Chapter Six – Geevum, brah!
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Cheryl Corlund walked into her office through a side entrance. The gray
weather outside her window had not changed, but the disk in her hand was like
a shining medallion worth much, much more than its weight in gold. Now the
challenge for her was to realize the potential it represented by combining its
promise with the surfers who represented the future of her company. She
reached for the phone to have her assistant get them up to her office right
away, only to remember she had no idea where they were.
* * *
“George, did you see who just ran by? I think she surfs for Wavelife!”
said the excited fresh-faced co-ed, the boredom of her dead-end job suddenly
broken up by a star-sighting.
Her harried boss, a veteran surf shop owner on his last legs, barely
bothered to look up from a pile of invoices on the counter. The surf was flat,
the weather lousy, and business was bad at Pier Surf ‘n Sport. Vintage
surfboards hung from the ceiling, but now the only surfboards for sale were
crammed into a small corner in the back. Shoes and shirts dominated the sales
floor of what once was a classic California surf shop now fighting a losing
battle with big box outlets.
“What do you care who surfs for Wavelife? And what are you doing
standing around by the door? Go straighten out the shoe section.”
She rolled her eyes and walked across the showroom floor as two more
surfers flew down the sidewalk.
“Wow! That was Heath Larson and Sonny-boy Noaloa! I wonder what’s
“I don’t care if it was Laurel and Hardy chasing Madonna! Get to work!”
“Have you ever met them? I wonder what they’re like?”
“Who knows? Probably no different than all the other surf stars working
for the big boys.”
* * *
On the five mile run from Wavelife’s headquarters in Newport Beach up
Pacific Coast Highway to the Huntington Beach pier, twenty-five year old
Aleja Gracellen had no trouble setting a pace for Larson and Noaloa. A little
jog was nothing compared to the ballet workouts she did three times a week.
She had taken her first dance class when she was five, the same year her
dad gave her a tandem ride across a small wave at Malibu’s Surfrider Beach.
Growing up, she never stopped dancing or surfing with styles all her own in
both disciplines. As a result, nobody flowed with the beauty of Malibu’s
perfect wave the way she did. Once when she got out of the water a tourist
complimented her, “I didn’t know surfing was so beautiful! You reminded me
of when I was learning ballet in Russia!”
That is how she met Cheryl Corlund. Two summers ago, Roberto
Mercante had the idea to take Wavelife’s regional managers and buyers from
their biggest accounts to watch some new Wavelife team members in action at
Malibu. Corlund went along because schmooze was part of doing business.
It was a Saturday morning and the waves were good at Surfrider Beach,
famous around the world as the home of Gidget and Mickey Dora. But she
hadn’t surfed for almost fifty years and he had died of cancer, so now the only
thing special about Malibu was the insanity of the crowds.
From their first wave, things did not go well for the Wavelife surfers. The
locals did not give them any slack and although Roberto was calling the playby-
play for his guests, the suits had a hard time appreciating the talent of the
Wavelife professionals who could never get a wave to themselves.
However, Cheryl Corlund did see a young woman stand out from the mob,
the only surfer who consistently rode wave after wave in smooth contrast to
the radical shortboarders or lethargic longboarders jostling each other, five to
She began to think of how Wavelife’s image didn’t reflect the grace of
surfing so much as it did the aggression, though as long as sales continued to
climb in the 14-24 male segment she wasn’t going to question her husband’s
judgment. Still, she wondered how much of a market could be found if
Wavelife started selling a new women’s line. She kept her eye on the wahine
with the idea of talking to her when she got out of the water.
After an hour the surfing exhibition was going downhill fast. Corlund saw
the managers and buyers were getting restless, so she took her eyes off the
wave dancer and tried to distract them with some eye contact and personable
chitchat about next season’s new styles.
Then a big set came through and Roberto directed everyone’s attention to
the four Wavelife surfers all riding one wave together. Corlund watched them
for a second, only to realize she’d lost sight of the young surf dancer. She
scanned the crowd to find her again, but never did because Aleja Gracellen
was long gone.
She was starting her shift at one of Malibu’s better restaurants down the
coast. With her hair wet and her heart content from her surf session that
morning, Gracellen got right into the flow of running the front desk, taking
reservations, greeting people and seating them with a fresh and friendly smile.
