Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bill Holden (1930-2008)

Bill Holden recently passed on. The following is a collection of some things that have been written about him.

Bill Holden, a well-known surfboard shaper who helped mold the sport into what it is today, died recently from a heart attack. I had the pleasure of meeting Holden a few months back at this year’s Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame. His smile was ear-to-ear as he talked about his early days shaping board for Holden Surfboards back in 1955, when his creations would go for $50 a piece. These days, some of the classic boards can go for thousands of dollars. Holden, creator of Holden Surfboards on Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach, was a good friend of famous surfboard shaper Dale Velzy, among other surfing icons.

Surfboard shaper Bob “the Greek” Bolen bought his first custom board from Holden, later buying his first foam blank from him. “He was kind of worried I would go into the business. I told him I wouldn’t, that I just wanted it to build myself a board,” Bolen recalled, chuckling. Bolen did go on to become a shaper, but the two would help each other with their work over the years.

Holden held a lot of pride in the artistry and detail that goes into creating each board. “It’s like sculpting. It just gets in your blood,” he said during an interview a few months back.

Holden, a Laguna Beach resident, was such a force in the shaping world that he was the first inductee into the Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame back in 2000. The award was given to him at his 70th birthday party, a surprise to all the guests. “Bill and his wife were so touched, both of them started crying,” recalled friend Mike Ester. Holden has attended every Hall of Fame ceremony since it started, clutching his award through the day and chatting with surfers who admire his work. “He was such a sweet, sweet man. He always had a smile on his face,” Ester said.

Holden was an active member of the Longboard Collector Club... 

Holden was loading up a car for a Super Bowl party when he had the heart attack. “Bill was a good man, and really enjoyed life. He will be missed by everyone who ever came in contact with him,” said Roger Mann, president of the Longboard Collector Club.

This is another one of those columns that I do not want to write and news that I do not want to report. Another surfing legend has passed into the big point break in the sky: Huntington Beach's own super-star surfboard builder Bill Holden. This dude was one of the original surfboard builders in Orange County and one of the most fun and stoked people you could ever want to come into contact with. Everyone he met came away with the feeling of warmth and stoke from this man, including myself... 

He was someone whom I looked up to when I was a kid and a guy whom I came into contact with from time to time over the years. Every time I saw him, it made me happy. He was one of those dudes who just had a light about him and a very contagious smile and laugh...

Bob "The Greek" Bolan knew a lot about Bill and much of the history that went along with the fact that he had been building boards right here in Huntington Beach since the late '40s. It was he and Mike "da Ratt" Ester who nominated him for the Hall of Fame. His shop was on Beach Boulevard. He also was a dear friend of the late great Dale Velzy. This is an e-mail I got this morning from da Ratt: 

"I sat down with him when we gave him his award at his 70th birthday party in Laguna at his home. It was an amazing experience. I talked with him for about a half hour on his life history.

"Man, he was an innovator of some pretty cool designs and shapes in the industry. Nobody (about 150 or so) at the party knew anything about the induction. We wanted the first recipient (it was in 2000) to be originally from right here in Surf City.

"We set it up that the person inducted then picks the next inductee. We figured he would pick Dale Velzy, which he did. Then of course, Dale picked Hap Jacobs, and so on.

"Let me tell ya, he was sure surprised and totally stoked to receive the award. He has come to every award function since the first one and has brought his award with him every time. Now that is stoked! 

"He always had a smile on his face. What a sweet, sweet and happy guy. If any of you were at that 70th birthday party, you will remember how stoked he was to receive that award. You know he said that he was extremely bummed that Dale Velzy went to surf heaven before him.

"Bill nominated Dale to be the next inductee out of sheer respect and love for the other surfboard legend. They were dear friends. Well, now they are together and can talk stories for a long, long time!

"I'm going to miss that icon. Greek and I will make sure that his award will be present at the next award presentation. So much history, and such a great man.

"Aloha Bill, "'Mickey Rat' (Mike Ester)"

This came from Roger Mann of the Surfboard Collector Club: "Bill was an icon of the industry and a wonderful and cheerful man. Bill and his family were very active in the Collector Club and did a wonderful job with the big barbecues at Doheny State Park for our large annual event.

"I never saw Bill without an ear-to-ear smile on his face, and he would constantly remind the membership to call him 'Bill' rather than 'Mr. Holden.' He always told me, 'Mr. Holden is my dad.' Eventually, I grew accustomed to calling him 'Bill,' even though I always respectfully referred to him as 'Mr. Holden' ...

