as Mercante coughed a cloud of purple smoke into the room.

Clark looked back at him. Mercante was trying to say something, but nothing came out.

“Don’t forget, Roberto, its better to be straight wishing you were high than high wishing you weren't,” said Clark as he opened the door and walked out without closing it.

Behind him, a disoriented millionaire surfer was fumbling with the remote control. He couldn’t figure out which button would make the perfect waves start rolling again.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Endeavour Journal

First Written Descriptions of Surfing

In 2006, I received the following study of Joseph Banks' ENDEAVOR JOURNAL, 1768-1771 from Geoff Cater at surfresearch.com.au. It concerns the first written account of surfing:


I uploaded this to my web page today, it maybe of interest.
Geoff Cater/surfresearch.com.au


The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768 - 1771

Edited by J. C. Beaglehole. The Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales in Association with Angus and Robertson, 89 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. First published February 1962. Second Edition 1963. Two Volumes.


The following details have been largely collated from Robson (2000). This is a unique work with a wealth of information in the form of maps, providing a wonderful geographical context to Cook's voyages that is simply not possible from written accounts.

James Cook R.N. -- James Cook lead three scientific and exploratory expeditions to the Pacific Ocean for the British Navy, from 1768 to 1780. His achievements were considerable.

The first voyage (1768-1771), in the Endeavour, recorded the transit of Venus from Tahiti, circumnavigated New Zealand and established the extent of the east coast of Australia. This largely disproved a prevalent theory, Terra Australis incognita, of a massive southern continent -- ostensibly to balance those of the northen hemisphere. The voyage was expertly recorded (note Cook's superb mapping techniques) and returned a huge collection of cultural and botanical specimens - these were also features of the subsequent voyages.

Joseph Banks -- Joseph Banks was an English arisocrat with an inexhaustive appetite for the accumulation of scientific knowledge characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment. He personally funded his party's passage aboard the Endeavour and, with his associate Dr Solander, was largely reponsible for the massive amount of botanical and cultural material that was collected.

Bank's description of surf-riding is rich in detail and typical of his scientific approach, however he appears not to have questioned the riders about their activity and the exact nature of the craft ("stern of an old canoe") is difficult to determine.

Although the report was not available in print until 1962 (?), the activity was witnessed by other members of the expedition and it would seems improbable that this "strange diversion" was not later a topic of dicussion at the captain's table. Cook was later to record canoe surfing on his return to Tahiti in 1777, and the third voyage recorded the first European account of Hawaiian surf-riding and the first image of a surfboard by John Weber.

(See 1779 Lt James King : Surf-riding in Hawaii.)

Joseph Bank's Description of Surf-riding
29th May 1769. Volume 1, page 283. (1963)

"In our return to the boat (1) we saw the Indians (2) amuse or excersise themselves in a manner truly surprizing.(3)

"It was in a place where the shore was not guarded by a reef as is usualy the case, consequently a high surf fell upon the shore, a more dreadfull one I have not often seen: no European boat could have landed in it and I think no Europaean who had by any means got into [it] could possibly have saved his life, as the shore was coverd with pebbles and large stones.(4)

"In the midst of these breakers 10 or 12 Indians (5) were swimming who whenever a surf broke near them divd under it with infinite ease, rising up on the other side (6); but their chief amusement was carried on by the stern of an old canoe (7), with this before them they swam out (8) as far as the outermost breach (9), then one or two would get into it (10) and opposing the blunt end to the breaking wave (11) were hurried in with incredible swiftness.(12)

"Sometimes they were carried almost ashore but generaly the wave broke over them before they were half way (13), in which case the[y] divd and quickly rose on the other side with the canoe in their hands (14), which was towd out again and the same method repeated (15).

We stood admiring this very wonderfull scene for full half an hour, in which time no one of the actors atempted to come ashore but all seemd most highly entertaind with their strange diversion.(16)"


Given that this was the first sighting of surf-riding, it is highly unlikely that the report would employ terminology that corresponds with contemporary use. Furthermore, the report appears to have no information contributed by Tahitians. As indicated by the text, Banks certainly did not talk to this group.

1. "our return to the boat ..."

Lt. Cook, Dr. Solander, Banks and several midshipmen set out from Fort Venus, Matavai Bay in the pinnace on the morning of the 28th May 1769 and headed east. After approximately six miles, Cook decided to beach the boat and the party continued on foot. After an overnight stay they returned to the pinnace on the 29th May. The surf-riding activity was observed from shore and probably by all members of the party. I have not been able to identify a possible location for the report.

2. "the Indians" -- Native Tahitians

3. "a manner truly surprizing."

Strongly infers that this is the first observation by members of Cook's expedition of surf-riding activity in the Pacific.

4. "... was not guarded by a reef ..."

Notes the lack of the outside reef, allowing substantial swell to break close to shore in conditions percieved by Banks to be extremely dangerous.

5. "10 or 12 Indians "

This indicates surf-riding as a community activity but it does not indicate the age or the sex of the riders, often a feature of later reports.

6. "divd under it with infinite ease, rising up on the other side"

In contemporary surf-riding terminology, this manourve is known as a 'duck-dive" and was first illustrated by Wallis McKay, circa 1874.

7. "the stern of an old canoe"

Initially it appears to indicate only one craft, but as the report progresses it may indicate that most, if not all the riders were using surf-craft. This is the most difficult concept to interpret -- was the craft actually

a. the stern of an old canoe, or
b. a stern of an old canoe that had been modified for wave riding, or
c. a craft that resembled the stern of an old canoe ?

Editors Note:

When previously considering possible developments in ancient prone surf-riding boards, I had written (2004?) ...

"The origin of these boards is speculative, but broken sections from discarded canoes, outrigger floats or paddles (the blades) are possible sources. " -- Significant Surfboard Designs

8. "with this before them they swam out"

The craft was propelled (and, we assume, ridden) in a prone position with arm (and possibly leg) power and did not use bladded paddles.

9. "as far as the outermost breach"

From the take-off zone, maximising the wave height and the length of ride, and sometimes "they were carried almost ashore".

10. "one or two would get into it "

Single and tandem riders.

The "get into it" is problematic and there is no reference, as might be expected at this juncture of the narrative, to the substantial difficutlies of achieving successful take-off. Apparently these Tahitian surf-riders were highly proficient in this skill.