By the time the Wavelife surfers got one more wave and came up on the
beach, it was almost noon. They were beat from battling the crowds. The
managers and reps were hot from the midday su n. Everyone was getting
cranky, so Roberto Mercante suggested they all go get something to eat.
Half-an-hour later, he ushered everyone into the crowded waiting area at
the Point Café. He walked over to the front desk, ready to impress everyone.
“Hi, I own Wavelife, and I need a table for ten.”
Aleja Gracellen checked the reservations list.
“No, nothing for Wavelife. You’ll just have to wait, and I’m afraid it is
going to be about two hours right now.”
Mercante hit the ceiling.
“Maybe you don’t understand. We are THE biggest company in the surf
industry. We have the BEST surfers in the world, and some of them are
standing RIGHT over there. We’re hungry and we want a table right NOW.
Here, make it happen.”
“Oh yeah, you were at the beach today, you and your surf stars,” said
Gracellen. She took the proffered hundred dollar bill, tore it in half, and
stuffed it in the front pocket of Mercante’s aloha shirt. Then she went back to
the reservations chart in front of her.
“Well, Mr. Wavelife,” she said, without a trace of a smile, “You’ve got a
couple of hours, so why don’t you soak your head in the ocean and learn some
manners? Maybe then I’ll have a table for you. Party of ten, correct?”
She entered the reservation, and then looked up with a bit of a grin.
Mercante was raging when he came back to the group. Cheryl Corlund
looked across the floor at the target of his anger and recognized the young
surfer from Malibu, now handling the front desk with style, just as she had
surfed so beautifully through the crowds in the water. Roberto insisted they go
somewhere else. On the way back to their cars, Cheryl Corlund had an idea.
She always let her husband have complete control over the surfing side of the
company’s operations. Now she was going to make an exception.
A week later, Roberto Mercante was sitting in his corner office watching a
video of young Brazilian surfers battling each other in a contest with first
prize being a Wavelife sponsorship. His wife walked in unannounced, and he
almost fell out of his chair. Standing next to her was Aleja Gracellen.
“Roberto, meet our surf team’s new member,” said Cheryl Corlund in a
tone of voice that brooked no dissention.
It was all he could do to smile and apologize for his behavior at the
restaurant. With his wife standing right there, Mercante politely explained
how the surf team worked and what Gracellen’s responsibilities would be.
Things seemed to go well, and Cheryl Corlund went back to her office to run
the financial side of the corporation.
Roberto called in Wavelife’s surf team manager to take Gracellen
downstairs for her fittings and then to legal to sign a contract. He wished her
good luck as she went out the door. Then he sent an e-mail to tell the manager
the new-hire was to be given no preferential treatment whatsoever, and in fact
if he washed her out, so much the better.
That didn’t happen, at least not right away. Gracellen appreciated the
opportunity and did her best to live up to what was expected of her as a
professional surfer. Not until after several months of surfing in contests
around the world did she begin to have doubts about working for Wavelife.
Give her a smooth blue wave at Malibu and Aleja Gracellen was a vision
of elegance and style on a liquid stage, her arms and hands held just so, while
turning and flowing through the curves of the curl with matchless beauty.
But give her fifteen minutes of choppy, knee-high surf – and three
aggressive, hard-core competitors who knew how to surf for points in
marginal conditions – and she never had a chance. And to compound her
frustration, Aleja never got any help from her teammates. To them she was
Cheryl Corlund’s pet: how else to explain her staying on the team after a
string of first round losses? The team manager did nothing about the sniping
and behind-the-back gossip, and though Gracellen tried to be nice, her sweet
disposition only made her rivals more vicious.
Had Corlund known what was going on, she might have stepped in.
However, running an international corporation took all of her time, and it
wasn’t until a mid-year budget meeting did she have a chance to ask her
husband about the woman who danced with the waves.
“Well, as far as I know she’s going through the normal adjustments of a
surfer new to the world of professional surfing. And in any event, her contract
runs through the end of the year. If we have to make any changes, we’ll talk
about it at renewal time,” he said.
As her first season drew to end, Aleja Gracellen was sick of the whole
thing, not to mention living out of a backpack, the obligatory trade show
appearances, in-store autograph signings and industry parties. Then came
December on the North Shore: the surf industry’s annual crescendo of
everything she hated about being a pro surfer competing on the tour.