"I can pass on that Bill apparently had a heart attack as he was getting ready for a Super Bowl party with his family in Mission Viejo. Bill collapsed while loading his truck with goodies for the party. Steve Hammon, reports that he went quickly: 'He just went to sleep.'

"Bill was a good man and really enjoyed life. He will be missed by everyone who ever came in contact with him."

And lastly, this is from Bill's son Brad: "Our family is having a very hard time with his passing, even though we know that is the last thing he would have wanted. It has been a pleasure to have been raised by and to have known such a wonderful man.

"He touched everybody's lives in different ways and because of that I know he will always be remembered. He would want us to remember him with laughter and not tears as he always had a smile on his face."

On Super Bowl Sunday, legendary surfboard maker Bill Holden was loading up his latest creation, a sleek square-tailed thruster decorated with a lyrical line drawing of a surfer girl. The Canyon Acres resident planned to show off the newly finished board at his son's annual football party. He never made it. After placing the board into the bed of his truck, Holden, 77, collapsed, succumbing to a massive heart attack.

The founder of Holden Surfboards of Huntington Beach, Holden first started making surfboards in the mid-50s and was instrumental in defining the shape and look of the classic long board. Holden was so instrumental in the world of surfboard making that on his 70th birthday, May 20, 2000, he became the first inductee of the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame, created to honor icons of the surfing industry.

Each of his boards is considered a work of art. "I've seen hundreds of his surfboards and no two are alike," said Vito Cachia, a foot and ankle surgeon from San Juan Capistrano who owns seven Holdens. "Each board is the embodiment of his personal attention to that board and the person he was making it for. He put his heart and soul into every board he made."

Besides being beautiful to look at, "fun" is the word that best describes how a Holden board surfs, Cachia said. "They're wave magnets."

Born in 1930 in Covington, Ky., Holden and his family moved to California in 1947. He started surfing at San Onofre in the 1950s right after he got out of the Marine Corp after having served in the Korean War. In 1955, while working for Glasspar Boats, he shaped his first board out of Styrofoam, using a foam flotation bun. While it surfed, the foam board broke easily and swelled in the sun.

Looking around for a better wave tool, Holden found Dale Velzy who was selling his balsa wood boards for $87. Not wanting to spend that much money, Holden, a lifelong do-it-yourselfer, traded two tires that his father had recapped, for a blank. He shaped it on the beach of his favorite break, Old Man's, taking suggestions from old timers standing around. Each surfboard was embossed with the fun-loving Holden logo.

After that first encounter, Holden and Velzy, who by the 1960s became one of the world's most prolific surfboard manufacturers, became life-long friends. Velzy died in 2005, also at the age of 77.

While attending Orange Coast College, Holden set up a board building operation in his dad's garage in Garden Grove. During the 1960s, he was shaping as many as eight long boards a day at his shop on Beach Boulevard. According to his longtime friend, Steve Hammon of Mission Viejo, Holden wasn't motivated by money, but by quality and whether or not his creations pleased the recipients. While his contemporaries charged $600 to $800 for a board, Holden's price tags would read $300, though he'd put more than 20 hours into a project. In recent years, he often simply gave the boards away. On his 50th birthday, Hammon received a black board "shiny like a Corvette" inscribed with RIP across the top. "He was a giver," Hammon said. Cachia, too, received a gift from Holden on his 50th. Made of foam, palm, agave and redwood, Cachia said the board, which hangs in his office,is "absolutely beautiful. It is a token of friendship that I never have quite gotten over. I am so honored to have had him as a friend." Embossed on each board is Holden's logo: four grinning gremlins racing towards the surf, boards in hand.

His motto: "Everywhere…There's a Holden board" led to ads in Surfer magazine in which his boards would be pictured in a pit of crocodiles, in bed with a woman and atop a skyscraper, anywhere except in the ocean. In the '70s when long boards gave way to shorter boards, business declined. For a time Holden manufactured boards and bras in Puerto Rico and developed a plastic wax package that could be closed tight after use, preventing surfboard wax from melting in the car glove box.

Until he retried in 1992, Holden worked as a machinist for a print shop in Santa Ana. A clever craftsman, Holden could make something out of what others considered junk. Before the Laguna fire of 1993 destroyed it, Holden's shop was an inverted skateboarding bowl that he lined with fiberglass.