11. "opposing the blunt end to the breaking wave "

Possibly the craft had a rounded nose ("canoe stern") and a square tail ("blunt end").

12. "with incredible swiftness."

This possibly indicates that the riders were travelling faster than wave speed, and were cutting or angling across the wave face.

13. "generally the wave broke over them before they were half way"

A substantial part of the ride was on the wave face before it actually broke as white-water.

14. "the[y] divd and quickly rose on the other side with the canoe in their hands"

A variation on a manourve known as an "Island Pull-out", it indicates the importance of securing the craft in difficult conditions.

15. "which was towd out again and the same method repeated"

A continous process of wave riding followed by paddling ("towd") back out through the surf.

16. "... admiring this very wonderfull scene ... most highly entertaind with their strange diversion."

An emphasis on the pleasurable features of the activity.


I, like most other commentators, had peviously assumed that the fisrt Eurpean account of surf-riding was by James Cook and James King in Hawaii in 1779. Following intensive online discussion in assessing the historical value of a newspaper account and image purporting to record an Hawaiian female board rider in New Jersey in 1886 (?), I extensively revised all my sources of early surf-riding accounts and images.
One of the results of this work was Surfing Images : 1788 to Photography

I also revised the commonly available accounts of ancient surfboard construction. My initial conclusion was that these were incomplete, derivative and possibly misleading. I then attempted to source documents relating to Polynesian carpentry.

On 3rd July 2006, while browsing my local library for books on early Christian history, I pulled Donald A. Mackenzie's South Seas : Myths and Legends (1930/1996) from the shelf (Dewey : 291.13 MACK). I had previously examined a copy of this book (provided by John McInnes, who noted the dramatic cover illustration of canoe-surfing) but was unable to date the illustration or detect any relevant data for my research. The second copy (literally ?) fell open at page 7 - Joseph Banks' account of Tahitian carpentry, circa 1770. Attached below.

Unfortunately the only reference for the quotation was E. Best, The Stone Implements of the Maori, Bulletin No. 4, Dominion Museum, Wellington (N.Z.) 1912, pp154 et seq.
I immediately went to Mr. Geoffrey Hadrill at the Reference Desk, detailed my problem to and was delighted to be provided from the stack with Banks' Journal in Two Volumes (1963).

That evening I searched Banks and located the quotation (entered on 14th August 1769) on pages 363 -364. Satisfied with this discovery, I retired for the evening but continued to browse Bank's Journal.. Twenty minutes later I read Banks' account of Tahitian surf-riding of 29th May 1769. Too excited to sleep, I booted up the computer, ran the relevant sections through the scanner OCR program and began to compile this entry. This took several hours and I was able to get to sleep sometime after 3.30 am.

The next morning my excitement was severely modified by the realisation that it was highly unlikely that I was the first researcher to "discover Banks' account. Initially, I recollected the publication of a magazine article on the development of Tahitian surfing. However the item is relatively rare/obsure, I did not have a copy and I don't read French. A search of "Joseph Banks surfing" at google.com gave two specific results ...

1. Chris Jones' web page Captain Cook, notes ...

"the botanist Joseph Banks described the first recorded instance of ‘surfing’ in his journal." http://www.herriotcountry.com/content/captaincook/captaincook.php -- The report is linked to a dated entry (29th May 1769) that both paraphrases and directly quotes Banks' account.

2. Peter Robinson's excellent online British Surfing Museum.reports ...

"1769 - Captain James Cook sees canoe surfing in Tahiti and Joseph Banks writes about it in his diaries."


"1777 - Cook returned to Tahiti and again saw wave riding."

It is unclear whether these reports only refer to canoe surfing and (unlike Cook's 1788 report) they are not referenced.

Further online searches located only one other report - without references and clearly contentious... "The origin of surfing is Polynesian, although this sport became more popular further North, in Hawaii.

Explorers' stories, particularly Cook's, already mentioned this sport practiced by the Maohis in 1767 (sic. Cook's first voyage left England in August, 1768), while laying on a board: it was the ancestor of body boarding. (it was only in the early 20th century than some American had the strange idea to stand up on the board.)"

Credited as "This page is presented by our partner SURFING SCHOOL TURA'I MATAARE of TAHITI"


On the 9th July 2006, this page was uploaded to surfresearch.com.au and copies forwarded by email to Chris Jones, Peter Robinson and others.

More information and detail can be found here: "Joseph Banks: Surf-riding in Tahiti, 1769"

Banks' complete journal is available via Project Gutenberg:
Joseph Banks Journal, 25 August 1768-12 July 1771

Monday, July 17, 2006

Waves of Warning 04

Surf for Sale

[ Also viewable in Word format by downloading:04%20-%20Surf%20for%20Sale.doc ]

It was an unusually gloomy day in the heart of the surf industry. The Catalina eddy was blowing a thick, dirty mist against the glass curtain walls of Wavelife International’s corporate headquarters in Newport Beach. The view from the top floor was anything but grand, and the mood in the executive conference room was just as gray.

Ian Clark was waiting outside the room, ticking off his pitch points, when the door opened and he was motioned to come in. There were seven people sitting around the table and they were all staring at him. No introductions were made, and no one said a word. The silence put him off balance. Then he realized that if he lost control of the meeting, he’d never get it back, and if that happened, he’d be walking out the door empty-handed. The very thought practically drained the blood from his gameface. But then his survival instinct kicked in, his mind switched to autopilot, and he began his well-rehearsed presentation to the people at the top of a corporation in trouble.

"Ladies and gentlemen, many thousands of miles to the southwest of this room there is a range of undersea mountains crowned with coral reefs that have been avoided by sailors for centuries. They are not on any maps, and are hundreds of miles from the nearest inhabited islands. Now, most open ocean reefs are too shallow and irregular to surf safely, but - - -”

“But what, Clark? My surfers aren’t about to surf some death reef in the middle of nowhere no matter what you try to sell us,” interrupted Roberto Mercante, founder of the company, from the other end of the table, “So why are we here?”

The interruption was just what Clark needed. He snapped out of his fear and the adrenalin kicked in.

