Monday, June 25, 2007

Waves of Warning 21

Continuing the serialization of Glenn Hening's WAVES OF WARNING...

Chapter Twenty-one – An Open Window

[ 21-AnOpenWindow.pdf ]

Three lights were blinking on the phone console. Two more were steady and bright. A new e-mail was appearing every minute on one of her computer displays. And Dolly Artensa was humming “Get Down Tonight”, her favorite battle hymn when things started to get hectic. She was in her element, busy as busy could be, loving every minute of it, in rhythm and in control. Her boss was on her game, and it felt like old times.

“No, but I’ll be happy to take a message,” she said into the tiny mic on the transparent stem of her headset. She listened another few seconds and then rolled her eyes before interrupting the growing tirade in her ear.

“Excuse me, but she can’t take your call, and that’s that. I will give her the message. Thank you.” Artensa wondered if Roberto Mercante would ever re member that her instructions were to never let him through on days like this.

She pushed the blinking light of a call that was much more pleasant.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Aleja. Miss Corlund is looking forward to seeing you and,” Artensa glanced out the window at the 405, “I’m sure she can see it’s backed up, so don’t worry about being late. Just take your time. Oh, and I rode my bike today, so you can park in my spot. See you when you get here. Bye!”

Artensa pushed another blinker.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she lied with a straight face, “She’ll have to call you back later today, Mr. Clark.”

Aleja Gracellen found Artensa’s spot between a white Escalade and a black Mercedes convertible. Her Jeep Wagoneer was a bit rusted and the back was cluttered with towels, surf wax and bags of donated clothes for the shelter. She felt a bit self-conscious and thought about parking somewhere out in the lot. But she straightened her shoulders with self-assurance and confidence, set the brake, turned off the engine, and opened her door.

It banged into the Mercedes, leaving a small rusty scratch on the shiny black paint. She frowned for a second and felt a little guilty until she saw the name on the sign ‘Reserved for Mr. Mercante’. She felt a lot better.

Long strides took her across the lot and into the lobby past the walls with blow-ups of print ads showing happy, smiling people in Wavelife’s latest lines. She knew they were all models who had been paid bottom dollar but were grateful for the exposure, and she thought of the real joy she saw at the shelter when a load of Wavelife seconds and close-outs had arrived a few weeks ago.

“Wonder what the surf industry would say if they saw THOSE smiling faces in the magazine ads!” she laughed to herself.

“Go right on in, she’s waiting for you.”

“Now don’t go losing too much weight there, girl. We don’t want the stick chick waif look, now do we?”

“No chance of that! But it sure feels good to not be fighting the pounds anymore. You’ve changed a lot of things for Miss Corlund and me, Aleja.”

Gracellen grinned and her eyes were bright.

“Just doing my job!”

“And I better get back to mine.” Artensa swiveled back to her computers and phones as Aleja Gracellen walked into the CEO’s office.

“Well, I’m glad I made a good impression, but are you sure about that, Cheryl?”

“Ben Jeffries doesn’t do anything unless he’s sure. I’m going to make the presentation to the board next Tuesday, Aleja, and although you won’t be there personally, you will be there in spirit.”

“Well, I’ll be glad to show up if you need me.”

“Thanks for the offer, but you’ll be in Hawai’i.”

“What! Why?! I hate that North Shore scene!”

“We don’t like it either, so you won’t be on the North Shore. You’ll be training with Heath on Maui. We’ve got a whole new world for us just around the corner, and we want you to be ready for it.”

Training with Larson could only mean one thing to Aleja Gracellen: she was going to be surfing the waves she’d seen in the conference room last October. Ever since that day she’d thought about what it would be like to ride them, and every time she drove through the tunnel from PCH to the Santa Monica Freeway she thought about surfing through it. She took a deep breath and didn’t flinch.

“Ok, I’m game, but what about Sonny-boy?”

“Ben’s grandson Pierce really liked him, and Ben trusts the young man’s heart. We got a green light to fully develop our new business plan, and he’s a part of it, too. As is, I might add, expanding your shelter.”

Now Aleja Gracellen looked very surprised.

“Expanding the shelter? You guys are really throwing a lot at me here.”

“It will be one of the first things we do after we roll out a new Wavelife,” said June Wilson, “Now don’t forget, all this is confidential, and that’s really important, Aleja . The last thing we want is for someone to get wind of our plan, especially the press.”