In the '50s Holden and friends built the ultimate Baja vehicle, The Duck, an amphibious marine vehicle that they topped with a San Clemente school bus. The remains of the vehicle, which made countless surf safaris to remote Baja beaches, are currently rusting in the sands of Bahia de los Angeles on Baja's Sea of Cortez.

According to his son, Brad, of Mission Viejo, Holden was a "die hard Marine" who always wore his dog tags and a Marine Corp ring which he made out of gold he had panned near Sacramento. 

Holden enjoyed a resurgence of appreciation in his work when in the late 80s long boards again became popular. He continued making boards for family and friends up until his passing. "It's like sculpting," Holden said at last year's gathering of the legendary shapers at Sunset Beach. "It just gets into your blood."

Inside his shop on Canyon Acres where he lived with his wife, Melanie, for the past 30 years, Holden left his glasses on a partially shaped foam blank he planned to work on the following day. "He was just going away for a minute to eat chili and be with his son," Melanie said. "He worked everyday in his shop."

Friday, February 22, 2008

WOW, Part 2, Ch. 5

“A navigator is never trapped.”

The afternoon tradewinds blew warmly from the southeast. Taveka trimmed his sail and sighted down a broad passage through two reefs. The southwest swells rolled under his voyaging craft with a steady motion. At this rate he would be home just after dark. Now that David had succeeded him as chief navigator of the Maruleans, he did not have to take part in the preparations for the rituals marking the beginning of winter. With nothing to do, he did as he pleased. He went sailing off in a random direction, and when he found what he was looking for, he went surfing.
He found fun waves to surf at a remote shoal near the far edge of the fishing grounds, leaving him to think about what life might have been like for him had he started surfing as a young man. He thought of what David had told him about Rabbit Kekai and Woody Harrison, men who had begun surfing before World War Two and continued to ride waves well into their nineties. Like them, he had discovered the peace of riding waves as a way to stop time. Now he was sailing away from those waves to face the passage of time once again. The only Marulean tradition marking the passage of time was the ceremony of the winter solstice, and this one would be his last.
A strange sensation of melancholy passed through him, like a cross swell slapping the side of a hull. The moment passed quickly. He was a navigator and his mind could pay little heed to such thoughts. His gaze was to the horizon, feeling the wind, current and swells, sensitive to any signs of change.
A dot of color caught his eye far ahead and slightly off his port bow. He maintained course until he was no more than thirty yards away. At first it reminded him of his youth during the war. More often than not a floating lifevest had contained the last remains of a corpse torn apart by sharks. It had always been a grisly task to get the dog tags or anything else that could be used for identification, but he did it by remembering that the anguish of families would be relieved by his retrieving something that could give them closure. And now, even after six decades had past, something inside him prepared for the worst. Then he saw that the lifevest was empty.
He altered course slightly and pulled the vest out of the water. It was not covered with algae or moss. It had not been floating at sea for any great length of time. He considered just how it ended up in these waters given the currents, winds and wave patterns of the Nebula Archipelago at this time of year. Then he remembered what David had seen in the sky over Ka’unua.

As Taveka’s voyaging craft came through the passage, he was surprised to see almost the entire population of the Marulean sea people waiting for him. Normally they would all be at the southern end of the island preparing for the solstice ceremony that would begin in an hour, now that the sun was on the horizon.
He came closer to the shore and a dozen young people swam out to the voyager and scrambled aboard. They surrounded him with hugs and smiles as if he had just returned from a voyage of many years. The craft drifted ever more slowly until its forward hull finally kissed the sand.
Taveka looked at the crowd, all silent yet all smiling at him. Then Kalala stepped out into the water.
“Many thought that maybe you had embarked on your last voyage, Taveka.”
“No, I have yet to see the albatross, Kalala, so I went surfing. How else is an old man supposed to find some peace and quiet around here?” he laughed.
The solemn homecoming quickly dissolved as happy children turned the voyaging craft into a place of play. Some began diving off the stern of the voyaging craft. Others began chasing each other around the decks. One discovered something he’d never seen before and with an innocent curiosity showed it to his friends as he tried to put it on.
“When the time comes, we will all be with you. Now can I ask that you be with us?”
“Of course, Kalala, but first you need to do something about these children!” They both laughed and Kalala clapped her hands. The boy dropped the orange lifevest where he’d found it and with all the others jumped into the warm water before joining his parents. Everyone began walking to where the solstice ceremony would take place at the southern end of the island. Only Taveka’s own family remained behind as he stepped off his craft and came ashore. Luan hugged him and her children wrapped themselves around the legs of their grandfather. He picked up a child in each arm and looked at their father. But David Helmares was eyeing the object on the deck of the voyaging craft.
“David, your place is with the elders. We will talk later,” said Taveka, “Come, Luan, I need to stop at my house before the ceremony.”
They left David standing next to the voyaging craft. He saw the elders following the crowd in the distance. He could catch up to them quickly. He had a few minutes.
The lifevest was of an unusual design. It was similar to what he knew was used for water skiing, but the flotation partitions were narrower and smaller, as if the vest needed to be more flexible. It was surprisingly lightweight, and he felt some hard objects in its storage pockets. He pulled open a velcro flap. Inside was a small round plastic case labeled in white letters embossed on black plastic tape: ‘Contrast Filter – Property of Bobrowesurfphoto.com’.
His mind began to race and his heart felt torn in two. He began to open a second pocket, but then stopped, realizing he’d already learned all he needed to know. He put the case back in the pocket and the vest inside the dome shelter. He knew he could not be distracted before the ceremony. He had chosen a new life with responsibilities to a people living far from the madness of modern civilization, though now much closer than they had once had been.

