Thursday, November 30, 2006

Jack Macpherson, R.I.P.

Jack Macpherson, co-founded infamous SoCal beach crew, dies at 69 

(article courtesy of the SFGate, Wednesday, November 29, 2006)

Jack Macpherson, who co-founded the party-loving Mac Meda Destruction Company crew immortalized in Tom Wolfe's book "The Pump House Gang," has died. He was 69. Macpherson died of liver and kidney failure on Nov. 16 at a La Jolla hospital, his son, John Macpherson, said Wednesday.

Jack Macpherson was "an old school surfer who had a great life," said his son, 50, of San Clemente. "Mac" Macpherson was never mentioned by name in Wolfe's 1960s magazine article about Southern California youth culture, which was later included in a book. However, Wolfe did mention the Mac Meda Destruction Company in his chronicle about young surfers who hung out at the sewage pump house at Windansea Beach.

The Mac Meda Destruction Company was named for the antics of Mac and his friend, Bob "Meda" Rakestraw. At parties, Rakestraw "wouldn't just walk into a house, he'd run through the door and jump out through a window," Macpherson told the La Jolla Light newspaper in a 2003 interview. "People would say, `Here comes Mac and Meda. They're a walking destruction company.'"

Crew members wearing football helmets and wielding sledgehammers demolished condemned houses for fun and held wild parties. Wolfe described the company as an "underground society" that "is mainly something to bug people with and organize huge beer orgies with." The crew's logo was a mushroom cloud. Macpherson stenciled it on T-shirts and it began showing up on cars and windows around town. Police suspected the youngsters were involved in some kind of dangerous gang.

"Back then," Macpherson told the surfing magazine Longboard, "the cops hated us so much that you could get arrested for walking down the street in a Mac Meda shirt." Mac Meda shirts and car stickers still are produced in town...

[Mac] "spent his whole time around the beach area," his son said. In addition to his son, Macpherson is survived by his sister, Jill Higgins, and two grandsons. John Macpherson said his father's ashes will be taken out to sea in a Hawaiian-style "paddle out" ceremony on Dec. 10 at Windansea beach.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pleasure Point History

The Road House: How Pleasure Point Got Its Name By Phil Reader

The name "Pleasure Point," now widely recognized as one of Santa Cruz' premier surfing spots, was formalized through the efforts of an unlikely champion: Dr. Norman Sullivan was an eccentric and generous man, an enormously popular physician who for many years served as the Santa Cruz City Health Officer. Sullivan was known to have taken chickens as payment for his services, and in at least one case — the birth of this reporter — a side of beef. Retiring in 1950 to the Point, he became a local fixture there, singing its praises in countless interviews. When he died in 1977, the name was so ingrained in the public consciousness that it was at last deemed official.

Prior to acquiring its nickname, the area had long been known as Point Soquel. It was originally a part of the old Rodeo Rancho of Mexican days, but following statehood, was deeded to a pair of Irish immigrants who carved out large wheat farms along the cliffs. The land changed hands several times until it was finally purchased by John J. Henchy at the turn of the 20th century. 

Henchy was another Irishman, a rollicking freewheeler who migrated to the United States as a sailor following the great famine in the 1840s. After a turn at farming, he moved to San Francisco where he slipped easily into the lifestyle of the Barbary Coast red light district. By 1880, he owned his own saloon and brothel there. Following one of the rare police crackdowns on the area, Henchy returned briefly to farming before ending up in Live Oak, where he bought a portion of the old wheat farms on the point. There, in 1902, he began construction on a building which he intended for use as his primary residence. But even as construction was underway, he turned the ground floor into a saloon.

Henchy moved his family into Capitola and continued to operate what became known as the Road House. The Road House was perched almost alone overlooking the surf until 1904, when Austin Houghton bought a large portion of the southernmost tip of the point. Houghton, a former design engineer for J.D. Rockefeller, built a home so similar to the Road House that they almost surely shared the same architect. Houghton named his home "The Owls." 

These two homes were connected by a wide lane of packed dirt and gravel. Even before more permanent roads were laid out, the point began to attract out-of-town visitors. The vast majority were groups of men who fished, dug clams or hunted pheasants or waterfowl. Initially these tourists pitched tents along the road or stayed at the Road House. Few families came to the point —they usually went to the downtown beaches.

Over the next decade, smaller homes, usually summer cottages, sprang up along the cliffs. The largest of these developments was called The Breakers, laid out in 1905, but most of the lots remained unsold for 20 years. Except for a small strip along the cliffs, the point remained basically an agricultural area of small farms and orchards.

In the days prior to the Red Light Abatement Act of 1914, it was often tacitly assumed that saloons would have female companionship available to their customers, and the Road House was no exception. But sin did not become an issue there until the advent of Prohibition in 1920. At that point the Road House became one of the busiest speakeasies in Santa Cruz. Because of its isolated location, San Francisco bootleggers made the point a drop-off spot for boatloads of contraband liquor, burying it in the sand below the cliffs by night to retrieve later in broad daylight.

The Roaring '20s were the heyday of the Road House, with bootleggers mixing merrily with off-duty policemen and tourists with locals. Flapper girls rented rooms upstairs at night, plying their customary trade. It was then that the name Pleasure Point became irrevocably affixed to the area. 

According to legend, there arose in these free-wheeling times a peacekeeping group called the Pleasure Point Night Fighters. The Night Fighters were supposedly a public service group of volunteers and renowned as a vigilante organization. In truth, they were actually volunteer fire fighters who not only put out the numerous fires but would tend to victims of the rowdy crowds. 

The Depression had a calming influence on the activities of Pleasure Point. The lustier pursuits never did actually rival agriculture as the area's predominant activity, and now a string of small tourist cottages were built to attract another class of visitor.

Henchy finally retired once and for all, and the saloon was remodeled into a grocery store complete with gas pump and upstairs rooming for families and visitors. The Road House had become completely legitimate.

With all the revelry at the Road House during the 1920s, a few eccentric swimmers along the nearby beaches attracted scant notice. As far back as the 19th century, local farm boys did a thing they called "surf diving," similar to body surfing today. The sport became more popular after World War I, when a few long boarders made their appearance on the swells at Pleasure Point. They were mostly members of the Santa Cruz Surf Club seeking waves when Steamer Lane was flat.