“Ben and two other investors are helping us buy the company from the shareholders. If we can do it without having to fend off any unsolicited offers,” said Bill Massara, “there will be more money left over afterwards, which translates directly into things like expanding the shelter.”

“I got the part about buying the company, and I’ll take your word for the rest of it. But what does this all have to do with me, other than surfing the reef and expanding the shelter?” she asked with skepticism in her voice.

Cheryl Corlund laid some cards on the table.

“We’ve been thinking about changing Wavelife’s image for a long time, Aleja, almost since the first day I saw you surf Malibu. Opening the shelter was part of that, but now we want to go much further. When we met with Clark, it was part of our strategy, and I wanted you there, though at the time we didn’t know exactly how it would all work. But now we do.”

“We think there’s a new and bigger market out there waiting to be developed that is not dependent on the fourteen to twenty-four male segment,” said June Wilson, “Remember what we talked about on his yacht that night? And the questions I asked you about women and surfing?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you were doing market research. Stupid me.”

“Well, Aleja, I’m sorry if you feel misled in any way, but my business is to understand trends long before the trendsetters even know they are setting them, and then translate that information into multi-million dollar investments,” said Wilson.

“Ben and his associates needed to know if transforming Wavelife is going to make money for them, plain and simple,” said Massara, “All the market research told us good things, but we needed to put a face on it - - -“

“And that face is mine, right?” said Gracellen, thinking about the photos in the lobby and turning to look straight at Cheryl Corlund without saying a word. They locked eyes for several seconds, long enough for “You are using me” to be rebuffed by “Get with the progra m.”

“Aleja, you are exactly the right person to be a role model for our female customers. You are going to be at the center of the plan, as is Heath for his segment and Sonny-boy for his . This is how it works. I can’t shelter you from our business anymore. Your time has come.”

“Until my time’s over, and you go on to the next big thing.”

“Aleja, business is nothing more than riding waves of what sells,” said June Wilson, “We ride them all the time on Wall Street. In fact, I think I’m just as much a surfer as you are, only I wear silk suits instead of wetsuits. The important thing here may not be a career, but it is a window of opportunity to gain some independence for yourself and the shelter.”

“If we ride this wave with courage and style, we’ll have a lot to show for it when we kick out,” said Massara, “You saw what successful financial surfers have to show for their rides, Aleja. Imagine a mega-yacht transformed into a program for the homeless, with you as captain.”

Gracellen paused for a second. She didn’t know if the problems of the homeless could be solved by piles of money. What worked more than anything was simple human kindness, and nothing about a mega-yacht said that to her.

But Ben Jeffries had made an impression on her, too.

“And Ben Jeffries is making all this happen?”

“Yes, he is,” said Cheryl Corlund.

Gracellen should have been ecstatic but wasn’t. Even after she’d flown to Florida to meet Ben Jeffries, she never imagined herself becoming Wavelife’s next big surf star. Now Cheryl Corlund was depending on her to do just that. She knew it was no time to lose her nerve, and she didn’t when, an instant later, she remembered the lefts in Clark’s video. They were picture perfect and they were going her way.

“Then shouldn’t I have started training in January? March is pretty much the end of the big wave season in Hawai’i.”

“We didn’t know then what we know now,” said Corlund.

“You still haven’t told me how long I’ll be gone.”

“As long as it takes for Heath to get in some serious training with you. At least two weeks, maybe three.”

“Well, in that case next time you come to the shelter, you have to park your car right out in front and meet and greet every single person, ok?”

Corlund was taken aback at Gracellen’s alacrity. Wilson and Massara exchanged astonis hed looks.

“Including the ones that really smell?” said Corlund, trying to be cute with a shy look.

“Especially the ones that really smell!”

Well, I, I, sure, okay, that’s no problem.”

“Good, ‘cause there’s more. I’ll be gone the full three weeks. I want all the training I can get before Easter. While I’m gone you’ll have to take my place for two days a week at the shelter. Same for June and Bill. That covers my usual six days, right? And you three will be the organizing committee for the Easter Sunday event. And May Day, too. After all, if the shelter is part of the business plan, you all need training and first hand familiarity with how it runs. Or as Ben might say, what part of ‘due diligence’ don’t you understand?”

The C.E.O. knew when she was outfoxed. She tried not to let it show, but when she looked at June Wilson and Bill Massara, her resolve melted.