The next day David found his mentor mending some lashings on his voyaging craft. The fact that its owner’s time was short was no reason for the craft to be allowed to decay. Taveka was as focused as if he had been planning a multi-island long distance voyage of a thousand miles just for the pride of doing so.
David sat down in the sand and watched the aged hands pull strong on the sennit cords. He automatically stepped in to help when an extra hand was needed, then sat back down until a second set of hands was required anew. No words passed between the two men. There was no sense of age, of youth, of teacher, or of student. They were simply two men of the sea with a task at hand needing no explanation. After an hour the work was done. Taveka went around to the prow of the craft. David thought he was getting ready to shove the tri-hulled outrigger out to sea and got up to help. Taveka held up his hand.
“No. For this you cannot help me. She will never touch land again. I must do this alone.”
The job would have been immensely difficult for the two of them. To David it was clearly impossible that Taveka could do it alone. Then David caught himself, knowing it was time to learn yet another lesson from a proud man with a sharp mind.
Taveka sized up the distance to the water. He checked the tether between the canoe and its mooring tree. Then the old navigator went to the village’s common work shed. After a number of trips he had assembled a large cache of small bags, a dozen roller logs, a long, stout pole, and another log about twice the diameter of the rollers. He positioned the rollers around the hulls, and then positioned the lever and fulcrum near the first roller under the forward prow of the main hull. He then a dug a hole in the sand, lined it with a bag, filled it with sand, and then gathered the top into a knot from which he extended a sennit rope. He looped the rope around the end of the lever, and then used his weight to push down on the lever, raising the hull a few inches. He tied off the lever to the rope and positioned the roller beneath the hull.
He repeated the process again and again until his voyaging craft was resting entirely on rollers. He positioned more rollers between the stern and the water’s edge. Each action was, in and of itself, nothing strenuous. Slowly but surely the craft was now made ready to launch.
Taveka stopped and looked at the sun. Then he looked at the water’s edge. The tide had come in almost a foot since he had begun the process. It was not yet at its peak.
“I have time before the tide. Let us talk.”
“Where did you find the lifevest?”
“Where the winds and currents and swell had taken it.”
“Where do you think it came - - -”
Taveka’s look told Helmares the answer. He tried to soften the blow.
“There are two other reefs nearby. Maybe they were not at Ka’unua.”
“And if they were?”
“That will not change what I will do there. And since I myself plan to surf Ka’unua - - -”
Taveka saw the look of surprise on David’s face.
“Why not? I can ride waves. Why wreck a good voyager?”
“But the traditions - - -”
“David, traditions are not the past. The past is dead. Traditions need to be alive, and when we can add something of the present to them, we must. Otherwise we are trapped. And a navigator is never trapped.”
David Helmares looked away to the horizon.
“David, you have decades ahead of you and you will always be challenged by currents of change. You came here seeking refuge from progress, yet even in the short time you’ve been here, it has become harder to fill the fish traps because the waters have risen. There are clouds to the south I have never seen before. The swells are not as constant yet sometimes they are more powerful than I can remember.”
David turned to his mentor.
“I was listening to the BBC last night. There was a story about two speeches made recently by men running the biggest oil companies in the world. They both said the use of oil has reached a point where the momentum cannot be stopped.”
“And what did they propose to do about it?”
“Pump the excess carbon back into the ground.”
“Well, at least they are trying something new.”
Taveka’s tone brought a smile to David’s face.
“Ok, Taveka, I get it. So, you’ll go to Ka’unua when the surf is big?”
“Yes, David. I want to surf those waves, and I want to ride inside them. What better way to end my life?”
Taveka winked at David and they both had to laugh.
“Well, then we’d better pray for surf!”
“Yes, David, maybe it will be the biggest swell of my life. Or at least as big as the waves you saw when you were there.”
“Well, you just might get it, Taveka. It was huge during that swell a moon ago. You know, you sound just like the surfer who once said if he had to die, he would die happily if it could happen in big waves. And he did.”
“Oh, the Hawaiian who drowned in California?”
“How did you know about Mark Foo?”
“Same way you knew about the oil executives. The BBC always gleans these little nuggets that say a lot about the world.”
“Yes, they’d understand the irony of him drowning with dozens of photographers and surfers around,” said Helmares with a wry grin, “I’m sure he didn’t plan it, but at least he died the way he wanted to.”
“As I will, David, so when I don’t come up after my last wave at Ka’unua, don’t try to save me.”
The smile disappeared from David’s face.
“No David, remember I am doing this because it is our way. You and I are connected through my death and you cannot prevent it. There are no alternatives. That’s the way it is David, and we must make our peace with it.”
Taveka knew David understood him perfectly but that there was still something else troubling his former apprentice.
“And if there are other surfers there, try to make your peace with them.”
“Taveka, shouldn’t we be alone for a moment so important to both of us? And what if they - - -”
“What if they what, David? They’ll let me die in peace, won’t they?”
“Taveka, they take over surf spots and run everyone out of the water to film commercials. They hire guards to beat up people who don’t get out of their way for their contests. They are capable of anything.”
“So am I, David, when it comes to life and death, remember? However, since my riding waves at Ka’unua is about MY death, I’m not worried. You’re the one who is going to have to solve the problems they bring with them, not me.”
“And I will, Taveka, one step at a time. Just like you solved the problem of launching your craft.”
Taveka looked at the water’s edge and then looked David in the eye. Without breaking his gaze, he pushed the bow of the craft with a firm motion, launching it effortlessly down the slipway of roller logs into the quiet waters of the lagoon.
“Such is life, and such is death, David. People spend their lives solving problems, and if they are patient and think clearly, solutions present themselves more often than not. That is the proper path for a navigator. And when you get to the end of that path, death is but a simple and effortless motion from one world to another.”
David watched his mentor walk down to the water’s edge, push the craft further out into the lagoon, and leap aboard.
“However, I’m not gone yet, so let’s make sure she doesn’t drift away,” he said, tossing a line to David, “And then I need to eat and rest a little.”
“Yes, you did a lot of work, Taveka.”
“The work wasn’t hard. It’s the talking that gets to me. Let’s go.”