However, most of the activity on the Point in the 1930s was housing development. One impetus was a farmer named Charles Beltz who successfully sank a commercial water well on the Point, forming the Beltz Water System. The lots at Breaker's beach soon filled up with summer housing, and the Hawes Development sprang up between Moran Lagoon and 30th Avenue. Residents formed the Rodeo Civic Club, lobbying County Supervisors to widen and macadamize East Cliff Drive. They also donated the land to extend 41st Avenue through to the cliffs.

Perhaps the most interesting housing tract was the Pleasure Point Subdivision built by W. C. Thompson in 1934. These seven homes were luxury units intended for year-around occupation. The tract perched on the southern tip of the point overlooking Monterey Bay, one of the most beautiful spots in the district. Many of these homes still exist. The subdivision featured the famous Pleasure Point Plunge, which during the early years offered an open air dance pavilion, live music and a cozy fireplace. The Plunge was built over the large basement of The Owls, which had burnt in 1915. Among the various owners of the Plunge were Peggy Slatter, who later founded the Begonia Festival, and the aforementioned Dr. Sullivan, who built a home on the Point during WWII. Dr. Sullivan's only daughter, Marilyn, was a well-known swimmer as well as a musician. The Plunge remained open continuously until 1962 when a wide crack developed in the bottom of the pool, forcing its closure.

Besides new roads and The Plunge's association with water sports, one more accident of history led to the Point's evolution into a surfing mecca. In the 1940s many local surfers, having learned the sport during a tour of duty in the Hawaiian Islands, flocked to the adjoining beaches. From then on, surfing was king at Pleasure Point. In the '50s and '60s, the popular media discovered surfing, transforming it from a relatively unknown sport to California icon. Pleasure Point emerged as one of the most renowned surfing spots in Northern California, host to a number of stops on the U.S.S.F Championship Tour as well as the annual Jay Moriarity Memorial Paddle Board Race, named for a local surfer.

Surfing also inspired the resurrection of a familiar name. The Depression and World War II had brought the Night Fighters' activities to a halt. However, during the mid-1970s, under the leadership of Harry and Ray Conti, the group emerged once again. They lay the foundation for a tight-knit community watchdog organization that still exists today. The new Night Fighters were disheartened with the amount of trash found on the beaches. They were successful in obtaining the donation of 12 trash cans and took on the responsibility of keeping their local area clean and emptying the cans on a weekly basis.

They also initiated "Pack Your Trash Day," an event where local residents gather to clean beaches after several high-use holidays. It has served as a model program for other communities in California to clean up their own neighborhoods. The group now maintains a small park on the cliffs across the road from Elizabeth's Market. However, it is the Pleasure Point Road House that remains the enduring symbol of the long colorful history of "The Point." The old building, located on East Cliff Drive between 38th and 41st Avenues, has served variously as a farmhouse, a saloon and brothel, a speakeasy, a grocery store, a massage parlor, a hippy commune and a surfer hangout. The Road House today is privately owned; its rooms and cottages rented out to tenants. After more than a century, it still welcomes those with an eye towards the area's unique pleasures.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shaun Tomson's Surfer's Code

Shaun Tomson's Surfer's Code: 

I will never turn my back on the ocean.
I will always paddle back out.
I will take the drop with commitment.
I will know that there will always be another wave.
I will realize that all surfers are joined by one ocean.
I will paddle around the impact zone.
I will never fight a rip tide.
I will watch out for other surfers after a big set.
I will pass on my stoke to a non-surfer.
I will ride, and not paddle in to shore.
I will catch a wave every day, even in my mind.
I will honor the sport of kings.

Following article by H. Grossman at INDIALANTIC -- He was 15 the day he walked up the beach on the North Shore of Oahu, watching the thunderous Pipeline waves crashing into the coral reefs below. There he sat, with his surfboard, pink nonetheless, its red design prematurely faded by the sun. The board, beveled perhaps too much by concrete bricks that had been placed on the nose by his shaper, had performed like a front door instead of a surfboard. But something -- that certain "stoke" a surfer gets when the fires burn deep inside him -- told him to take a chance. Shaun Tomson's first ride at Pipeline became legendary. Deep in the tube, one of the first to challenge those types of waves backside, facing against the wave, was epic. He's now 51, still tanned, handsome and still drawing lots of attention as evidenced by the steady line of fans seeking autographs Friday night at The Goods Surf and Skate store. "It's great to see how surfing has progressed through the years," said Tomson, who not only won the 1977 world championship but also was ranked among the top six competitors in the world for a nine-year period beginning in 1976. "A few of us had a dream to make a living from surfing and see it as an industry, and now to see it grow internationally is great satisfaction." The lessons Tomson learned from surfing -- such as trusting your instincts, just as he had done at Pipeline -- parallel those of his life. Friday, he was in Brevard County promoting his just-released book, Surfer's Code, which shares 12 simple lessons he learned from his childhood in apartheid South Africa (when Hawaiian Eddie Aikau needed a permit just to surf the beach there) to his conquests on many of the world's famous beaches. He signed each of his autographs with a message, such as, "Keep surfing in your heart" or "Surfing is the only life." In his book, he relates that surfing is not a sport in which you can play 18 holes, write down your score and go out and play the same 18 holes the next day. "Once you have ridden those waves, they're gone," he wrote. "Surfing is all about uncertainty." Earlier this year, he and wife, Carla, lost their 15-year-old son, Mathew, when a schoolyard "choking" game back in South Africa went awry. But Tomson has been through adversity before, such as when his father, training for the Olympic swim team, had his right arm ravaged by a shark. Or when his business ventures didn't quite turn out the way he had expected. But life goes on. "This book, I think, delivers a wonderful, pure message," Tomson said. "Losing a heat or a contest is not going to be the worst thing to happen to you." How good of a surfer was he? Satellite Beach's Ray Sentz brought in a Surfing magazine from 1976 -- the year before he won the world title -- with an action photo of Tomson gracing the cover. "That was my first interview in America," Tomson said. "I was in the university back in South Africa and I had just looked at the cover of Surfing magazine and there I was. Then I turned it back over to see the magazine below it and there I was on the cover of Surfer. I was like, 'Whoa!' For a teenager to see himself on those covers was unbelievable." These days, he and his wife live in Montecito, Calif., near one of his favorite surf spots, Rincon, off the coast of Santa Barbara, where he passes his "stoke" on to young surfers and non-surfers. His neighbors include Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Jimmy Connors, to name a few. He continues to surf every day -- in fact, one of his 12 codes in his book reads, "I will catch a wave every day, even in my mind." His friends are countless, including longtime rivals such as Peter Townend, the 1976 world champion, and film co-stars such as Robert August. And, although he surfed against other legends such as Mark Richards and Tom Carroll, he said Cocoa Beach's Kelly Slater, the reigning eight-time world champ, is the best ever. "Yeah, he's the greatest of all-time," he said in an accent still unique to his native land. "He has the power, speed, rhythm, style -- and imagination -- you need to be the best." After 14 seasons on the world circuit, Tomson retired in 1989, as the second-leading money-winner that season. "I was totally satisfied to leave when I did, and I'm proud of that," he said. "I never looked over my shoulder. I had the most wonderful career." Contact Grossman at 242-3676 or