The first contest was at Haleiwa and the waves were big with a crosswind
chopping up the faces. The other Wavelife surfers had Hawaiian
experience, but with contracts coming up, they needed all the points they could
get and weren’t about to help the rookie. So she paddled out in the wrong
place and immediately found herself caught in a rip that pushed her right into
the impact zone. She got nailed by a set, her leash broke, and as the horn
sounded to signal the beginning of her heat, she swam back to the beach to
find her board – broken in half. She had a backup, but it was too small for the
powerful waves, and so she tried to borrow a board from her Wavelife
teammates. But they claimed, with some justification, that they couldn’t take
the risk of having their boards broken, too.
Though there was time left in the heat, Aleja Gracellen knew it was all
over. She took off her jersey and tossed it at the judges. She changed into her
sweats, gave her extra board to a young girl waiting for an autograph, and
hitched a ride straight to the airport. The next day she got her job back at the
Point Café and began to forget all about her year of hell as a professional
Two weeks later, Cheryl Corlund noticed Aleja was not at Wavelife’s
Christmas party. She asked Roberto what had happened to Gracellen on the
“Well, I guess she just couldn’t handle it. The other girls did quite well.
We wash out surfers all the time after their first year,” he said matter-offactly.
Cheryl Corlund had no patience with underperformers at Wavelife, but
she was not going to let business-as-usual ruin what might someday be a
valuable asset to the corporation. Just after New Year’s, Wavelife’s CEO
drove up to Malibu alone to eat lunch at the Point Café.
Gracellen was on shift. She looked up and said, “Table for one?”
Then she did a double take.
“No, Aleja, table for two. Can you break away for a minute?”
The two women sat in a window table overlooking the tiny, empty waves
of Topanga. It was raining, business was slow and they talked for hours about
Aleja’s experiences on the tour. Cheryl Corlund gained fresh insights on
Wavelife’s total dependency on competitive surfing as the most powerful
component of the company’s marketing efforts around the world. She realized
she’d made a mistake by not fully appreciating Aleja’s version of riding waves
versus the cutthroat world of professional surfing. And she realized she
wanted Wavelife’s image to start being more about the former and less about
It was almost four and the sky was getting dark when Cheryl Corlund
offered Aleja a new contract with no strings attached: no contests, no trade
shows, no obligations of any kind. All she had to do was go surfing and simply
let the beauty of her surfing speak for itself and, of course, the company.
Gracellen said she’d think about it and call Corlund in a few days. When
she did, she told Wavelife’s CEO she did not feel right about collecting a
paycheck for doing nothing but riding waves. She did not want to turn surfing
into a job. However, Aleja Gracellen had an idea. She suggested that Wavelife
underwrite a summer surf school for young girls with impoverished
backgrounds that might also involve chartering buses to bring inner city kids
to the beach. If Corlund was interested in spending that kind of money,
Gracellen was willing to manage the program.
The CEO agreed, and during its first summer of operation, Gracellen’s
program helped hundreds of young people find themselves in the fresh world
of surfing for fun. It did nothing for Wavelife’s bottom line, but when Wavelife
received a community service award for Gracellen’s work, Corlund had a
brief vision of adding a new component to Wavelife International’s business
plan. The only problem was, as a publicly traded corporation, she didn’t know
how she’d sell altruism to shareholders who wanted to make money, not give it
* * *
Corlund remembered her original ideas about changing the business plan
thanks to Gracellen’s inspiration. She thought back to watching the three
surfers leave the meeting with Ian Clark and how she’d once again caught a
glimpse of a new Wavelife arising from its current quagmire by tapping into
Gracellen’s special spirit and the potential of Clark’s reef. But those waves
would be impossible to deal with unless Heath Larson’s character and courage
were part of the plan, and she knew that might end up being easier said than
* * *
The performance of the world’s professional surfers in two-to-ten foot
waves was remarkable. But double the size of the surf, and the level of
performance was cut in half. And once the waves got up to twenty and thirty
feet or more, the top surf stars would more often than not be sitting on the
beach - watching Heath Larson just starting to warm up. His performances
were almost unimaginable, and yet no one really knew how he did it.