“Times have changed, Roberto, so why don’t you just relax and pay attention? You might learn something,” said Clark, his tone of voice purposefully sharp.
"Global warming is here to stay, and for a lot of people that’s bad news. Of course, some are trying to reduce their contributions to this ecological disaster, although by all the chrome SUV’s I see down there in the parking lot, I’d say we still have a ways to go.”

Clark didn’t see the dirty looks he got from June Wilson, Wavelife’s Wall Street liaison, and Bill Massara, the company’s chief financial officer, who had both made a lot of money in recent years at Wavelife as evidenced by their ostentatious urban assault vehicles parked conspicuously near the front door.

“And who knows? Maybe Mother Nature will be able to absorb the excesses of our society and begin reversing the trend. In the meantime, the world ocean is becoming a stern judge of man’s folly, the sentence will not be commuted, and a parole hearing is a long way off. We have fallen from grace with the sea, or so the environmentalists would have you believe.

"The reality is, of course, that as long as you can sell t-shirts and trunks in Kansas, the consequences of rising sea levels won’t mean squat to your bottom line. Yet, somewhere in your cash-strapped conscience there must be a twinge of regret over the current situation – I’m referring to global warming, not the downturn in your stock price.”

The vibe in the room was now becoming really edgy, exactly as planned.

“Ok, so much for the tree-hugging. After all, in our wonderful world of modern surfing, is there anything more important than contests, big wave reputations and price points?” said Clark, daggers of sarcasm stabbing with every word.

Now he had their complete attention, and especially that of Cheryl Corlund, the CEO of Wavelife. With her blond hair cut short, piercing green eyes and a steel-trap mind, she intimidated everyone in the surf industry. And now here was a guy trying to yank her chain.

“Get to the point, Clark. I don’t have all day, much less another five minutes for this bullshit.”

“Ok, sorry for all the doom-and-gloom. I forgot, rising sea levels and global warning really have nothing to do with the sinking stock of a company drowning in debt. Or do they?”

Clark paused and made careful eye contact with each and every person sitting around the table. He had them right where he wanted them. He looked straight at Cheryl Corlund.

“So let’s get down to business. I’m here to offer you the chance to get in on the discovery of waves that could not have been ridden until global warming caused a rise in sea levels, waves that are now bigger and more perfect than anything ever seen in the history of surfing. It is my guess that such an opportunity may have some value to Wavelife International given your current situation.”

He took a disk out of his shirt pocket and sailed it down the table without breaking eye contact with the CEO.

“Here you go, Roberto, let’s take a look at this.”

Mercante’s dark Brazilian eyes glared at Clark. He inserted the disk into the DVD player and lobbed the remote control back to Clark. A color balance image appeared on the huge plasma screen mounted on the wall. Clark moved out of the way to reveal shaky images of a briefcase, a seat, a window, and then a zoom down from a plane flying at ten thousand feet over a vast blue ocean.

The group watched in silence. Forty-five seconds later, Clark hit stop as the camera turned away from the plane’s window. Nobody said a word. Clark sensed he had exactly what Wavelife needed. A second later, he knew he was right.

“Where is this place? And when can I go there?” demanded Mercante.

Clark’s smile was just this side of a smirk. The bait had been swallowed. Now he’d set the hook.

“All in good time, my friend. Let’s talk about the surf for a moment, why don’t we? The waves are twenty-five feet high, maybe bigger, coming in every twenty seconds, and the ride will be almost a mile long. Oh, it also looks like the wind is straight offshore.”

“Show it again,” said Heath Larson in a commanding tone backed up by his reputation as the best big wave surfer in the world.

Ian Clark sensed the challenge and confronted it directly.

“What for?” he asked with disdain, “You can’t see anything anyway.”

“So what the hell are we doing here, Clark?”

Mercante’s temper was at the boiling point. He had been one of the pro circuit’s hottest surfers until his favela roots took hold and he began to compete in the surf industry. But he quickly found out that in the garment business, surf savvy was nowhere near as important as bean counting. That was why his wife continued to use her maiden name, and that was why a quick darting look from her green eyes was all he needed to know he was to shut his mouth immediately.

Clark saw the silent exchange and played off it perfectly to take total command of the room.

“I’ll tell you what you’re doing here, Roberto. You’re trying to save your company, and you’re listening to me because I know how you’re going to do it. Now stop wasting everybody’s time and just pay attention.”

He tapped two clicks on the remote and up came Geosurf’s logo and a column of icons, each containing moving images of perfect waves from Geosurf’s exclusive surf zones. At the bottom of the menu was a final selection labeled “Under Development” with just a generic icon and an “X” on it. Clark scrolled down to it and clicked the remote.

The last frame from the original clip began to grow as if through an unlimited zoom lens, simultaneously coming into perfect focus until the frame was full of swells arrayed around the reef like spokes on a wheel. Then they began to move.

Swell after swell came from the top of the screen, splitting into matching perfect waves marching in formation around both sides of the reef, their smooth faces rolling over into huge tubes with perfect precision.

“Hey”, said Sonny-boy Noaloa, winner of pro surfing’s world tour two years in a row, “that mo like it, brah. You show dat one again, yeah?”

“Hold on there, champ,” said Clark. “Wait till you see what’s next.”

* * *

After his last conversation with L.J. Merrill, Ian Clark knew exactly what he had to do. Merrill never divulged the locations of new surf zones until they met face to face. This time, however, that meeting would never take place.

Clark quickly called Trans-Pacific and told his contact that a Geosurf employee had seen what looked like good surf on a flight from Tahiti to South America. Was it possible that the flight recorder could provide the GPS position, and the altitude, just before the plane had experienced some turbulence about two hours into its flight? The airline executive was only too happy to oblige Geosurf’s owner, and with the GPS data on its way, Ian Clark started working on his pitch to Wavelife International.

He had sold surf tours for years using real video, but all he had was Merrill’s distant footage compressed into a data file, and that would not be good enough for his purposes. So he sent the file to a CGI company that had done a lot of work for Geosurf enhancing surf video images. He remembered discussions he’d had with them about the state-of-the-art work the company had done for NASA using software developed to simulate landings on Venus and Mars. He got on the phone to the VP of the company, and an hour later, Clark was in business.