Monday, February 04, 2008

WOW, Part 2, Ch. 4

The Aeolusean Agreement

The people emerging from the long black limousines had been picked up by a Gulfstream V corporate at airports in Hawai’i and California, and now they were about to complete the last leg of their trip. Many had never seen the New York skyline etched against the twilight of a June night, and as they walked towards a private pier jutting out into the East River, they were captivated by the sight of the lights coming on in the City That Never Sleeps. A motor launch was waiting for them, as were two people in bright blue uniforms.
“Hello everyone! I’m John Frazer, captain of the Aeolusean. Hope you all had a good flight. Mr. Jeffries sends his regards and will be joining you early tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be going on a short cruise down the river and then out to Long Island for your meetings tomorrow. May I introduce Robin Maguire, our chief steward.”
“Yes, welcome! We’ve made special arrangements for the children and, of course, the teenagers. We’ll sort things out aboard the Aeolusean so that everyone is comfortable. For those of you who were with us in Florida, we have taken the liberty of reserving for you the same suites.”
“Why don’t we just shuffle ‘em up and everybody gets a different one this time?” said Heath Larson.
“Well, sir, with everybody’s permission, we can certainly do that.”
“Yes, please, I want the Polynesian one,” said Aleja Gracellen, “You take the Greek one, Heath. After all if there ever was an Odysseus in all this, it sure has to be you!”