“Yeah,! Due diligence! Why didn’t the two of you think of that?”

The smile on Aleja Gracellen’s face was so sweet they all had to laugh.

“So when am I leaving?”

“Day after tomorrow, but you won’t be flying to Maui right away. First you’re going out to the reef.”

Ian Clark’s eyes kept darting back and forth between two monitors displaying market data and tracking his investments. He was ready to pull the trigger on some trades, and if his timing was right, he’d be up five grand.

Then Dolly Artensa came on the line.

“Call from Cheryl Corlund. Go ahead please.”

“Ian, stop what you are doing and pay attention,” she said. She knew exactly what Clark was doing: watching the markets and not listening.

“Uh, yeah, just a minute, I’ve just got to do this one thing, and can I put you on hold for a second?”

“No, Ian, you can’t put me on hold. Your quick trigger deals can wait, goddamn it!”

Clark knew he couldn’t stop what he was doing without missing a chance to make some money. He stalled for time.

“Hello Cheryl! How are you? Everything ok?”

“No, everything is not ok. I wrote you a check for one and a half million dollars. I own you and you’ve got work to do.”

There was no mistaking the tone in Corlund’s voice. Clark reluctantly turned away from his monitors to concentrate on the voice in his headset.

“Yes Cheryl, good to talk to you. Things are going just fine. I’ve been in contact with the seaplane people, and - - -“

“Don’t tell me what you’ve been doing. I’ll tell YOU what you’re going to do, understood?”

“Well, I’ve been pretty busy lately,” said Clark, glancing at the monitor,

“and right at the moment I don’t have much time for - - -“

Corlund cut him off.

“You signed a contract. If you haven’t read it by now, I’ll read it to you. Do I make myself clear?”

Clark remembered a sheaf of documents approved by his lawyer that he’d signed without a second glance last October. The lawyer hadn’t given them much of a look either. They both knew he needed the money, and neither was going to upset the apple cart by probing for details. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that he’d actually read the contract, only to find out he was now just another apple on Corlund’s cart.

“Uh, yes, clear as an azure blue sky, Cheryl,” he said, trapped and knowing it all too well.

“I want you, Roberto and Aleja Gracellen, plus Heath and Sonny-boy, in Tahiti by Friday. I want you all at the reef on Saturday, and everybody back in Hawai’i by Sunday night. I need on-site documentation of the place. Roberto will tape it all then catch a red eye and be in my office Monday morning.”

“You’re kidding me,” said Clark, “There is no way - - -“

“There better be for your sake, Ian. You’re a travel agent: figure it out and make it happen.”

“I don’t know about the Skyhook - - -“

“And I don’t want to hear about your problems . Is that understood, Ian?” Clark saw a quote he needed running along the bottom of his screen.

“Clark, I told you to pay attention. Don’t you understand English?”

For a second, he didn’t. The only thing he understood was what the numbers on his screen were telling him: he’d just missed his chance to make a short term killing.

“All right,” his sigh was easily heard over the phone, “Anything you s ay.”

“That’s right Ian, anything I say. Get busy and call Dolly with the flight information within the hour.”

* * *

There wasn’t much small talk on the flight to Tahiti. It had been a hectic forty-eight hours getting things squared away at the shelter on a moment’s notice along with everything else Aleja Gracellen needed to think about before going on a trip for three weeks.

Clark had gone through hell making all the arrangements for the trip, including tracking down the Skyhook and negotiating with Tina Sanchez. On the plane he simply stayed stressed, glued to his laptop, with his investments and Geosurf running full bore around the world.

Roberto Mercante was somewhere in between. He was happy to be in charge, heading to the reef, and looking forward to another flight in the Skyhook . At the same time he was dreading seeing Heath and Sonny-boy and delivering some news that would shock the two surfers. They were waiting at the airport, and Mercante figured he’d better get it over with right away.

“There’s no way that can happen. No way. It takes years to get it wired! And you’re giving us three weeks?”

“Listen Heath, this goes all the way to Ben Jeffries and the entire business plan. And we’ve got until this summer to pull this off, and you can’t tell me she isn’t in great shape.”

“You no understand da deal wit da drivah and da surfah, yeah?” said Noaloa, suddenly an expert on something he was barely qualified for, “I been work out fo’ months, know da skis from a inside and out, and - - -“

“That’s good, Sonny-boy. We’re still going to need you, I’m sure,” said Ian Clark, knowing his next paycheck depended entirely on Heath Larson getting his first wave.