When he had first signed on the dotted line years ago as a pro surfer, he
gave himself away to the sponsors, writers, and filmmakers who eventually
defined his life as the best big-wave surfer in the world. He soon found himself
less a brave explorer than an emissary of a flawed and greedy society whose
stabs at nobility and courage were but line items in marketing budgets.
We want you to be one with nature, to go where no man has gone before,
but wait until we’ve reloaded the cameras, ok?
That changed when he signed with Wavelife. It started with his first press
conference. Heath Larson had never quite found the answers, or patience for
that matter, when interviewers asked him endless variations of the same
question, “Why? Why do you risk your life?” So when they started up by
asking that time-worn question, he answered sarcastically, “It pays the bills.”
Everybody laughed at his insouciance. And right away Mercante had
Wavelife’s marketing team design a sales campaign around Larson’s
The real answer, however, was nothing to laugh at. It was nowhere near
as simple as “Because it's there", first uttered by the British climber George
Mallory when asked why he was climbing Mt. Everest, where he died on his
summit attempt. By contrast, Heath Larson had never come close to buying the
farm. He knew when to pull the plug on sessions if the winds or tides made the
waves too tricky. No, Heath Larson did not ride big surf “because it’s there.”
He surfed huge waves because there was nothing there.
When he was in a tube the size of a house, there was nothing inside the
wave with him, and when the ride was over the wave was gone. So for Heath
Larson, surfing was about nothingness, and he clearly understood that fame
was a function of riding waves that usually didn’t exist. They disappeared for
months, sometimes years at a time. And even after he rode one, it was gone
But his relationship with surfing was not casual at all. He was not blasé
about huge surf by any means. Even though his mountains came and went,
Heath Larson was completely aware of the dangers of big wave surfing and
had a healthy respect for their power. Yet, he was able to detach himself from
their world, and exist on his own terms when surrounded by danger, thanks to
the writings of an obscure French philosopher.
Jean-Paul Sartre had written a massive book called “Being and
Nothingness” during the Nazi occupation of World War Two. While most
professional surfers could barely get through the surfing magazines, Larson
read and re-read Sartre to train his mind for the challenges of surfing massive
waves in life-and-death conditions.
From Sartre, he took the philosophy of his surfing even further. Only
humans know truth because only humans lie, and there was nothing human, or
even earthly, when a liquid avalanche roared across a reef. There was no
'truth' to be found - only a place devoid of human existence far back in the
innermost hollows of a massive wave. There his soul could breathe because a
wave has no soul. That was when he felt alive, alone, and complete.
So he returned to that transient, ephemeral place year after year, wave
after wave, where his track was the only trail through the spinning caverns of
collapsing force. And every time he reached the end of the ride, he would look
back, and where he had just been no longer existed. And days, weeks, and
months later, Heath Larson could go down to the sea and see nothing. The surf
would be flat. There would not be a wave in sight, and only he knew exactly
where he had been.
* * *
Cheryl Corlund pondered Heath’s version of surfing and knew she still
did not quite understand it. But she knew she’d needed him at the meeting
with Clark to ascertain the true value of Clark’s discovery to the comp any that
employed him, though entirely on his own terms . After hearing Clark’s initial
pitch concerning “the last, best big wave discovery on earth”, she had fired a
shot across his bow by telling him that Larson would be there to see if he was
full of crap or not. When Clark welcomed the idea, she called Larson right
away, though she knew he’d see the situation as a crucible where surfing,
greed and ambition would be fused together in the name of corporate
priorities. But she knew he would live with the result if it allowed him to be
released into the wilds of the sea and the power of its waves, where he could
be free on his, and Sartre’s, terms.
Now, given Larson’s reaction to what had appeared on the screen in
Wavelife’s tenth floor conference room, she was confident he was going to
find new inner and outer limits in his existentialist approach to experiencing
massive energies and absolute nothingness in the most perfect big waves he
had ever seen.
When it came to Sonny-boy Noaloa, however, it was a different story. He
was Wavelife’s top competitive surfer and defending world champion. On a
hunch she had her husband make sure that Noaloa, never a big wave rider by
any means, was also at the meeting. Trying to combine the spirit of Gracellen
with the strength and power of Larson was a pretty radical idea in itself.
Bringing Noaloa into the mix was just about over the top. That’s why she did it, though she knew there’d be a lot of work to do if Sonny-boy Noaloa was to
play a significant role in her plans. And just exactly how that could be done
remained as unfocused as the gray day outside her office window.