The last frame of the image stream showed a shadow angle on the tail stabilizer. Combined with the GPS and altitude data, that single frame would help the programmers to reverse engineer a series of calculations, similar to sea captains using sextants and trig tables, to determine the sun’s precise position when Merrill had shot the images. This would give them a exact reference angle for the almost imperceptible shadows of the wave’s hollow tunnels. With the ability to then extrapolate the geometry and dimensions of the forms on the sea’s surface, the programmers and computer graphics artists could then create a three-dimensional digital tour of the waves. The VP assured Clark that it was quite doable, and in seventy-two hours Clark saw a rough of exactly what he needed. In the end the two-minute tour cost almost thirty thousand dollars, but that was cheap considering the bet Clark was placing on his future.

* * *

All eyes in the conference room were glued to the screen displaying a perfect vision of some of the most, if not THE most, extraordinary waves they’d ever seen. The “video” was not real, but Clark was almost certain that neither the executives nor the surfers would ask questions about the stunning images.

They didn’t.

Although Mercante and Corlund were used to cutting-edge pitch meetings, neither they, nor anyone else sitting around the table had ever seen anything like this. The “camera” seemed to drop until it stopped just above the surface of the water facing a wave that filled the screen. The wave started breaking. The “camera” did not move, and the waterfall/avalanche got closer and closer until it finally closed right over the “camera”.

There was a stifled gasp from the lone female surfer in the room.

Aleja Gracellen caught her body involuntarily responding to something outside the boundaries of her skills. She was the woman who danced with the sea, but deep inside, she knew riding such a wave would be no dance.

The “camera” went underwater as the liquid mountain rolled overhead. Then it came up to the surface into the sun only to have another wave fill the frame.

The “camera” panned slowly to the right. Now they were looking directly into a hollow tunnel big enough to swallow a school bus. The arc of the wave curved out into space like a nautilus shell. It was a ruler-edged waterfall peeling perfectly like the honing blade of a lathe.

The “camera” pulled back as the power roared forward, all the time maintaining the view into the tube. Ten meters back in the tunnel a maelstrom of certain death was clearly visible.

“Nice wave,” said Larson.

“I thought you’d like it Heath. That’s why I want you to be the first to ride it.” Clark felt confident enough to lay it on a little thick even though both he and Cheryl Corlund knew what was really going on had nothing to do with anything other than a lot of money.

The “camera” floated up to a safer position. The low angle of the sun gave the thirty foot waves an ominous look, their concave, translucent faces glowing a deep blue before feeling the reef and breaking perfectly.

It was nothing but a sophisticated illusion, but the visceral reactions of the people around the table were anything but digital. They were like awestruck climbers looking at Mt. Everest as the jet stream blew a plume of snow off the summit, their hearts and minds transfixed by a hypnotic vision of glory and danger.
Roberto Mercante mind-surfed the waves, lost in delusions of surfing at a world-class level. Sonny-boy Noaloa imagined himself shredding turns and getting big air all over the huge walls as if he was skateboarding giant half-pipes. Heath Larson saw himself so far back inside the tunnels that he couldn’t be seen at all. Aleja Gracellen was wondering if she’d ever be good enough to ride what she was seeing, and both Wilson and Massara were wishing they knew how to surf just to be able to appreciate what was on the screen.

But to Cheryl Corlund, however, it was like watching a person screaming behind soundproof glass. There was just too much raw energy for her to absorb, and she didn’t bother trying. By the reactions of the surfers, she didn’t need to know anything more about Clark’s find. Unnoticed by the others, she opened up a laptop screen built into the conference table, clicked an icon, and began to study a spreadsheet full of data. Her mind went into high gear, knowing she would have to strike a deal with Clark to integrate his find into her plans for Wavelife’s future.
The “camera” began to fly free and clear above the swells revealing a mirror image set-up on the other side of the lagoon. Just as perfect and powerful as the “rights”, the “lefts” peeled like Pipeline, with two important exceptions: instead of stopping abruptly after one quick tube section, they kept going for almost a mile. And they were much bigger than anything ever ridden at Pipe, second reef included.

The POV pulled back up to ten thousand feet. A seamless edit brought them back to the real images shot just before the camera angle became impossible. The screen went blank for a second. Then the Geosurf logo appeared.

Ian Clark and Cheryl Corlund locked gazes. She knew he needed cash, like a prospector needed a grubstake, in exchange for the promise of a bonanza based on a mere forty-five seconds of reality and two minutes of simulation. He knew he’d successfully made his pitch as if each frame was a grain of gold found in the sand of a creek bed leading to surfing’s “Treasure of Sierra Madre”. There was no misunderstanding between them. Each knew exactly what was on the table: Wavelife needed a shot in the arm.

* * *

Waves have always been at the heart of a multi-billion dollar industry because their wild energy makes them an endless source of wonder and respect. Dozens of companies used man’s fascination with waves to sell apparel to everyone from awestruck tourists to veteran surfers. For years, Wavelife International had done it better than anyone else.

When Roberto Mercante founded the company, he understood firsthand the unique affect of waves on human emotions. He knew the world of surfing to be a truly awesome place of raw energy, where waves are like wild beasts roaming at will across the vast curved liquid space covering much of the planet. He’d found a lot of romance in man’s relationship with the seven seas, but he’d learned more than once that no one can ever take their hospitality for granted as long as waves move across their surface. Their beauty can be inspiring, but at the same time, he knew that waves are, in a purely primal sense, an enemy.

Wavelife’s success was based on this paradox, and another paradox as well. Surfing is the antithesis of business, and sharp as Mercante was about how to use waves as a marketing tool, he quickly learned he wasn’t going to be able to make real money without the smarts of an MBA. Though it wasn’t a marriage of convenience by any means, Mercante had found the perfect match in Cheryl Corlund, Harvard grad, looking to make millions and finding fertile ground in the world of her husband. It was a dream team that took the surfing world by storm.

The early advertising campaigns emphasized the power and subliminal terror of big waves. As the company grew and began to target non-surfers, marketing experts were brought in who designed campaigns around the carefree joy of children letting the gentle surf chase them up and down the sand. Then, when sales numbers began to slack off, Wavelife went back to its “core surf” identity. One campaign traded on the survival instincts triggered when tourists are caught unawares by rogue waves. Mercante re-branded waves as if they were sharks shattering the complacency of a day at the beach. “Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean” took on a “Jaws”-like resonance in the media - and sales soared.