Monday, November 13, 2006

Waves of Warning 12

Chapter Twelve – A New Man

[ PDF format: 12-ANewMan.pdf ]

Dirty oil came spurting out of the drain hole and began to puddle on the
garage floor. Sonny-boy Noaloa cursed loudly and re-positioned the drain pan.
He wiggled out from underneath the truck with oil on his shirt and a pissed-off
look on his face. Heath Larson was standing at the work bench repairing the
footstraps on a high-speed surfboard. He glanced over his shoulder and
quickly guessed what happened.

“You’ll find some clean-up stuff over there in the corner. And don’t forget
to put the plug back in before you start putting in the new oil. And when
you’re done with the truck, we’ll get started on the jet skis.”

“Yes, sir. Anything you say, sir. Right away, sir.”

Larson was caught offguard by the tone in his voice. For the past three
weeks they had been making real progress turning the bad boy surf star into a
sober-minded waterman. Now that the January rains were pouring down, the
training had shifted to Larson’s garage where the focus was on the machines
that were a part of riding big waves. It was a completely different kind of
surfing that had to be understood from the ground up, but the look on Noaloa’s
face told Larson it was going to be a longer climb for the former pro champ
than he’d first imagined.

* * *

An hour after the victory at Pipeline, they had both been in the same
airport conference room where the decision had been made to change
Noaloa’s m.o. ten days previously. Roberto Mercante was sitting at the table,
and Bruddah was standing near a window looking out at a view of Diamond
Head. Mercante’s flight was leaving in twenty minutes, and his wife was
smiling on the video conference screen. Thanks to the intervention, marketing
didn’t have to trash the “When It Counts” campaign and scramble a new sales
angle before the upcoming trade shows. Heath, Bruddah and her husband had
pulled it off, and things were looking up. She thanked them all before getting
to the point.

“Sonny-boy, I won’t see you until Surf Expo in Florida, but I want you to
know how proud I am of you. And I’ve got great news. You won’t be on the pro
tour next year. As of right now, I want you to start preparing to become a true
surfing legend as a big wave rider.”

Noaloa didn’t know what to say. For him, surfing had been all about
competition, starting with his mom driving him to contests up and down the
east coast of Florida every weekend.

“Yeah, but, uh, I like surf da contes’, and if I drop offa da tour, what I do?
And what kine talk people make?”

“Let ‘em talk all they want,” said Roberto Mercante, following his wife’s
lead, “That will only work in our favor. I can see our press release right now:
No Tour for Noaloa - He’s Got More Important Things to Do!”

“That’s pretty good, Roberto. Have the P.R. and marketing people get
started on it right away. Heath, can I count on you to continue your excellent
work with Sonny-boy?”

“Uh, well, that’s not in my contract, Cheryl,” said a surprised Larson.

Corlund sensed she had to put out a fire. “Well, that’s easily solved. Why
don’t we up your numbers by half, retroactive to the beginning of December,
plus a performance bonus on a per wave basis at our new reef?”

“Well, that sounds good, Cheryl, I guess,” he said with genuine
hesitation, stalling for time, feeling like an outside set was coming and he was
in the wrong place. Before either of them could say anything, Noaloa jumped

“Eh, I goin surf dat place too! What I get? I mo bettah talk my agent.”

“He’s not working for you anymore, Sonny-boy. I bought your contract
from him. But don’t worry. You can have the same deal as Heath, and now
you’ll keep the 10% you used to pay that guy.”

“Yeah, but - - -“

“But what, Sonny-boy?” said the CEO, now no longer smiling, “Call it a
well-deserved Christmas present. Haven’t we always taken good care of

Corlund took Noaloa’s silence as acquiescence.

“Good. Roberto, go over to the fax machine and make sure it’s on,” said
Corlund, “Now Sonny-boy, you’re going to stay with Heath on Maui, and
Heath, you’re going to get him ready to be your partner when you surf the

Now Larson had to speak up. It was one thing to bulldoze a business deal.
Telling him who to trust his life with was something else.

“Cheryl, I already have a partner. It takes a long time to set up a tow-in

“Roberto tells me we’ve got until May before the reef starts breaking, and
I don’t need you guys at full strength out there until August. Heath,” she
softened her tone, “I’m sure you can do it with Sonny-boy training full time.
And of course we’ll cover all your expenses.”

Mercante walked back to the table with the two contracts.

“Here’s the deal, guys,” he said, “Take it or leave it.”

Corlund winced at her husband’s words. Sometimes people snapped when
they heard that cliché at the bargaining table. When it came to Heath Larson,
she was right. He made no effort to read the contract. He knew exactly what
Corlund was doing. For the first time in his association with Wavelife, he was
ready to walk away from the table. The thought gave him a distinct sense of
freedom and his heart sang for a second. He got up and indeed left the table.