* * *

The day of her epiphany at Wavelife, Cheryl Corlund had brainstormed a new business plan on her kitchen table with her family, the spiritual guidance of Dolly Artensa, and the business expertise of Bill Massara and June Wilson. The first thing they completed was a mission statement “Riding With Grace Means Family First”. It was clunky and still seemed to be about surfing, but it would do for now. Next, they answered two simple questions: Why are we doing this? What can we sell that people need?
First, they focused on the why: and it was all about true aloha, that is, generosity and sharing. Ideas flew back and forth about changing life for the kids of South Central, aiding the shattered and the homeless in Southern California, giving hope to at-risk kids growing up wrong in Florida and Hawai’i, and changing the buying patterns of consumers who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Then came the hard part: how to use capitalism to accomplish those tasks. After a lot of what-if scenarios, they came up with a plan to sell clothes at affordable prices to working families using designs and marketing campaigns that inspired self-discipline and self-esteem.
Determining the corporate structure was next, and here they did something almost unheard of. The company would be owned by the Mother Ocean Foundation, originally set up for Aleja’s shelter, but now to be expanded under a business plan and public stock offering coordinated by Ben Jeffries.
They began to pencil in numbers for a very tight, hardnosed, strictly business operation to compete in a market where the competition was already fierce. Bill and June tweaked the spreadsheets on their laptops and were eventually able to predict a decent return-on-investment for the backers and shareholders within a reasonable time frame.
With a business plan penciled in, they now had to turn their attention to exactly what they would be selling. The motto’s words, “Family First,” gave them the idea of involving their families and friends right from the start. They quickly thought of putting everyone together for three days of focus groups, research and business plan development. It didn’t take long for them to decide exactly where they wanted to go after Mercante reminded his wife of their night on the Aeolusean. That decided, it was back to the office for them and Dolly Artensa to make calls, get their files in order, and pack up everything they owned in preparation for their last day at Wavelife International.