“Ok, Roberto, we’ll talk about all that later,” said Larson, “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do when we get there. It will probably be flat, so I think it will be a good time to dive the reef and check the bottom.”

“Ok, yeah Heath, that’s a good idea, but don’t forget my wife needs shots of the three of you and the Skyhook .”

Larson groaned, but Noaloa perked right up.

“Ok, brah, no problem! Do one photo shoot, no big deal. So Aleja, how come you no bail outta dis like you jump da tour? I tot you hate da pro surfer stuffs,” he said with a smirk.

Aleja Gracellen chose her words carefully.

“Listen, Sonny-boy, the future of my shelter is riding on this, so don’t give me any shit. And that goes for all of you. I’m ready for the training, Heath, and Roberto, you make sure your employees here are with the program. You guys got that?”

The men didn’t say a word.

“Uh, yeah, ok. When do we get into Tahiti, Ian?” said Heath Larson, changing the subject as fast as he could.

* * *

The Skyhook circled into the wind, and once again made an indelible impression on those who had never seen her before.

“Wow, this is going to be fun!” exclaimed Aleja, trying to be a good egg now that the men were showing her some respect, “You guys ever seen anything like it?”

Larson didn’t know what to say. For a moment he was drawn out of his existential shell and was a bit awestruck by the sight of the Skyhook circling into the wind. Sonny-boy Noaloa was staring at the seaplane coming in, but he had nothing to say to Aleja Gracellen. When she had turned up in Florida for the weekend on the mega-yacht, Noaloa was not thinking about anything other than more glory and fame for himself. Now, however, they were actually going to the place where it was all going to happen, and here she was. It was a situation for which Sonny-boy Noaloa was not in the least bit prepared.

“An’ how’s mah good buddy, Roberto?” asked Owens as he helped Mercante up through the cargo hatch.

“Just great, Mac, just great. Say, Clem hasn’t sold his Cat yet, has he?”

“Don’ think so. I thought ya’all might have kep’ in touch on that.”

“Well, yeah, but when I’m around the missus - - -” said Mercante.

Owens just laughed. He had hearty greetings for Larson, Noaloa, and Gracellen. But when he pulled Clark in last, his face turned into a scowl.

“Ya know y’all cain’t just order us around, Clark, an’ I don’t care how much money ya throw at Tina an’ the Foundation. I had ta work a double shift ta git us air-ready. What in hell made ya think ya could git us on that kinda short notice?”

“Tina and the Foundation,” retorted Ian Clark, holding up his hands, “See! No cash boarding pass this time, buster!”

Owens laughed, and for a moment a smile came to Clark’s face.

“Yeah, I know. Jes kiddin’, okay Ian? We’re gonna have a good time ! Roberto, why doncha take Sonny-boy an’ the lady back ta the ‘sunroom’ an’ get ‘em ready fer takeoff. Ian, Heath, let’s git up front. Roberto, once we’re airborne cum on forward. We gotta talk sum ‘bout yer big plans.”

Victor Sanchez put the Skyhook on autopilot but remained in his seat while listening to the conversation through the hatch. His wife, Clark, Owens, Mercante, and Larson were hashing out details and making real progress.

Basically, Larson told everyone what he needed, Mercante nodded his head, Owens took notes, Tina Sanchez wrote down ballpark costs, and Clark scowled because he was no longer in control.

“That’s good news you’ve already been testing the hoists,” said Larson, “I was wondering about that. Those SUVs are pretty heavy.”

“She’s built ta carry two tons a’ torpedoes, but ma’ problem was gettin’ ‘em out of the water quick-like. But with the ‘lectric hoists, she’ll work out jes fine,” he said, glancing at Clark and knowing when to throw him a bone, “Goin’ ta Florida ta git some ‘special parts made turned the trick. Thanks fer gettin’ me there, Ian.”

Clark nodded.

“Yeah, thanks Ian,” said Tina Sanchez, “Mac’s been his old self since he’s been back. He really needed a vacation.”

So do I, thought Clark, glancing out a porthole only to see a solitary, submerged reef with not another thing in sight as far as the eye could see. “No problem,” he said, remembering the next check for one-point-five mill depended on the people sitting around him, “Now, where were we?”

“Wait a sec, are you going to hang two jetskis under each wing?” asked Roberto, “That’s a lot of drag compared to torpedoes.”