Corlund and Mercante were speechless. Sonny-boy, too, was surprised, but he
couldn’t ignore the idea of making more money.

“Heath, bra! We can do dis! We gonna do sometin’ nobody evah dream
of! Brah, we goin blow minds!”

But Larson didn’t hear a word as he walked over to talk with Bruddah
who had been listening to every word and understood the situation perfectly.

“Heath, I know you hates dis shit,” he said quietly, “Dey tryin’ to buy you
wid a lotta bucks, brah. But mebbe we change dis kid forevah and make him
one da kine role model for other kids on da islands.”

“You sure about that, Bruddah?”

“Yeah, brah, we gotta chance and we gotta go for it. What we gonna do,
let da Tui and GroundZero turn alla da kids into thugs?”

“Ok, Bruddah, you’re driving, as usual.”

“Dat’s ok brah, we pull dis off and he gonna be da model citizen!”
Bruddah grinned, and Larson saw a look in his eye that couldn’t be
denied. He turned and walked back to the table. It was one thing to be
cornered by a CEO. That he could walk away from simply on principle. But
Bruddah’s words hit home all the way to his surfer’s soul.

“Yeah, Sonny-boy, we can do it,” he said, “But Cheryl, Bruddah is in on
this or else I’m out.”

“Yes, well, uh, of course! Roberto, work out the details, ok? And so can I
get your signature, Heath? Sonny-boy?”

The two surfers signed the contracts, and a relieved Cheryl Corlund
smiled again.

“Great! Mala kalamaka, and happy new year! Gotta go, guys! Bye!”

The video screen turned blue. Cheryl Corlund leaned back in her chair
and smiled at June Wilson and Bill Massara. With signed contracts in hand
from Larson and Noaloa, she could now get back to the work in front of her.

“Ok, let’s see the financials we’ll be taking to New York,” she said.

In Hawai’i, her husband also had work to do, but before he could get
started, Bruddah had the first word.

“Hey Roberto, betta tell you wife its Mele Kalikamaka, ok, brah?”

The day after Christmas, Larson and Noaloa went back to the training
regimen that had cleaned up the former world champ. They started every day
at dawn with a jog through the mountains at dawn and a light breakfast before
a morning workout of stretching, yoga and low-impact free weights. After
lunch was a different story. With Bruddah as their drill sergeant, they would
redline all afternoon with surf-centric exercises Larson had developed over
the years using sand for resistance work . They finished every afternoon doing
swim sprints with Bruddah pushing them to exhaustion.

“Here come da shark, boys! I one hungry mako today!” he’d yell, and if
he caught either of them, he’d grab a foot and drag the laggard under water.
For all his strength, Larson got caught every once in a while, and though he
got some slack in the beginning, Noaloa was soon swimming almost as fast as
he could paddle a surfboard.

But they never surfed. Noaloa didn’t need to become a better surfer - he
needed to prepare for an entirely different way to ride waves from another
realm. On New Year’s Eve they watched the ball come down in Times Square
on the small black & white TV in the kitchen and raised a toast of spring water
to the new year. The former world champ was looking forward to tomorrow so
much he was glad to go to bed. The sooner he fell asleep, the sooner it would
be day one of a new year as a new man.

When Noaloa jumped out of bed an hour before dawn he found a note on
the kitchen table. Within minutes he was running down to the coast, and as the
sun touched the horizon he found Bruddah sitting on a cliff overlooking an
ocean full of waves. Below them, in the water all alone, was Heath Larson
riding perfect waves at one of the best surf spots in the world, Honolua Bay.

The Bay was often the most crowded surf spot in the entire Hawaiian
island chain, but the surf had been good for days and the surf reports had
called for the swell to drop. So most of the surfers on Maui had indulged in the
usual over-the-top New Year’s revelry, not knowing that the surf report had
got it all wrong, leaving Larson to reap the fruits of self-discipline by
shredding the ten footers as if he was surfing chest-high Malibu. Noaloa had
rarely seen Hawaiian waves surfed with such casual power and style. And he
had never seen what Heath Larson did after one particularly stand out wave:
he simply sat and watched a set go by without trying to catch even one wave.

The sight of empty perfect waves was too much for the young surfer.

“Say Bruddah, we out deah! Git da kine tubes ‘fo da crowd come, yeah?”
Bruddah’s response put him back in his place.

“Nah, let da guy surf alone. Let some da waves go by wit nobodys on
dem. We just sit and watch, brah. Good fo’ da soul.”

Noaloa knew better than to say another word, but it took a while for him
to swallow and digest his frustration. He and Bruddah exchanged some small
talk about Larson’s technique on a few waves, but it wasn’t until the wind
changed directions and clouds began to form on the horizon that Bruddah
changed the subject as other surfers began to show up and Larson caught his
last ride.

“Look like da Kona winds come. Gonna rain real good. I tink mebbe we
change da training, Sonny-boy. You in great shape. Now it time we gonna
train you fo’ da jetskis.”

* * *

Riding big waves once required only two things: a big, fast board and a
lot of guts. Then board design reached a limit at the intersection of paddling
speed vs. performance on the wave itself. The bigger the wave, the faster it
moved through the ocean, but bigger boards that paddled fast enough could
not be made with the necessary maneuverability to surf the waves successfully.

The solution was smaller, highly maneuverable boards that didn’t paddle
at all but were towed behind jetskis that went faster than the waves. Now
catching the wave was no problem, but that was just the beginning.

After several years of development by a small group of veteran big wave
riders in Hawai’i, the ‘tow-in’ technique changed big wave surfing forever in
three important aspects. First and foremost was the fact tow-in surfers could
not go surfing alone. They needed a jetski, and the jetski needed a driver
whose role was crucial not only for catching the waves, but also rescuing the
riders when they fell. Second was the jetski itself. They had to be maintained,
and surfers had to become gearheads. Finally, to accommodate the excessive
speeds and torque found in waves forty to sixty feet high, the boards became
like waterskis, with footstraps and extra weight, and could not be paddled at

And thus was broken a basic thread tying all surfers together going back
to the days of the Duke when surfing was simply a man, a board, and a wave.