* * *

“So tell me what happened the day you all resigned,” said Heath Larson, “It must have been pretty heavy.”
“No, it wasn’t that bad, not compared to what you went through, I suppose,” said Dolly Artensa. They were sitting across from each other in the library an hour after everyone had come aboard and settled into their suites and guest cabins. But Artensa and Larson needed to talk about Cheryl Corlund, and there hadn’t been a chance on the flight across the country.
“First off, I had to go to her house and get her because I didn’t want her driving. I get there, honk the horn, no response. I go to the door, ring the bell. She opens it, and we’ve got problems. She hadn’t slept and it showed. I threw her into a cold shower while I found an outfit that worked. Then I fixed her hair and got some makeup on her.”
“But she sounded so together on the phone.”
“Honey, its one thing to talk about changing your life. Its quite another to actually do it AND eat one big dose of crow AND like it. And Roberto! Good Lord, he was in worse shape than she was! I had the kids get him outta there – told ‘em to get him down to the beach and force him to go out surfing and stay in the water until I called ‘em!”
“Good idea, Dolly. He’s not a bedrock kinda guy when he loses touch with surfing.”
Artensa smiled with a knowing look.
“A surfer in the rag trade when things go belly up! What do you expect? Anyway, now we’re gonna be late ‘cause traffic’s jammed on the freeway. We take a shortcut, and it is even worse. I’m driving but she’s getting edgy about being late for the board meeting.”
“Yeah, June told me about her walking through a blizzard in New York.”
“Well, this time she can’t walk, so she starts yelling at other cars and then at me. So I solved the problem right away. I slapped her.”
“You didn’t!”
“Oh yes I did, but not that hard and not without first warning her. But she was losing it and a meltdown was not an option.”
“Then what happened?”
“She calmed down and - - -”
“No, when you walked into the lobby.”
“A lot of people were standing around waiting for her to show up, and they weren’t there to offer her any sympathy, let me tell ya.”
“Thank God you went with her.”
“Oh, He was there too, believe me, holding me up!”
“Why didn’t she go in a back door and straight up to the board room?”
“When you write the tune, you face the music. And she’d been under so much pressure for so long that without some kind of clean release, she never would have found her spirit again.”
The memory of his near death hit Larson right between the eyes, followed by another smack to the head at the thought of Cheryl Corlund giving him a chance to find his spirit again. That did it.
“I’m gonna need a drink for this. Care to join me?”
“Well, I’m not much for drinking, Heath.”
Larson got out of his chair and walked towards the liquor cabinet.
“It’s Ben’s private stock - the best Scotch I’ve ever tasted,” he said as he began to put some ice in a glass.
“Well, in that case, I’ll take a short one, and hold the rocks!”
Larson laughed and walked back with glasses in one hand and the bottle in the other.
“May I propose the toast, Dolly? To courage and friends!” He poured from the bottle, they clinked glasses, and she took a sip.
“Whoa, this IS good stuff!”
“Dolly, say, “Geevum, brah, dis da kine stuffs!”
Artensa just laughed and they sat down.
“Heath, someday I’m gonna take you down to the ‘hood for some real English as a second language!” she said, taking another sip, “Ok, Heath, now where was I?”
“Well, you walk into the lobby and - - -”
“There’s maybe fifty people standing around. They see us come in and the place goes dead quiet. We keep walking towards the elevator, and for a second it felt like walking down an alley in the ‘hood. You know something’s gonna happen. And it did. Some guy, I think he was in accounting, steps in front of us and gets right in her face. Now, you’ll pardon my French, but he said something along the lines of, ‘You fucking witch – you fucked up everything! My stock is worthless!’ Then somebody else steps in and starts in on her about jail and lawsuits. They’re blocking our way to the elevator, and more people are starting to surround us.”
“So what did you do?”
“I didn’t move, but Cheryl stops and says in a very clear, loud voice, ‘I am still the CEO of this company. You’re both fired. Now, get out of here! Security!’ she says, without taking her eyes off them.
“I look over at the front desk and wave to my friend Otis. Got him the job. Great guy. Used to play linebacker for USC. Teaches Sunday school at my church. So I yell out, ‘Otis! There’s two fired employees who are refusing to leave the premises.’ You shoulda seen their faces!”
Larson looked at Artensa, downed the rest of his drink, and poured himself another.
“That’s just like surfing big waves. Go for it and you’ve got a chance. Flinch and you’re in big trouble.”
“Oh she wasn’t going to give an inch. She’s tough as nails when she has to be. Anyway, here comes Otis and the crowd gets out of his way, fast. ‘Ok, you two, let’s go,’ he says. They turn around looking like someone’s just pulled a gat on ‘em. He starts to herd them to the door. She follows them until she’s in the middle of the lobby. She stops, turns around slowly and stares down the crowd. Then she says, ’I’ll be meeting with the board in a few minutes and I assume they’ll be running the company for the foreseeable future. If anyone has anything more to say right now, I’ll be happy to forward your names. Otherwise, if you want to keep your jobs, I suggest you get back to work.’”
“Yeah, the board meeting! This is like hearing a good surf story! Here comes a big set!”
“So the crowd melts away and we get in the elevator. I hit the button, and the door closes. She looks me in the eye and she’s gonna cry, I can just tell.”
“Yeah, that would have been really bad! It would have smeared her makeup or something.”
“You know Heath, you really need a woman in your life. Sometimes we just have to cry, and nothing is going to stop us. So I pushed another button to stop us on the floor below the board room. We get out and go straight to the ladies room. And we both cried for about five minutes.”
“I wish I could do that sometimes,” he said, finishing off his drink.
“Real men can, Heath, and do. Give it a try sometime, you big macho stud surfer you,” she said with a smile that he couldn’t help but share, “So we cry, and then we look at each other, and you’re right, our makeup is completely ruined. So we start laughing, and then we cried some more and started smearing our faces and laughing and looking like two warrior women.”
“Like Mel in Braveheart!”
“Heath, that was just a movie. This was real. And we didn’t want the scene in the board room to be anything less than strictly business. So we cleaned up quick, but now she’s looking like I haven’t seen her for years. Serene, composed, and clear-eyed. She gets out the nail, kisses it for good luck, and off we go. We go up the stairs, open the door, and surprise the heck out of some more employees waiting by the elevator.”
“What were they doing there?”
“Probably going to get in her face like the schmucks downstairs. But she ignores them and walks into the board room at exactly ten o’clock.”
“Then what happened?”
“Five minutes later, she walks out, and that’s that.”
“Yeah, but what happened in the meeting?”
“Not a thing. It was strictly business, and she wasn’t going to have it any other way. I’m sure they would have liked to work her over a bit, but she wasn’t about to take any guff from them.”
“And then?”
“We went down the elevator and straight to her car. She drove off the lot, turned a corner, and then pulled over a few blocks down the street. Then she called her kids at the beach, and we were back at her house by noon. When I left they were around the pool looking like a family for the first time in ages.”
“So what’s going to happen at Wavelife?”
“Heath, that’s not our problem right now. They’ve got a board of directors with some heavy hitters on it and a building full of employees to work for them. We did our bit, we blew it, we fell on our swords, and now we move on. Which reminds me, I wonder what everybody’s doing? I’d better go check on the kids, Heath.”
“One for the road, Dolly?”
“No, thanks, I never finished this one! But when I see Bruddah,” she said, “I’ll send him down here. You can’t be trusted with that bottle all to yourself!”