When the fear angle began to wear thin, Wavelife went back to fun in the sun and sales jumped again. Within a few years they’d perfected a marketing strategy of constant motion across a broad spectrum from panic to joy, trading on the fathomless natural power of waves that can elicit primal instincts from dread to ecstasy.

Wavelife mined these veins of fear and fun, refined them into sophisticated branding campaigns, and marketed quality clothing at premium prices. It worked like a charm, and revenue went through the roof. The company became the most powerful in the surf industry and, almost like a diamond cartel, eventually controlled supply and demand of surfing’s media identity as if they were the anointed gatekeeper of “genuine surf” to the New York apparel industry. Corlund’s excellent management kept the profits rolling in, and when the company went public, Wavelife International was an instant hit on Wall Street.

But as with every trend in the rag trade, what once was coveted eventually became commonplace. Garmentos who didn’t know Heath Larson from Frankie Avalon realized that they could move product simply by slapping surf lingo on their stuff. They flooded distribution channels with cut-rate knock-offs at hard-to-beat price points. They knew there was plenty of business to be done selling to people who didn’t surf but wanted to be cool because nothing could be sold as “cool” as easily as surfing. And as long as they were paying less for the same image that kept the kids happy, parents were happy to save a buck at the expense of Wavelife’s “core authenticity” branding campaigns.

At the same time, management ran into problems keeping shareholders happy by selling strictly to surf shops and better clothing stores. Executives of publicly traded corporations always need ever-increasing volumes to keep the share price up, and Wavelife was no different. Mercante and Corlund had to start doing business with big box chains and off-price outlets. That drove the surf shops crazy and incensed the buyers from the up-scale retailers.

Within a year Wavelife’s “core surf” credibility began to erode. Wavelife had strip-mined its way to all-time highs on Wall Street – by sinking to retail’s rock bottom world in the cut-rate bargain bins. But that meant there was nothing special about the brand anymore, and investor analysts and institutional shareholders began to lose interest in Wavelife as a “hot” buy. A day of reckoning was now on the horizon like a set of swells that would soon turn into waves of problems that threatened to overwhelm Mercante, Corlund, and the company they’d built from scratch.

Ian Clark learned of Wavelife’s dilemma over a year ago while on the golf course. Word was the stock, once a status symbol in the surf industry, had been downgraded from “buy” to “hold”, and if analysts began to issue “sell” recommendations, rumor had it the consequences would be quite serious. Clark knew the rumors were based in fact because like all the clothing companies in the surf industry, Wavelife borrowed heavily each season in order to pay cloth and sewing contractors upon delivery so that garments can be shipped to the retailers. The problem was Wavelife didn’t get paid until the garments “checked through”. Until a sale was rung up, Wavelife didn’t get paid. From his days with the magazines and late-paying advertisers, he’d learned that banks lending to apparel industry corporations keep a close eye on sales figures, and loans covenants are very strict. The banks always got their money first, and depending on the amount of orders placed at trade shows versus sales projections, even Wavelife had sometimes been unable to get working capital during times of economic uncertainty – or marketing ineffectiveness. That time had finally come for Wavelife, and Corlund had been forced to take a drastic step to secure working capital.

It became common knowledge that she had to start borrowing from “factors”, who work exclusively in the clothing business and who charge extremely high interest rates and often are nothing if not heavy-handed. She had no choice, even though she knew the dangers of working with factors. If they called in her loans for any reason whatsoever, Wavelife would have to pay in full on the spot, and she’d seen what happened to other companies when they didn’t: offices were padlocked, liquidators showed up the next day with moving vans, and a company was out of business in a heartbeat.

Corlund walked the tightrope like a pro for several product cycles, but in a strange-but-true version of how things sometimes worked for publicly traded corporations, even though revenue was up, the value of the company was down. All her efforts to appease Wall Street had only created a whirlpool of diminishing returns. By trying to compete in mass-market channels, she’d only diluted the brand, which forced her to try to sell even more, which only cheapened the brand. And when the stock began to sag, she knew something had to be done, and fast.
Although Wavelife owed hundreds of millions of dollars to a consortium of banks and factors, payments had always been made on time. But now the stock price was making everybody nervous, including the Orange County brokers who had made fortunes recommending Wavelife stock. Meetings with investment analysts and creditors were growing testy, and the word on the street was not good. The bankers were seriously considering reductions in the amount of money they were willing to loan Wavelife, and the factors were upping their interest rates. Unless something direct and tangible was done to keep the creditors happy, the wolf would soon be at the door.
When Clark asked his broker buddies what they thought Corlund was going to do, they told him how corporations in trouble often find new waves of cash to ride down Wall Street. Everything depended on perception, they said. Shareholder enthusiasm had to be ignited one way or another, and the easiest way to do that was to re-define the company with a fresh and powerful branding campaign. Clark had that skill set wired from his days at the magazine, and in his growing desperation for cash, he thought of how he could work up a pitch to Corlund that would hold up under her scrutiny and net him a fat consulting fee. He knew he’d have to come up with an ingenious and innovative publicity campaign and unparalleled market penetration, but to do that he would need something extraordinary and unlike anything ever seen before in the history of surfing.

And then one day he saw exactly what he needed.

* * *

“What’s to stop us from simply finding this place ourselves?”

“C’mon Roberto, if it was that easy, I wouldn’t be here. The South Pacific is a big place, and even if you found a reef that looked like it might have potential, who knows how long you’d have to wait for the right combination of swell, weather and wind. No, Roberto, you’d be better off working with me, because I know where it is and I know when the waves will be good.”

"What do you want out of this?" asked Cheryl Corlund.

“The honor of your presence when I open the place up.”

Corlund smiled. She knew this was just a smokescreen and she didn’t say what she was thinking because she knew what was coming next.

“Plus expenses,” added Clark, “and future considerations.”

As in buying Geosurf when the time comes, thought Corlund. She, too, had done her homework and knew all about Clark’s money problems and what kind of deal he needed to make, and soon, to extract him from the financial vise that gripped him.

Heath Larson felt tension fill the room like a set of huge waves coming in from the horizon. So he did the same thing he always had when, despite his true courage and determination, he sensed he was out of his element. He relaxed and let discretion be the better part of valor.

“Hey Sonny-boy, we go check surf, yeah?"