For many, the loss was a small price to pay for the adrenalin and
exhilaration now orders of magnitude greater than anything previously
experienced by surfers. Tow-in surfing became the subject of dozens of articles
in the mainstream media, and the fact that surfing was once called the sport of
kings became ancient history in a new world powered by jetskis.

The Duke was dead, and a new king was crowned: Heath Larson. Yet in
some ways, Kahanamoku’s spirit lived on in Larson’s soul. Although he was
on the cover of Outside and National Geographic, he refused to be a part of
the surf magazine popularity polls or participate in their annual “biggest
wave” photo contests. Once he was offered a script for a TV commercial that
had him comparing big waves to Mount Everest. He turned it down. He knew
there was no comparison. No one ever claimed victory over the highest
mountain on earth after first using a helicopter to get close to the summit the
way a jet ski was used to get a surfer on a big wave.

Heath Larson had no illusions about his dependency on a machine or, to
a much larger extent, his tow-in partner. Mechanical aptitude could be
learned, but trust was something else again. He had worked with several jetski
drivers who knew the machines and the tow-in techniques backwards and
forwards. But it wasn’t until he met Bruddah, a Hawaiian whose integrity went
back generations, that he finally was able to find the kind of bonded friendship
that allowed him to reach the pinnacle of a sport-within-a-sport with its lifeand-
death challenges.

Now he and Bruddah were facing a new challenge that had nothing to do
with nature and everything to do with human nature.

* * *

“Why I gotta do all dis? I no like work on cars – why we no jus take da
car dealah and have dem fix?”

Larson let the words hang in the air while another downpour hit the metal
roof over their heads. And it took almost a minute for him to make sure he was
calm and centered before he spoke.

“Because you’re contract with Wavelife averages out to fifty bucks an
hour, and the poor guys who change oil for a living make about ten. Who do
you think is going to do a better job?”

“Wavelife pay me fo’ surf. I nevah was paid fo dis kine surfing.”

“That was last year’s surfing. This year you’re going to have to be more
than just a guy who can win surfing contests.”

“What you talkin’, brah? I beat da bes’ surfahs in da world, and mo’ dan
one time ! It was fuckin’ hard! Brah, I deserve to win!”

Noaloa was digging in. Larson was ready for the confrontation.

“Listen Sonny-boy, maybe you have forgotten, or maybe you don’t even
know, I grew up on the North Shore. If I had wanted to turn surfing into a dogeat-
dog job, I would have probably won the tour just like you.

“But I didn’t want to surf shitty waves or psyche out opponents or get into
the judges’ heads. Waves are a God-given gift, and to use them to make
myself number one out of a pack of competitors just didn’t make sense to me.”

“What you stay doin’ now? You use jetskis to be da bes’ evah in big
waves! What da difference? We both da best surfers in da world!”

“Are we? Is it about the fame, or the feeling? What about the seven year
old kid who gets his first wave all the way to the beach? Or the mom who
somehow gets a wave all to herself at Malibu? Do we feel any better than
them, or are we just more famous?

“Think about it, Sonny-boy. Just who is the best surfer in the world? Is it
some paid pro getting air for the hundredth time because the magazines need a
cover shot, or it is some poor guy with four kids and a mortgage who gets the
wave of his life at some empty beach nobody’s ever heard of? Believe me,
Sonny-boy, being on top in surfing is not about judges and sponsors. It’s not
about getting your picture taken in the tube a split second before the wave eats
you alive and breaks your board. Just ask any of those old guys in their
eighties at Waikiki or San Onofre.”

Noaloa had never heard anyone say anything like that before, and he
didn’t know what to say. But he tried.

“Shoots, Larson, you know who you are and what you do is mo’ pono dan
anybody evah do in surfin’. No try bullshit me.”

“Ok, maybe I’m not getting through to you. Let’s look at it this way.”

He walked over to the jet skis and the rack of hybrid surfboards on the
wall. For a moment, Heath Larson was framed by equipment like an astronaut
standing in front of the space shuttle.

“I guess it boils down to this, Sonny-boy. You’ve never had to depend on
anyone out in the water. Everything I’ve done has always depended on
Bruddah. When we surf that reef, I am going to have to depend on you and
you’ll be depending on me. If either of us thinks of ourselves first, the other
guy just might die.”

“Yeah, but how stay surfin’ if need alla dis stuffs, one guy fo’ drive noisy
machine fo’ pull inna da wave? An’ why I have depen’ on you fo’ anytin’? I
no like be responsible fo’ you, anyway.”

The two surfers just stared at each other. It was a showdown and neither
was going to give an inch.

“You guys get da truck ready? I gotta go Town go shoppin’. Moms and
Pops comin’ ovah for dinnah. Gonna bring da family, too.”

It was Bruddah, coming in out of the rain with some well-timed and
much-needed Hawaiian aloha.

“Yeah, we were almost done. Go ahead and put five quarts in her, Sonnyboy,
or was it six? Better check the manual,” said Larson without breaking eye
contact with Noaloa.

Sonny-boy averted his glance and saw Bruddah looking at him.

“Shoots, I gonna get um done,” he said, tossing the oily rag towards the
trash can. He missed, on purpose.

Heath Larson saw the gesture but let it slide. He went back to his work,
but not before catching Noaloa’s eye and then looking at Bruddah.

“Yeah, when you go town, I think we’re close to running outta toilet
paper. Better get some. We gotta lot of shit to clean up around here.”

* * *

A week later, the rain had stopped, the skies were blue, and the surf was
big enough to begin actual training with the jetski and the tow-boards. On the
other side of the island, at a deserted reef far from the cameras, Sonny-boy
Noaloa got his first real rush as a tow-in surfer. Heath Larson had positioned
him perfectly, and all Sonny-boy had to do was stand there and cruise through
the biggest tube of his life. At the end of the ride his euphoria was that of a
child who had just experienced something for the first time, something so
wonderful that it made him oblivious to the world around him.