“Well, Roberto, y’all jes gonna hafta wait an’ see how I solved that problem, too!”

“So we got Heath and Bruddah on one ski, Sonny and Aleja on another, one more for safety, and one for backup, right?” said Clark.

“Uh, I don’t know about that yet,” said Heath Larson, knowing the two surfers back in the ‘sunroom’ were probably not saying a word to each other. He’d already sensed a brewing problem between them because adding Gracellen to the team had marketing written all over it. Sonny was probably worried he’d be lucky to be the board caddie, And Larson knew Gracellen was not about to try and make nice to a pouting surf star.

“Ok, Heath. We’ll figure that out later. Mac, you’ve got a draft cargo list. Tina, you’re set for fuel, food and medical?”

“Yes, and we’ll be ready for a shakedown run last week in April, first week in May.”

“Gotta question fer ya, Heath,” said Mac Owens, “Y’all shure yer jetskis kin run aviation fuel?”

“Guys are doing it all the time going after speed records. I won’t crate ‘em up for shipment until I KNOW they are ready. We don’t want any problems when we get there.”

Clark glanced at the GPS numbers on his watch and then looked out the porthole. He saw the first reef come up over the horizon, this time surrounded by a thin ring of white water.

“Speaking of getting there,” he smiled around the table, “And let me tell you, its not flat this time!” Larson and Mercante looked at each other. “Go back in the sunroom and strap in. You’ll get a perfect view of the place.”

“Shit! Where’s my camera?” exclaimed Mercante.

The two surfers scrambled out of their seats and went aft like kids running down stairs for Christmas. Tina Sanchez went up to the cockpit to co-pilot the descent and Mac Owens went up in the engineer’s tower to give the engines a visual check.

Ian Clark fished a scrap of paper out of his backpack with new latitude and longitude numbers determined by the programmers. He’d spent another five grand to pinpoint the exact location of the reef in L.J. Merrill’s footage. He pushed the GPS display button on his watch as they did a lazy circle over the elliptical reef. The waves were good, but he closed his eyes as his heart turned cold. The numbers didn’t match.

The minute the Skyhook came to a rest at the northern end of the reef, Mac Owens deployed an inflatable with an outboard attached. He took Ian Clark with him to check him out on the rig while delivering Aleja Gracellen to the most perfect lefts she’d ever seen. Clark drove Owens back to the PBY, dropped him off and picked up Mercante and Noaloa. They went over to the rights with Mercante taping everything. It was a long distance swell, and during the extended lulls Clark motored to the other side of the reef where Mercante shot Gracellen’s beautiful surfing. The two men now knew for sure that the place was in a class by itself, and with the Skyhook as a backdrop, they knew they were going to deliver exactly what Cheryl Corlund needed.

An hour later, Larson came up from his deepest dive and confirmed the quality of the reef where Noaloa had just ridden the best wave of the day.

Gracellen, a goofyfoot, was surfing the lefts all alone, taking full advantage of waves going her way. Everyone couldn’t have been more stoked. Mercante had been shooting every ride he could from every possible angle with Clark driving him around. He would have kept going but Clark had an idea. Say Roberto, why don’t you go ride a few yourself? And Heath, get out there, too! I’ll shoot you guys from the wing of the plane.”

The two men jumped at the chance. Heath went to share the lefts with Aleja, and Roberto went to the rights with a sense of release he hadn’t felt in a long time. Things were coming around, and Mercante couldn’t have been happier. Up on the wing, Clark shared Mercante’s emotions. The quality of the waves was superb, as was the surfing of Gracellen, Larson and Noaloa.

Everything was in synch. During a lull in the action, Clark stood up, stretched, and took a relaxed look around. He noticed something on the horizon that hadn’t been there an hour ago. He looked through the zoom of the camera and saw a bank of clouds to the east.

“Hey, Mac, what’s that on the horizon?”

In less than a minute he heard Owens call to Victor Sanchez to come up into the cockpit. In less than ten seconds, he heard the Captain’s booming voice.

“Tina! Prepare for takeoff! Ian! Get down here, now!”

Sitting out on either side of the peak off the southern tip of the reef, the four surfers were startled to hear the sounds of the big Pratt and Whitney engines cough into life. They were even more surprised to see the Skyhook moving towards them, and fast. In less than a minute they saw Clark and Owens in the cargo door yelling at them. The engines drowned out their words, but the frantic motioning of their arms got the message across. The surfers and their boards were pulled into the plane through the cargo bay instead of the rear tail-gunner’s hatch just as the wind kicked up to twenty knots in less than five seconds.