Larson was born on a ranch in Wyoming but had grown up in Hawai’i and spoke pidgin easily, though only to Hawaiians. He knew that Noaloa liked confrontation and would want to watch the deal go down, but he knew the hot-headed Hawaiian could only make things more difficult for Mercante and Corlund.

“C’mon, brah. You need recover if you want party tonight like last night,” teased Larson.

"Uh, yeah, okay, Heath,” said Noaloa reluctantly.

“How about you, Aleja?” asked Larson. Although he’d had problems with women all his life and a bad divorce to show for it, he knew when to be a perfect gentleman, and he was nothing less to Gracellen.

“Want to go for a run?”

Aleja Gracellen glanced at Cheryl, who nodded.

“Yeah, but I don’t know if I can keep up with you guys.”

The three surfers got up from the table and walked past Clark without shaking hands. He did no more than nod to them. There was no point in being social with the surfers when he was about to face off with Mercante, Corlund and her two lieutenants.

The doors closed behind the three surfers and silence filled the room. Clark knew he was in good position and felt even better when Cheryl Corlund spoke first.

“June, I think you and I can talk later this afternoon. Bill, I’ll come over to your office as soon as we’re finished here.”

The stock market expert and the chief financial officer stood up from the table. Clark thought to make some points, so he stood up, too.

“Nice to meet you both,” he said.

They nodded to Clark, and walked right past him. Suddenly Ian Clark didn’t feel so confident.

The door closed, and Clark sat back down. He didn’t know what to say, and it showed. Corlund sensed his nervousness and played off it.

“Roberto, please give the disk back to our friend here.”

Mercante ejected the disk and nonchalantly skimmed it down the table like a Frisbee.

The disk stopped well out of Clark’s reach. Mercante’s carelessness was not
accidental. The future of surfing’s biggest corporation was on the line. It was time to play hardball.



Coming up in Chapter 5:

The largest corporation in the surf industry is dominating the marketplace – and yet has problems on Wall Street that threaten the very existence of the company. Wavelife International needs something new, something revolutionary, something that no one has ever seen before - to ignite investor interest in surfing and get the numbers growing again. And Ian Clark has exactly what they need...

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Legendary Surfer Alonzo "Al" Wiemers has passed on.

The following are emails from Al's friend L.D. Freitas and his son-in-law Daniel Sampson that tell about Alonzo and his contributions:

Hello Mr. Gault-Williams, 

 I recently doscovered your blog on legendary surfers and have found it to be a very nice piece of work. I especialy enjoyed reading the Buzzy Trent piece, as he is somebody I heard a lot about over the years from my father-in-law, Alonzo Wiemers. Alonzo passed away earlier this week, and I have been looking for places to post this info, and maybe a quick bio for those interested. He was one of the early Makaha/North Shore crew in the early 50's, before Greg Noll et al. showed up, but he pretty much gave up surfing for family when his oldest daughter Laura was born in 1957. I was wondering if you couldn't post a quick note and link to an article in our local paper that was published today. Many thanks... Regards, Daniel Sampson

Al Wiemers passed away at age 79 on July 3rd in Santa Cruz. Noted for dropping out of high school at age 15 when the US entered World War Two and serving in an Underwater Demolition Unit in the Pacific Theatre. Played football at San Jose State in the late 40's, also on the boxing team. Got involved in surfing when he saw surfers at Cowell's in Sant Cruz on a day trip "over the hill" from San Jose. Joined the Marines during the Korean War and served in Japan and Hawaii, where he met Millie, his future wife of forty-nine years and mother of his three daughters. In Hawaii he became part of the group of surfers with Van Dyke, Trent and others who pioneered riding Sunset and Makaha. Al told me he had a 10' balsa at the time. Back in Santa Cruz later in the 50's he worked for the Santa Cruz City Lifeguards during the summers, and completing his education, began to teach first in Watsonville, then in the San Lorenzo Valley area, and for many years at Santa Cruz High, finally ending his teaching career in the late 70's at Soquel High, retiring in January of 1987. He taught history and coached football, swimming, and water polo. Al was about 5'10 or so, and heavy set, as he had been a guard in his football playing days. He also played some rugby for the Peninsula Ramblers in the 50's. He loved to read books, especially about politics and wars, and seemed to know something about everything, like gardening. Politically he was left of center, a Democrat, but he'd rather talk about the San Francisco 49ers, or "talk story" about someone like Buzzy Trent or Fred Van Dyke. James Houston, the author of "A Native Son of the Golden West" based one of his characters on Alonzo in that novel, as James had befriended and studied with him at San Jose State, and had also been to Hawaii in the mid-50's as part of that group of California surf pioneers. Houston also chronicled an incident in another of his books when he pledges at the SAE fraternity, and Wiemers was one of the brothers in charge of the initiation proceedings. Fred Van Dyke mentions Al and some beach pranks in Santa Cruz in one of his autobiographies. Peter Van Dyke, Richard Novak, and Johnny Rice were people Al would like to visit and spend some time with in his last decades, driving about Aptos and Pleasure Point in his old Chevy Malibu pickup, stopping off at Pleasure Point Cafe for breakfast and coffee. He and his family lived in Rio Del Mar and later the Aptos hills, where he built a home virtually from scratch. Al became mostly a body surfer, and in his last years when he still could, would drive down to nearby Seacliff State Beach, pull on his Churchills, and go for a swim and "take some drops" in the shorebreak. * * * L.D. Freitas Aptos, California 95003 (831)688-9206 I've surfed in the Santa Cruz area for about thirty years now, and got to know Wiemers about twenty years ago. I consider myself lucky to have heard so many of his stories about surfing. If I could relate something of the dry humor and ability to make comments that were funny, one of the last times I talked to Al was just after John Brodie, the 49ers quarterback from '57-'73, had a stroke back a few years ago. I asked Al if he heard that Brodie had had a stroke (Al knew some of the 49ers from that era, and had another time related a story that Brodie liked to come down to Santa Cruz in the off season and fish at the municipal pier). Al replied no. About ten seconds elapsed, in which I knew Al was thinking of some sort of reply. "He probably has really good health insurance" was what Al said then. Freitas