* * *
Wilson Smith Noaloa was, like most Hawaiian surfers, actually a nice
person when he wanted to be. His parents had split up when he was young,
and though he was born in Hawai’i, his mom had taken him back to her
parents home in Florida when his Hawaiian dad had started drinking after the
construction jobs dried up in Waikiki. His dark skin and Polynesian black hair
put him in between the blacks and whites at Cocoa Beach High School, and he
experienced a prejudice that could only be left behind when he went surfing.
And surf he did, every waking moment. The small waves of the East Coast
were almost impossible to ride. As it turned out, they were actually a blessing
in disguise. He learned to make the most of each ride, and his Hawaiian roots
gave him a feel for the ocean even though he was seven thousand miles from
his island birthplace.
By the time he was seventeen he was the best surfer Florida had ever
seen. After winning the State Junior Championships, he was contacted by a
sports agent. Noaloa was told he had a future as a pro surfer, with a lucrative
sponsorship, especially since a Hawaiian had not won the world
championship for almost ten years. He would have to go to Hawai’i to build
his career, and of course the teenager was flush with excitement over the
agent’s pitch about making lots of money, surfing all the time and maybe
leaving Florida to live in the Islands.
His mother turned down the agent’s proposal without a second thought.
Her memories of the party years in Hawai’i never went away, and no way was
she going to let her son go down that road. She had kept him on a very short
leash, driving him to the beach and back, watching him surf endless hours,
and entering him in contest after contest just to keep him focused on something
healthy. She thanked the agent for his time, but her son was going to stay
home and graduate from high school, and that was that. Or so she thought.
The sports agent did not make a living by letting hot young prospects get
away, and he never let a week go by without a phone call or a ‘chance’
meeting at a contest. He knew the kind of money he was talking about could
not be ignored since Noaloa’s mom was barely making ends meet working a
night shift at a truck stop.
At the end of Wilson’s junior year, the agent proposed he spend the
summer training in Mexico at Puerto Escondido. The waves were almost as
fast and powerful as those on Oahu’s North Shore, and the plane flight was
only five hours from Miami. The agent would cover all expenses, hire a surf
trainer to work with Wilson, and fly his mom to Mexico whenever she wanted
to see her son.
It was a pitch she could not turn down, and within weeks the daily
workouts and pounding tubes of Puerto turned Wilson Noaloa into a supernatural surfer. The agent began to show footage from sessions to some of
the big surf companies, and soon there was a buzz in the industry about the
unknown from Florida, or Hawai’i, depending on who was being pitched.
The week before Wilson was to start his senior year of high school, the
agent took him and his mom out to dinner and laid out a scenario to take the
surfing world by storm. He wanted Wilson to spend the winter on the North
Shore and he would pay for all expenses. He talked about sponsorship dollars
for the boy that were twice his mother’s yearly take-home pay. Wilson would
have a tutor to keep up with his classes, and he would come back to Florida to
complete the spring semester and wear a cap-and-gown in June.
There was not much his mother could say. Two days later she watched
him get on a plane, barely eighteen years old, her heart telling her she didn’t
know when she would see her son again.
The first thing Wilson did when he arrived in Hawai’i was find his father.
Johnny Noaloa was sleeping off a hangover in a small apartment on the down
side of Honolulu when he heard a knock on the door. The knock turned to a pounding, and he yelled for whomever it was to go away.
“I’m not going away.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m your son.”
That got Johnny’s attention. His stupor began to lift as he opened the
door to see a strapping young man in new clothes standing in front of him,
with a nice car parked at the curb and a guy in sunglasses leaning against it.
“Well if it isn’t Sonny-boy!” said his dad, “And who’s your backup?”
gesturing towards the car.
“My agent. C’mon, dad, we’ve got some catching up to do.”
The winter surf on the North Shore begins in mid-October, and after the
first two swells, Sonny-boy Noaloa was turning heads at all the major spots.
His ascendancy was remarkable. Making a big entry into the Hawaiian surf
scene was no easy deal. Broken boards from the waves, broken noses from the
locals, and the fear of both day in and day out, had sent more than one
budding young surf star back to Brazil, Australia, or California. But Noaloa
gained entré at Sunset and Pipe, where the pecking order was as vicious as the
surf, thanks to his Hawaiian looks, his amazing surfing ability, and his dad on
the beach watching his back after the agent put him on the payroll.