“Get in the back, strap in an’ hold on!” said Mac Owens to the surfers.

The Skyhook swung around so fast they bumped into each other trying to get to their seats in the ‘sunroom’. “Two to a side, and one on the fold-down seat on the rear bulkhead. Here we go!”

The Skyhook went to full throttle and fishtailed around into the wind. She gained speed, shuddered, and accelerated off the surface of the sea with a sudden motion that churned the stomachs of the passengers. Victor Sanchez put the Catalina into a steep climb, and the PBY was bumping and bucking through the turbulence of the gusting winds and sheets of rain.

But in less than a minute, the Skyhook had lifted them up into a clear blue sky and leveled out. Mac Owens poked his head into the compartment. It smelled of puke thanks to the five wide-eyed, people looking at him.

“That’s ok, y’all kin clean up later,” he said with just the hint of a grin on his face, “So, how were them waves? Sorry we had ta get out of there so fast, but yer lil’ paradise jes turned into a churnin’ toilet a’ chop an’ confusion.”

“Does that happen all the time?” asked Aleja Gracellen.

“Well, ma’am, yes an’ no. Ya never know what’s gonna happen in tha open ocean ‘less ya monitor yer weather radar alla time, which I was sorta doin’ while takin’ care of sum maintenance in the cockpit. Captain an’ the missus was eatin’ sum lunch, so, well, it all turned out ok ‘cause Ian saw ‘er comin’ for I did, so thanks ta him, it was no big deal,” said Owens with a nod to Clark that erased some more of the past between the two men, “’sides, Capt’n figured it was a good time ta do a drill. Y’all had an open window there. Then she closed, plain an’ simple. But y’all got whatcha needed, right Roberto? So no big deal!”

Roberto smiled, but Heath Larson’s mind was way ahead of Mercante’s and he wasn’t smiling.

“Yeah, but if the surf’s big and the wind comes up that fast, we’ll have all kinds of problems in the water. This is a big place, and riding huge waves is hard enough without random variables that can happen without warning.”

“Well, now y’all know why I been working on the winches, Heath. Say, Ian, why don’ you an’ Roberto jes open up the canopies a bit, get some fresh air in here? I’ll be back in a minute. We got some stuff up front that’ll help y’all feel better.”

Owens closed the hatch and Larson looked at across the compartment.

“Ian, what’s the deal on the weather out here?”

A composed Ian Clark was getting used to doing some fast thinking in the ‘sunroom’ of the Skyhook .

“Those squalls usually taper off in July, August. And even if one blows through, I bet the wind turns around offshore in its wake. We’ll just ride it out, and get even better waves after it goes by.”

Larson thought for a second. Clark’s explanation couldn’t be challenged, at least not yet.

The flight back to Tahiti was smooth. After they each got a stomach full of the airsickness concoction there was time to think about what they’d just experienced.

“Heath, you say the bottom seemed perfectly formed?”

“Yeah, but only what I saw of it.”

“One thing for sure,” said Roberto Mercante, “The surf was perfect. It’s exactly what we want. The waves, the water, and - - -“

“And no one has ever surfed the place before! And wait till it gets big!” said an excited Ian Clark now that he could feel some genuine satisfaction for the first time in months, “This is going to work out great!”

“Yeah, lemme see da one kine tube ride I got,” said Sonny-boy Noaloa as Mercante turned on the video camera and Clark moved over to watch it with them.

But neither Heath Larson nor Aleja Gracellen was interested in watching handheld surfing on a tiny camcorder screen, so they got up and went forward. She spend the rest of the flight up in the cockpit with Tina Sanchez learning about the Skyrider Foundation while Larson discussed mounting the jetskis, fuel consumption rates, and weather issues with Victor Sanchez and Mac Owens.

The sun was on the horizon when the Skyhook dropped off her passengers at the buoy where the outrigger canoes were tied up. Happy goodbyes were exchanged and everyone was in good spirits. Clark had pulled off the trip, Mercante had the footage his wife needed, the surfers were stoked, and Victor and Tina Sanchez had just made twenty-five thousand dollars they would split with Mac and the Skyrider Foundation. They’d had an open window and come through successfully. The reason it closed was soon all but forgotten.


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