There is a picture "of Alonzo and his crew when he was captain of the Santa Cruz lifeguards in the late 50's(?), taken on Cowell's Beach in Santa Cruz. The guy on the left of Alonzo is Al Mitchell, for whom the Santa Cruz surf spot "Mitchell's Cove" is named, and the guy at the wheel is Dick Bender, the guy quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel article. It's a real testament to the man that he was still friends and in touch with many of these guys, and his earlier surf friends, over four decades later. "Another interesting point is that when Alonzo was surfing in Santa Cruz in the 50's, he and a few of his buddies had Pleasure Point all to themselves. I don't know how familiar you are with the surf in this town, but these guys had so much perfect surf to themselves that they didn't even realize places like "The Hook", just down from Pleasure Point, were worth paddling out to. Nowadays "The Hook" might have 50-100 surfers out on a good day. For awhile Alonzo lived in little gully at Pleasure Point, right next to where Jack O'Neill eventually built his house, and had a newspaper and milk delivered there to his cot, while he was attending classes at San Jose State. "He also has been credited with being the first to surf some of the wild coast spots north of Santa Cruz. He was always going up there to dive for abalone and knew that stretch of coast better than most. Now, of course, some of those spots are recognized for having some great, hollow surf, and it's where most of the Mavericks crew got their training in cold, thick, ledgy waves with pitching takeoffs and high abundance of Great White Sharks." - D.S.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Waves of Warning 03

Two Seconds - Chapter 3 of Part 1 of WAVES OF WARNING By Glenn Hening

[ Also viewable in Word format at: 103TwoSeconds.doc ]

“No, you can’t come back right now and I won’t send you a ticket! All you’ve got is a few seconds shot from a plane, and there’s five clients at fifteen grand each waiting for you to take them surfing!”

Ian Clark listened for a second before holding the headset away from his ear. Dressed in Armani behind a tech-and-teak desk, he was the image of a successful executive except for the gaunt look on his face and the deep lines around his brown eyes.

“Listen, L.J.,” he interrupted, “I don’t have time right now. Go over to FDX, use their secure web site and send me the file. Then give ‘em the data stick. You did make a backup, didn’t you? Tell ‘em I want it on my desk tomorrow at 9 a.m. Then do what you are paid to do, okay? Take the clients out to dinner, drink some Pisco, and get some sleep. And tomorrow go to that spot, uh - - ” he swiveled around and glanced at the map behind his desk, “that place near Valparaiso and go surfing with those guys.”

Merrill started to argue, but Clark wasn’t listening. His attention was on his computer and the market ticker flowing below a packed spreadsheet. He scribbled down a stock price before it disappeared while Merrill described the turbulence that almost broke up the plane and how he thought he was going to die.

“L.J., I understand you went through a lot. We all go through a lot. Call me back in twenty-four hours. Just give our clients what they paid for and we’ll do just fine.”

“Yeah, but Ian, why can’t you get someone else down here? I’ve just found the best surf spot in the world with the most amazing big waves I’ve ever seen! We’ve got to get on it right away!”

As far as Ian Clark was concerned, the only thing he had to do right away was get off the phone, execute a trade and make some quick money.

“Ian? Didn’t you hear what I said? This place is perfect!”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m listening, L.J. I can’t wait to see it. Send it right away and call me to confirm, no, don’t call me. Have the FDX guy e-mail me the tracking number. I’ll talk to you in exactly twenty-four hours. Use the direct line on the cell phone I gave to the group. Don’t worry, this will work out unreal. Just do what I tell you to do, but do it right now, okay? Talk to you tomorrow. Later, bro.”

* * *

L.J. Merrill and Ian Clark were once the ultimate team when it came to guiding well-heeled surfers to perfect waves all over the globe. Ian was the industry insider, L.J. the pure-hearted adventurer. Together they founded Geosurf Expeditions, although Clark structured the “partnership” to make him sole owner of the company while maintaining a contractor arrangement with Merrill. That was fine by L.J., who didn’t care about business details so long as he was scouting, or riding, perfect waves. Over the past ten years their surf camps and remote resorts had made Clark a millionaire on paper. But now he needed liquidity, because without it he was liable to be indicted.

Ian Clark was a sometime surfer with a degree in journalism from Cal State Long Beach when he got his start in the surf industry writing up glib video reviews and contest results at one of the magazines. He was a quick study and soon understood what the publication was really about, and it wasn’t surfing.

From a strictly business point-of-view, the mag was little more than a catalog for corporations using surfing to sell everything from clothing to cars to deodorant. Therefore, his job depended on ad revenues and making nice with people who didn’t surf. That meant the only way he could get ahead was to keep one foot in editorial and one foot in advertising by building relationships with surf stars while helping companies with branding and market penetration.

It was brutal work, and he spent five years climbing the masthead before finally making associate editor. The salary was good and he had stock options in the conglomerate that owned the magazine. Yet as an employee, no matter how much he made it was never enough for living large in Orange County. He was stuck – until he did a prospectus on himself and came up with an idea that could be leveraged bigtime.

He could sell the soul of surfing. He could deliver on the endless dreams of surfers craving perfection by establishing a global network of resorts near the world’s best waves. And being a veteran of the surf media, he knew how to create myths and heroics out of practically nothing. So it would be easy to create an aura of exclusivity that would have the O.C. surfing elite begging for reservations and paying five figures for high-end excursions to the places he controlled.

First, he needed the waves themselves. He needed a scout, and in all the surfing world there was only one person who knew how to find the quality product high-rolling customers would demand. Clark knew him by reputation only, but from the stories and legends he learned all he needed to know. It took some time and some sleuthing, but the day came when Ian Clark finally found L.J. Merrill on the other side of the world, in Western Australia, camped out on a deserted headland overlooking perfect, empty waves.

He laid out a proposal to start Geosurf Expeditions, correctly guessing Merrill would see it as a way to turn his addiction into a profession. Clark knew Merrill was a Type-A surf junkie, but what he didn’t know at the time was that L.J. Merrill was also a good person at heart. Merrill had always respected the locals he’d met around the world as he searched for bigger, better and faster waves. Clark’s proposal gave him a momentary flash of inspiration: with hard currency coming in from Geosurf clients, they could help impoverished coastal communities throughout the Third World. Without going into a lot of details or learning more about each other, Ian Clark and L.J. Merrill shook hands outside the tent and then went for a surf at what later became one of Geosurf’s first resorts.