Then he heard the jetski and saw Larson coming towards him at full
throttle – being chased by a rogue wave twice as big as the one he just rode.
And just like a child, the former pro surf-star froze in panic. Larson was
frantically signaling for him to be ready for an evacuation pick-up. But like a
deer in the headlights, Noaloa couldn’t move. And to make matters worse, his
feet were still in the footstraps.

Larson didn’t slow down until the very last second. He saw that Sonnyboy
was attached to the board as he pulled up right next to him.

“Leave the board and get on the sled!”

His words were drowned out by the roar of the oncoming wave and
Sonny-boy continued to struggle to get his feet out of the straps.

“Grab the sled, NOW!”

Noaloa reached for the handropes of the rescue sled attached to the
waverunner and pulled himself up onto the sled.

“Get the board up in the air!”

The white water was now mere few yards away. Noaloa rolled up on to
the sled and had the board out of the water.

“Hold on!”

Larson redlined the jetski just before the white water hit them.
The acceleration was so abrupt that Noaloa was thrown sideways. The
nose of the board caught in the water, but Noaloa held on, his legs twis ting and
straining until the straps broke.

Raw ocean power chased them towards the shore lined with large
boulders. Larson began to edge to his right, aiming for the break in the reef
where the wave would back off for a few seconds before smashing into the

“Get ready to bail out!”

But Noaloa didn’t hear him over the roar of the wave about engulf them
both. He was holding on tight in sheer panic when Larson jammed the ski into
a hard turn at the last second to zoom out to the safety of the deep water
channel as the wave slammed into the rocks and exploded up against the cliff.

They were safe, but the experience seemed somehow surreal because
suddenly the ocean had become completely quiet. The rogue had been the last
wave of the set. The entire surf zone, where huge waves had been breaking
with tremendous force and where Sonny-boy had been rescued just seconds
ago, was now covered with nothing but a layer of soft white foam.

As they drifted to a stop, Larson turned around with fury in his face.

“You trying to get us killed? Didn’t you see my signal? Remember what
we did in training? Why didn’t you - - -“

Noaloa wasn’t listening. He was grimacing in pain.

“Hey brah, I tink my knee is fucked.”


Friday, November 03, 2006

Waves of Warning 11

Chapter Eleven - Gifts

[ Also viewable in PDF format at: 11-Gifts.pdf ]

After the tyrant missionary Gambier had decimated the Marulean people
in the early 1800s, the survivors faced many hard challenges. One of the most
difficult was to reconcile their hearts with Christianity. Gambier had forced
the Catholic religion on them in a manner no different than the Jesuits had
used in California. The effect on the Maruleans was, at first, almost the same
as that experienced by the Chumash. Unfortunately for California’s seafaring
coastal tribe, the Spanish stayed forever. Fortunately for the Maruleans, the
French eventually left them alone.

This gave the sea people, with their heritage of island independence and
common sense, a basis to reject formal Christian religion. They could not
accept that the Son of God, a living embodiment of love and life, would have to
die to save them. They had no use for the image of a vengeful Father who
would burn sinners in an everlasting hell if they didn’t believe in Him. They
could not believe that Jesus had died for their sins – there was no logic to that
idea at all. The cross was a symbol of human failure – nothing more. The
image of a tortured man dying a horrible death and the Catholic teachings
about suffering, guilt and sin, were discarded.

But the Maruleans remained Christians, using love as taught by Jesus as
the cornerstone of their faith. And the more David Helmares understood the
Marulean version of Christianity, the more he embraced it. When it came to
celebrating Christmas, however, David maintained one tradition from his
youth, and again this year he made sure the batteries were fully charged on
the Morning Light as he strung lights from his rigging and put a set of
speakers on deck.

The evening star appeared above the horizon where the sun had set on a
hot and windless day, the longest day of the year. On this night the sea people
of Marulea began a week of fasting and feasting, of games and solemn
ceremonies, to celebrate the solstice – and the birth of Christ.

Taveka was standing in the doorway of his home thinking about the love
Jesus had taught and the hope and faith in the goodness of man being
celebrated by the Maruleans. He also thought of the next solstice, in June,
when the season would change to winter, when he would begin the steps of his
final journey to the arms of angels, his ancestors and his wife. Then tears came
to his eyes when Handel’s Messiah came wafting across the water.

Early in David’s apprenticeship Taveka had wanted to learn something
from the young Californian that held some special significance from his past.

David had responded by suggesting Taveka listen to the set of CDs he’d made
so that he’d always have his entire music collection with him wherever he
went. So, over a period of months, Taveka listened with respect to everything
from the Allman Brothers to “The Sound of Music”, but when David played a
special homemade compilation of Christmas songs, starting with a series of
classics from the Percy Faith Orchestra, Taveka felt his soul truly touched.
That Christmas, Taveka suggested David share the music with the Maruleans.
They loved it as much as Taveka did and considered it a wonderful gift and a
welcome addition to their celebrations.

The next song was “Away in the Manger”, and Taveka thought of the
passing of his beloved wife so many years ago. Their new-born daughter had
been in his arms when he kissed her mother goodbye. Now that Luan had
married his successor, Taveka could look forward to the day he would be with
his wife again. He stood smiling as the tears ran down his face, his heart filled
with the simple song about a child’s birth and what it meant to an old man
whose time was coming.

Three children were walking by and one of them noticed the old navigator
had not greeted them in his usual friendly manner.

“Uncle Taveka, are you sad?”

“Yes, Uncle,” said a little girl, “why are you crying? It’s Jesus’ birthday
and we’re going to my auntie’s house for stories and then we’re going to make
gifts for our parents. Isn’t anyone going to give you presents?”

“Yes, little one, I already have many presents . Sometimes people cry
when they have much happiness inside them.”

“So you are not sad, Uncle Taveka?”

“How can anyone be sad if a new year is coming with all sorts of surprises
and fun?” he said with a smile on his face.

The music faded to silence for a moment.

“Uncle Taveka, are you going to die soon?”

“Shush, you weren’t supposed to say anything to him!”

“No, it is a question I will answer. Yes, I am going away, and it will be
before next Christmas. So why don’t you all make me extra gifts this year?”

His smile turned to laughter, and the eyes of the children lit up as they felt
the joy of giving fill their hearts.