Noaloa was training hard in waves of all sizes and his performance was
impossible to ignore. His agent was on the phone working potential sponsors
against each other by pushing the story line of “local boy come home”.
Wilson, the dutiful son, talked to his mom almost every day, and the tutoring
was going well - until the world Pro Tour and all the surf media came to Oahu
– and a star was born.
Sonny-boy Noaloa was everywhere, surfing shoulder-to-shoulder with the
biggest names in the world, going to parties, and taking meetings with his
agent and prospective sponsors. By Christmas the young phenom was on the
verge of becoming a very rich young man. There was no way he was going back to Florida. High school would have to wait, and he would get a diploma
when he got the chance.
That chance never came. Roberto Mercante signed him to a one year
contract, with incentives. He proceeded to win almost all the pro tour
qualifiers around the world. When the tour hit the North Shore, Wavelife had
enough pull to get Noaloa into the big contests, which he also won. Mercante
then signed him to a long-term, record-breaking deal, resulting in two world
championships in two years. But now it was year three, he was out of
contention, and the brash young surfer was coming face-to-face with a reality
for which he was ill-prepared.
* * *
Cheryl Corlund knew he was going to be flying to Hawai’i tomorrow, and
although he was technically the world champion, there was no way he would
hold on to his crown. He hadn’t been able to handle the pressure, pure and
simple. Roberto had convinced her that his value to the company remained
high, and there was nothing in the numbers that pointed to Noaloa as being
responsible for the company’s problems, even though he had not made it into a
single final all year. She knew he had lost to competitors who surfed beyond
themselves when given a chance to knock off the champ . What she didn’t
know was that now he had just been beaten by a girl.
* * *
“I no used ta lose, Aleja,” said Sonny-boy Noaloa, “and I no lose yet. We
got run back, you know.”
He could barely get the words out trying to catch his breath. Gracellen
was serene, looking out to sea from the end of the Huntington Pier. She had
barely broken a sweat.
“That’s right, Sonny-boy, the bet was to the pier and back. I’ll give you a
few seconds. Then we’ll race back.”
She looked at the waves, then turned to Heath Larson.
“See, Heath! I told you it wasn’t any good!” she said, glancing at her
watch, “Hey, I gotta get up to LA . Ok, guys, let’s get going!”
But the surfers were not ready to to run another step. They were in
excellent shape, but they were completely out of gas.
“Oh, come on! I can’t believe it! Larson the Living Legend and Sonnyboy
Surf Star! Losing to a girl? Well, then, why don’t you just both give me
your hundred bucks right now?”
“Uh, er, um, I left my wallet in my car?” said Noaloa.
“Here’s twenty, can I owe you?” said Larson sheepishly.
“Keep your money, Heath, you’ll need it for a cab. But I better see two
envelopes on my desk by this time next week, guys, or you’ll each owe two
hundred to the shelter. Oh, did I tell you I’ve been taking boxing lessons
lately? Great for the cardio! See ya, guys!”
The two men watched her run back down the pier and into the overcast
partially obscuring the hotels and shopping malls of Surf City.
“That chick is just unreal,” said Larson.
“We geev er all kine shit on the tour, and Haleiwa worked her ovah good.
I thought nevah see her again. Why she stay at da meeting?”
“Well, she just worked us over pretty good, Sonny-boy, so maybe Cheryl
Corlund knows something about her we don’t.”
“Yeah, Mercante no give one shit afta she quit Haleiwa. Maybe you right.
They stay up to something.”
“They better be. Has Roberto given you a contract for next year?”
“Nah, but I no worry. He no pay me good I go surf for Gnarlaroo or Island
Beach. Make da kine money for reals . You watch cuz.”
“I wouldn’t count on it, brah. You may be the world champ, but the tour
ain’t what it used to be. The whole industry is in trouble, and Pricemart
doesn’t have a surf team.”
“So what you do, Heath? Who goin pay for your jet skis? You get contract
fo next year?”
“Nope, and maybe I won’t want one.”
“Bullshit, brah. You no turn down six figgahs.”