Ten years later, the company owned twenty surf camps and eight high-end resorts on five continents, throughout Polynesia, and all around the Indian Ocean. Reservations were booked years in advance and locals had jobs building the camps and working at the resorts. The “Glimmer Twins”, as Clark and Merrill were nicknamed by the surf media, were getting all they wanted in terms of Orange County “juice” and endless tubes, respectively.

It was all good, as they say, until the singer decided he wanted to be a pop star right when the lead guitarist wanted to take the band deeper into the pure fix of the blues.

In the beginning, and for some time afterwards, Geosurf was welcomed by indigenous communities who were grateful for the positive economic impacts on their village economies. But after ten years of double digit growth, the locals began to want a bigger cut of the action. Merrill could not help but agree with them and, remembering Clark’s promises from the early days, began to talk about turning the resorts into surfing preserves locally owned and operated by cooperatives that would share the profits to the benefit of families and communities.

This was not what Ian Clark was about by any means, since Merrill’s “share the wealth” attitude would have done nothing for Clark’s upward climb in cash-conscious Orange County. Clark had indeed made a lot of promises to Merrill at first and had kept some of them, but he found it increasingly difficult to endure Merrill’s shrill tirades about the rich getting richer, the social inequities of the Third World, and Geosurf’s profits.

After one particularly boring dose of Merrill’s naiveté, Clark had snickered, “You only know the half of it.”

“What did you say Ian?”

“Oh, nothing, L.J. You only know the heart of it, of surfing, that is. I’ve got a lot of other things I gotta think about to keep Geosurf going.”

Geosurf did business in a variety of currencies and Ian Clark had become adept at moving money from one country to another. The upside was not big in the beginning, but there came a time when he was able to skim off enough cash to start playing the international commodities markets. He would keep the money moving until he had enough to invest in offshore corporations on the advice of brash young stockbrokers driving Ferraris around Newport Beach.

Soon he was looking and acting like a player, and that was good enough for them, and him. It was a fast crowd to run with, and Ian Clark found himself golfing and partying instead of doing much surfing. After all, he was the owner of a major company in the surf industry, but truth was, he never liked to ride waves all that much. He was always afraid of being pushed underwater and hitting the bottom. The day came, however, when he learned that wipeouts in the world of money could be just as bad, or worse.

Thanks to Clark’s fast-and-loose use of the company as his personal piggy bank, Geosurf’s business plan began to fray at the edges. The waves never changed, so he could only make more money by first increasing his volume, then his prices. Geosurf was turning big dollars, but it was never enough. His problems began to gather steam as his worldwide exposure to market fluctuations increased. Because of the amounts of money he was moving to cover his growing losses, he found himself skirting laws first devised to snare drug dealers. That’s when he began to realize there was only one solution to his downward spiral. He needed a pile of cash, and he needed it fast.

* * *

The forty-five seconds went by all too quickly, so he ran the data stream again in slow motion after enlarging the video window in the center of the screen until it covered more than half the spreadsheet displaying his daily investment positions.
He stopped the motion on one particularly clear frame. Then he stared at the three registered letters sitting on his desk: one from his accountant, one from his lawyer, and one from the I.R.S. He looked again at the waves arrayed around a perfect reef, but a phone icon began to blink at the top of the screen. He saw the number, knew who it was, and knew he had to think fast.

“You weren’t supposed to call back until tomorrow, L.J., but yeah, I got it and just looked at it. It’s hand-held, slightly out-of-focus, not long enough and you were up at what, ten thousand feet? So I’m going to have it re-processed to see what’s really down there.”

Ian Clark paused and took a deep breath before taking a fateful step.

“I’m going to need some time to figure out how we’re going to market this place, L.J., because you did find the best surf spot in the world and the most amazing big waves ever!”

Clark heard the excitement in Merrill’s voice and for a moment his heart felt heavy - until ticker numbers running across the bottom of the screen reminded him he had no time for nostalgia.

“No, you’re staying there. I need you to take those guys surfing. You can fly back when they do. They paid a surcharge because they wanted to surf with the legendary L.J. Merrill, so you’re going to make an extra three hundred a day!”

Merrill started to protest, but Clark cut him off.

“L.J., we can sell some big ticket packages when we open up your reef. We can get some local fishermen involved and really help out their villages. It’s way out in the ocean, isn’t it?”

Clark caught himself before saying another word. Keeping the exact location of a new discovery secret until they were face-to-face was an important tradition for L.J. Merrill.

“That’s why I want to come back now! I can show you where it is and we can get started right away!”

“L.J., you’ll be back in two weeks,” said Clark in a firm-but-friendly voice, “Right now you need to do what you’re paid to do. Go surfing, keep the customers happy, and make some good money. And trust me, when you get back, I’ll have a game plan ready to go.”

“Ok, Ian, maybe you’re right. Besides, the place probably won’t be good again till March or April. We’re gonna need a seaplane and all kinds of stuff, but it will all be worth it.”

“I’m sure it will, L.J., I’m sure it will. See ya at LAX.”

He pressed delete on the keyboard and the phone icon disappeared from the display, leaving the biggest perfect waves in surfing’s history superimposed over the spreadsheet that mapped his world of money. He looked at the computer screen for a long time and saw his future begin to take shape - until he realized Merrill would never agree to selling out to a big corporation for the kind of cash he so desperately needed. Maybe he could flip a deal before Merrill got back? But as soon as the thought occurred to him, he knew it wouldn’t work. The legendary scout had found surfing’s Shangri-la and would demand to know why his once-in-a-lifetime discovery had been sold to the highest bidder.

“And then what would I tell him? That I needed a lot of cash to pay off debts because I’ve been skimming profits instead of keeping promises?” he said in a voice that only his conscience could hear.

The relentless data streaming across the bottom of the screen never stopped, and he knew he was cornered by two alternatives with but one way out: he’d either have to admit his mistakes and trust L.J. Merrill, or betray him and stay out of jail.
It took Ian Clark all of two seconds to make his decision.



Preview of Chapter 4

The largest corporation in the surf industry is dominating the marketplace – and yet has problems on Wall Street that threaten the very existence of the company. Wavelife International needs something new, something revolutionary, something that no one has ever seen before - to ignite investor interest in surfing and get the numbers growing again. And Ian Clark has exactly what they need...