“Yes, we will! We will bring them Christmas morning, Uncle!”

The children skipped off down the path. Taveka smiled in
acknowledgement of the endless passing of generations, with the innocence
and joy of children being the only eternal constant of life in its every breath.
Then he heard the opening notes of “We Three Kings.”

* * *

Two thousand miles to the west, the Skyhook was sitting just outside her
hangar near the headquarters of the Skyrider Foundation. Victor and Tina
Sanchez were dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Mac Owens had an elf’s
costume on. Two dozen high school students carrying brightly colored
packages formed a line at the cargo bay door. Though time and distance made
it impossible for the students to go home, the Skyhook was going to stand in as
Santa’s sleigh on its annual Christmas flight to some of the most remote
islands of Polynesia bearing gifts to the students’ families and friends.

“Did you weigh this?” asked Mac Owens.

“Uh, yeah, kinda.”

“An’ how much did it weigh?”

“The scale said forty six.”

“Was that pounds or kilos?”

“Uh, I don’t remember.”

“How much is it ‘sposed to weigh?”

“Under fifty, I think.”

“Yes, that’s right. That’s fifty pounds – not fifty kilograms!”

The boy’s lip quivered as if he was going to burst into tears.

“You mean it can’t go on the plane?”

“I didn’t say that, Mister Nathan Bailala . However, you’ll hafta pay the
excess baggage charge.”

“But I don’t have any money!”

“Ok,” said Owens, “Please print your name, an’ the weight, an’ then sign
right here.” He handed a clipboard to the grateful teenager. The young man
did as he was told until he stopped and looked at Mac Owens. He had quickly
scanned the list and realized that several students, whose gifts for their family
and friends were already stored in the Skyhook , had submitted packages that
weighed as much, or more, than his.

“Hey, these others are overweight too!”

“Look a little closer, young man. Their weights are in pounds!”

“Oh, ok. All right. Well uh - - -“

“Merry Christmas, Nathan!” said Mac Owens. The finality in his tone
told the teenager further argument would be useless.

“Uh, Merry Christmas, Uncle Mac. What should I do now?”

“Why don’t you go an’ see if Mr. an’ Mrs. Santa need some help.”

Thanks, Uncle Mac! Merry Christmas!”

“Kids these days! They jes’ don’ pay ‘tention when they should!” he said
to himself, only to remember NASA had lost an eight hundred million dollar
Mars mission because some engineers had confused pounds and kilograms.

“Oh, well,” he thought, “What’s a little excess baggage?”

The thought reminded him of the load he’d have to deal with on the
Wavelife mission, and he began to ponder, as he had for several weeks now,
just how he would deal with all their equipment, especially the jetskis, as he
positioned the Christmas gifts securely in the cargo bay. He was arranging the
packages in reverse order according to the flight plan whereby they would be
distributed to the families of the students at rendezvous points outside a dozen
barrier reefs, several of which were where the Skyhook had rescued sailors and
pilots during the war. He remembered how the Catalina had been re-fitted
especially for the purpose of those touch-and-go missions by having all the
external bomb and torpedo hardware removed since she would no longer be
tasked with delivering death.

Mac Owens stopped everything. He climbed up on the Skyhook ’s wing.

He removed a panel, and sure enough, the cable and pulley mechanisms for
bombs weighing up to two thousand pounds had never been removed when the
Skyhook had been converted for rescue missions. He checked the other wing,
and suddenly he was in business.

“Well, that solves that problem!”

* * *

The Mother Ocean Shelter occupied a building that had once been the
home of Synanon, right on the beach in Santa Monica. Over the years it had
been sold and converted into condos, but when the most recent owners went
bankrupt, the building came up for sale at a foreclosure price. Aleja Gracellen
had seen the sign announcing the sale on her way to Newport Beach for a
meeting with Cheryl Corlund. She had an idea, and now the downtrodden once
again had a home on the beach.

Gracellen had mastered the surfing mobs at Surfrider Beach and the ritzy
crowds of Malibu’s restaurants. People were needy, off balance and helpless
whether competing for waves or flaunting their wealth. Both experiences were
surprisingly relevant when it came to running the shelter.

The tree was tall and green and the presents wrapped in recycled paper. A
dozen children were listening to their mothers sing “Silent Night” in the large
utility room that was converted to a dormitory every night. When the song
ended with hugs and tears all around, Aleja Gracellen thought of Cheryl
Corlund and how she had quickly come and gone before the children could
give her the Christmas gifts they had made for her.

“Wait a minute, everyone, if you please! Everyone! Just quiet down for a
second. I don’t know how many of you saw the lady who was here a little
while ago - - -“

“You mean the one who parked her Escalade over near the pier so we
wouldn’t know who she was?” said a voice from the back.

“She’s the one who is taking care of us, isn’t she?” said one of the

“Well, there’s no getting anything past you guys, is there?”

“You live on the streets and go through hell for years, and you’ll be pretty
sharp too, Aleja!” said one woman with a laugh that was more rueful than

“Yeah, that’s her. Well, even though her company gives us a lot, she
stopped by this year with a special gift, though she didn’t want anyone to
know about it.”

“Is that what anomin – anony – what is that word?” said one of the

“Anonymous, dear, and yes, that’s what she is . Our anonymous
benefactor. Well, I want us all to bow our heads for a second and give her a
gift straight from our hearts.”

Aleja Gracellen touched the envelope in her pocket, containing a
Christmas card from Cheryl Corlund and a check for fifty thousand dollars
made out to the shelter.

“Can we pray for her? I can do that!” said a little one up front.

“Yes, child, that is what we can do for her. And of all the gifts we could
ever give her, I think prayers are the ones she needs the most.”

* * *

The tree was plastered with fake presents, clumps of tinsel, plastic
ornaments, and blinking lights. It looked just like last year’s to Cheryl
Corlund, standing outside the entrance to Wavelife’s headquarters, as did the
“Surfing Santa” party in full swing swirling through the lobby. Her husband
had gone over the top, as usual. A dozen models were scantily dressed as
Santa’s helpers and helping her husband, dressed as Santa himself, hand out
the bonus checks to dozens of happy employees. For the moment she cared not
to think about how the glow would soon fade from the bright eager faces once
they discovered the checks were less than half of last year’s.