“We’ll see, Sonny-boy. Maybe I need to just surf for myself again. Maybe
its time to forget all this,” he swept his arm across the skyline of Surf City,
“after I surf the place we saw today.”
“Yeah, we go surf dat place, no problem, but first we get back Newport.
Let’s get one taxi, ok brah? No way we gonna run back.”
Larson laughed. “Yeah, my knees are already feeling it.”
“And we gotta get a beer fo da road.”
“I only got twenty.”
“Dats ok. I got da credit card, brah. Part of my contract!”
The sun was burning off the haze over the beach while Sonny-boy’s brain
was only getting hazier by the minute. His dad’s alcoholic genes were catching
up with him, and it was a bad time to be thinking about his future.
“So what makes you think you can get another sponsor, Sonny-boy? I
hear you’re not gonna win this year.”
“Brah, fuck dat. I da bes on da tour. You watch. I goin win Pipe fo sure.”
“Yeah, but that’s only Pipeline, and we both know you’re not in shape for
Sunset, or even Haleiwa. You’re going down and I bet your agent is already
scouting for someone new.”
Noaloa knew every word was true. The fact that Roberto Mercante had
avoided him before the meeting with Clark only confirmed his fears.
“Den why dis meeting wit da guy Clark if I stay washed up and you tired
being a surf legend? And what da deal with da chick? She onna payroll but no
Noaloa was practically shouting across the table.
“They needed us to intimidate him to see if his pitch was for real. As for
Gracellen, I got no idea, though Corlund knows, that’s for sure. Maybe she wants to turn Wavelife into some fashionista boutique and us getting killed at
that reef will make a good excuse.”
“Larson, you stay on drugs or wat? You watch. Dey goin sign me an I
goin jam on da tour. Den we go surf dat place mo biggah then evah!”
Noaloa raised his glass and his voice was heard throughout the bar.
Heath Larson smiled at Noaloa but grimaced inside. He had heard that
pidgin bravado before, a surfer’s challenge to give his all against impossible
odds. It was pure Hawaiian pride, and as such there was a little sadness to it.
But he had never backed out of a wave in his life, no matter how big, and he
wasn’t going to start now.
“Yeah, Sonny-boy, we geevum!”
Coming in Chapter 7...
Ian Clark has sold the greatest discovery in the history of surfing to the sport’s largest corporation. Only problem was, he’d never seen the place for real. And Cheryl Corlund had to make sure the place was as advertised. Clark and Mercante meet in Tahiti – and when its time to go check the reef, the only way to get there is by seaplane – a vintage PBY flying since World War II.
Surfing from an Historical and Cultural View, part of the SHACC Collection, by Malcolm Gault-Williams
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
BILL MEISTRELL, R.I.P.
Bill Meistrell has passed on. The following is the obit from the Los Angeles Times. There's also a neat retrospective, with images and a slideshow at the Body Glove website: Bill Meistrell, 77; Helped Revolutionize Diving and Surfing With Light Neoprene Body Glove Wetsuit By Valerie J. Nelson Times Staff Writer July 28, 2006 Introduced in the early 1950s, wetsuits flopped among surfers, who saw the uncomfortable rubber skins as more suitable for wimps than wave riders. Enter Bill Meistrell, a dive-shop owner who used a synthetic called neoprene to create a lighter, more flexible suit. At first, his suits were sold under the label Thermocline until his friend Duke Boyd, a founder of Hang Ten, said the name was terrible. "What's so good about your suit?" Boyd asked. "Well, it fits like a glove," Meistrell replied. "And he said, 'Well let's call it Body Glove.' " Meistrell, whose Body Glove wetsuits helped revolutionize surfing and deep-sea diving, died Tuesday from Parkinson's disease at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, his family said. He was 77. "He was the guy who makes the boat run faster, the machines run better. His specialty was making things happen," said Meistrell's twin brother, Bob. "We had a fantastic time all of our lives." Body Glove was co-founded by the Meistrell brothers in 1965. The business, an offshoot of a surf shop partnership that the brothers bought into for $1,800 in 1953, now does more than $200 million a year in business, said Bill Meistrell's son, who is also named Bill and is a Body Glove vice president. "He made a huge impact on the surf industry because he was one of the first wetsuit innovators and brought wetsuit technology into the modern era," said Jennifer Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Surf Industry Manufacturers Assn. As Missouri farm boys, the twins were drawn to water, cobbling together their first dive helmet out of a five-gallon vegetable oil can, a pane of glass and tar. When they moved to Manhattan Beach in 1944, they bought their first genuine dive helmet for $25 from a neighbor — the original owner had drowned while wearing it. The pair got into surfing just as balsa boards were starting to catch on, early enough to have their names added in 2004 to the Surfers Walk of Fame in Hermosa Beach. Like other surfers, they wore oil- soaked sweaters to fend off the cold. Fresh out of El Segundo High School, they worked as county lifeguards, but Bill Meistrell was soon drafted into the Army and served in the Korean War. His brother also was drafted into the Army but was stationed at Ft. Ord, Calif. It was the only period in their lives that the brothers spent much time apart. Back home in 1953, a friend of Bill Meistrell's named Beverly Morgan asked him if he wanted to become a partner in his Redondo Beach sports shop, Dive N' Surf. Morgan owned the business with pioneering surfboard maker Hap Jacobs, but Jacobs wanted to move on. Meistrell agreed to the deal, but only if his brother could come along. "What was funny about Bev is that he used my surfboard while I was in the Army, and he stole Billy's girlfriend while he was in Korea and married her," Bob Meistrell said. "A guy named Beverly? I told Bill, 'We can beat him up.' He turned out to be the best partner we ever had." Morgan had been making wetsuits since 1951, based on designs and research by Hugh Bradner, a UC Berkeley physicist. Bradner had studied the subject for the Navy, which wanted to make underwater work more comfortable and productive for its divers, according to "The Encyclopedia of Surfing" (2003) by Matt Warshaw. As a sideline, Dive N' Surf sold the occasional custom wetsuit, but sales took off only after the brothers started making them out of neoprene. "My brother was responsible for the real light, stretchy-soft material — that's what got surfers into it," Bob Meistrell said. To combat the idea that wetsuits were unmasculine, Morgan helped organize a gathering in 1959 of top surf teams, who received free wetsuits and were promptly sent into the water. Two weeks later, Dive N' Surf had 2,500 wetsuit orders, according to "The Encyclopedia of Surfing." The shop was hired to make custom wetsuits for the television show "Sea Hunt" (1957-61) and taught its star, Lloyd Bridges, and members of his family to dive. The brothers also taught actors Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston and Richard Harris, among others, and made a custom wetsuit for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Eventually, the brothers bought out Morgan and launched Body Glove, which would succeed beyond "the wilder of our wilder dreams," Bob Meistrell said. The family still owns 95% of the company. The brand has expanded far beyond wetsuits to include sportswear, swimsuits, orthopedic braces and products that aren't linked to water such as cellphone sleeves, CD holders and camera cases. "We're like a little Walt Disney Co., without the theme park, only we've got a big ocean," said the junior Bill Meistrell. The next generation — there are five children between the two brothers — began taking over the company in the late 1970s as the founders became more involved in marketing and outdoor pursuits. Bill Meistrell entered the world one day earlier than his identical twin, on July 30, 1928, in Boonville, Mo. The boys were the youngest of seven children of John and Mary Elizabeth Meistrell. When the twins were 4, their investment banker father was murdered by a former business partner who owed him a great deal of money. Their mother remarried, but the family moved west in the 1940s, partly to escape her second husband, Bob Meistrell said. Always the adventurers, the brothers owned a submarine and were part of the team that dived to the deep wreck of the paddle-wheeler Brother Jonathan, which sank off Northern California in 1865; they helped recover more than $5 million in gold coins. Over the years, the twins owned 45 boats together, the most recent being the Disappearance, a 72-foot yacht with huge Body Glove logos. Bill Meistrell was married to Lori, with whom he had his son and a daughter, Julie. They divorced after nearly 40 years. In addition to his brother and children, he is survived by his second wife, Jackie, four grandchildren and four stepgrandchildren. "He loved what he did, the adventure," his son said. "I never, ever heard him say, 'Oh, I've got to go to work." Though he hadn't surfed in at least a decade, Bill Meistrell last went diving about two weeks ago in his pool at home. About two months ago, he and his brother went about 70 feet underwater in a decompression chamber. "They were so happy," Bill's son said. "It was like watching two little kids playing in a fort."
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