She caught her husband’s eye for a second and then walked across the
lobby and hit the button on the elevator. He caught up with her and pulled her
to one side.

“There you are – what took you so long?”

“And Merry Christmas to you too, dear! I’m surprised you even missed
me,” she said, glancing back at the bevy of beauties handing out the checks,
“Can’t you think of something other than eye candy for your party mix?”

“Oh Cheryl, c’mon, it’s Christmas, have a drink! You look like you need
one! And there are some people from home I want you to meet.”

“I’ve already met half of Brazil, Roberto. Who are they this time?”

“Buyers from a new chain in Sao Paulo. They’ve got steel mill money
behind them.”

“Ok,” she said, knowing Wavelife sales had slipped a little in Brazil,

“Give me a minute. Have you heard from Maui?”

“So far, so good. They’re back up in the hills even as we speak. No
parties, no women, no nothing. Bruddah and Heath are keeping the pressure on
and Sonny-boy is doing quite well from what I understand.”

“Did you talk to Bruddah?”

“Yeah, and if it wasn’t for his friendship with Heath, we’d be sunk. He’s
turning out to be the key in all this, Cheryl.”

“Well, if he’s going to be that essential, do we have him under contract?”

“I gave him one with the salary left open. He signed it on the condition
that we pay him a dollar a year.”

Corlund was taken aback for a second. The spirit of aloha was one thing,
but turning down a blank contract to be a dollar-a-year man said a lot. She
wasn’t sure if it was a reflection of Bruddah being a proud Hawaiian – or a
well-considered decision based on an accurate opinion of what Wavelife did
and didn’t stand for. Then she knew it was both. The elevator opened and a
crowd of employees pushed their way out.

“Merry Christmas everybody!” said Roberto heartily, “C’mon over and
get your bonus checks!”

He let himself be swept away while she entered the empty elevator and hit
‘ten’ to find some peace and quiet above it all.

When the elevator doors opened, Dolly Artensa was standing there, tired
and ready to go home. But when their eyes met, Artensa knew her boss could
use some company.

“I’m surprised you didn’t just stay there,” she said, “After the year we just
had, a shelter doesn’t sound half bad.”

Corlund nodded silently and Artensa gave her a hug before they walked
slowly to the CEO’s corner office. For a long time they simply stood near a
floor-to-ceiling window and looked out at the lights of the 405 streaming
through fields of office buildings that had replaced the groves of orange trees.
The silence was eventually broken by a whisper.

“I parked two blocks away, Dolly, so nobody would see my car, and
walking in felt like, well it felt like - - -“

“Like you were coming in off the street and needed some shelter yourself.
Honey, loneliness cuts just as deep whether you’re driving a Cadillac or a
shopping cart.”

Corlund laughed softly.

“And now I’ve got to get back downstairs and schmooze some Brazilian
money. And for what? Flying surfers around the world and fake Christmas

“Well, don’t look at it that way. Aleja and the shelter and those women
with their children can use all the help they can get. So turn on the charm and
get some business done.”

An hour later the models were in a conga line around the tree and Roberto
Mercante was as happy as he could be. He and his wife were getting along
famously with the wealthy industrialist and his entourage, regaling them with
stories about how Sonny-boy had won at Pipeline and why the “When It
Counts” campaign was going to work. Then Mercante saw a sharp-dressed
man come through the front door and excused himself for a moment.

“Ian, bro! Merry Christmas!”

“Roberto, nice party! I bet there’s no shareholders at this gig, are there?”
Clark said with a knowing laugh.

“Ah, fuck ‘em! We gotta party sometime! What can I get you to drink?”

“Well, I’m driving, so I’d - - -“

“Ian, c’mere,” said Mercante, putting his arm around the tall Californian,

“Listen, I know all about DUI’s an’ corporate liability and all that shit. See
those girls dancing around the tree? Guess who they are?”

“Don’t tell me – the designated drivers!”

“See how smart you are? So have a drink, no have two! And let me
introduce you to your chauffeurs!”

Soon Ian Clark was dancing around the Christmas tree with his driver and
her backup. The Wavelife employees were now long gone, replaced by the
Orange County party patrol in their silicone and stilettos, silk shirts and gold
chains. Clark was enjoying every second of his new life as a Wavelife insider
surrounded by beautiful women, hot-shot surfers, and flashy new money all
living it up in the lobby of the surf industry’s number one.

A guy sailed by Clark, did a double-take, and extended one hand in a bro
handshake while spilling the rest of his drink with the other.

“The man himself!”

Clark knew the look, generic OC in tinted hair and loose silk shirt, but he
didn’t who he was.

“Uh, yeah, hi! My name’s Ian Clark - - -“

“Shit, man, I KNOW who you are! Mr. Ian Clark! I’ve spent a lot of
money with Geosurf! Got great waves in the Mentawais ! Spent a week at your
place in New Zealand! The Azores! Loved the place, man! I’m one of your

The party was really loud and the guy had had a few, so Clark didn’t pay
too much attention until the guy said something that was not what he wanted
to hear.

“Say bro, I hear Santa gave you a pretty bitchen Christmas gift this year!”

“Uh, what? What did you say? Couldn’t hear you!”

“I said, I hear you’ve found a new reef – and you’re gonna sell trips on a
seaplane to surf the place!”

“What reef? I don’t know what you are talking about!” stammered a
surprised Ian Clark.

“Sure, Ian, no problem,” he winked, “Here’s my card. Just call me when
you’ve got the package all wrapped up and ready to go, ok? Merry Christmas,



Coming up in Chapter 12 – A New Man...

It’s a new year and Sonny-boy Noaloa has a whole new career in front of him – if he can only leave his pro surfing persona behind and learn to be a new kind of surfer who is not chasing fame and trophies and women around the world. Reforming surfing’s former world champion is an uphill battle for Heath Larson and Bruddah, and when the day comes for Noaloa to finally step into a new role, he ends up taking a big step back.