Roberto Mercante rubbed his eyes, sat up in the bed, and looked at his wife sleeping peacefully next to him. He thought of when they’d started out together selling surf trunks and bikinis to small surf shops up and down the California coast. They’d built up a huge company, lost it all, and now they were going to start all over again, only this time for the right reasons. He bent over and kissed her forehead. She opened her eyes and pulled him down to her for a long, luscious kiss. And for the rest of the afternoon, the husband and wife were nowhere to be seen on board the Aeolusean.
Nobody noticed their absence. They were all having the time of their lives on the megayacht. Dolly Artensa had brought along her two nieces, a nephew and his friend who had just been released from LA County Jail after doing six months for burglary. Aleja had brought two mothers and their children from the shelter, women who had come to the door with nothing and now had paid positions. June Wilson was with them talking about running the shelter while the children were in the pool with the kids from Hawai’i and the Massara children. Bill and his wife were talking with Bruddah’s niece and two of his cousins on an upper deck enjoying the breeze coming in off the summer Atlantic with the New York skyline barely visible in the distance.
All the teenagers were in the games room where Sonny-boy Noaloa was showing a surprising talent playing ping-pong with Donny Mercante, who was no slouch himself. The boys from South Central couldn’t get enough of the pinball machines, while the girls sat with Anna Mercante and Aleja Gracellen. There was a lot of talk about life in Malibu, Orange County, and South Central, and how surprisingly similar things were when spirit and motivation were eroded by too much money – or not enough.

Back in the library, Heath Larson was introducing Bruddah to the wonders of Jeffries’ scotch while they perused rare volumes containing original accounts of Captain Cook’s ill-fated voyages to the Sandwich Islands.
“Cross-cultural bullshit - and its still going on! I wonder if things would have changed if the haoles had left and never come back?”
“Yeah, well maybe not too late, brah. I call up some da big boys we go take ovah da airport. Native movement protest – one call we stop it all!”
“Not a bad idea. Mebbe even call in da Tui, get fo’ reals!”
But Bruddah didn’t laugh back.
“Fuck da Tui. Dey not Hawaiian. Dey say dey Hawaiian but where da aloha wid a bunch gangstahs? And look what dey do fo’ da kids – show ‘em be tough guys, guns, fightin’ alla time, drugs. Fuck dat shit. Den dey gets money for dey clothing company and get bought off so build hotels onna sacred Ohana beaches? My family real Hawaiian. We hates dose guys. Mo’ dan we hate Captain Cook!”
Larson wished he hadn’t said anything as he watched Bruddah get out of his chair and walk across the library floor and look out the window. Then his old friend turned around.
“Say, brah, let’s get offa dis boat go into New York, eh? We get Ben geev us one ride in da choppah.”
“Sure, why not? I’ll ask him when he gets here.”
“Well, let’s get on it, ‘cause here he come!”

The chopper set down on its retractable landing pad in the aft section of the Aeolusean. The engine was turned off, the blades slowly stopped, and a door slid open. A group of children burst down the steps, followed by Ben Jeffries and his wife. She and Robin Maguire took charge of grandson Pierce and his friends. Jeffries went straight to the main lounge to touch base with the people who were integral to the success of the next three days.
Around dinner time a buffet was set out for everyone, including the staff and crew of the megayacht. When everyone had finished their food, Ben Jeffries stood up at one end of the deck and tapped a knife against a glass.
“I don’t know when there has been a more lively group aboard the Aeolusean, and for that we have to thank Cheryl Corlund for quitting her job – and to Dolly Artensa for giving her a new one!”
Everyone laughed and clapped.
“Now tomorrow we have a lot of work to do, and there is no guaranteeing any of this will pan out. We are going to be taking off on a big wave, and as Heath and Cheryl can tell you, sometimes you don’t make it.”
The entire group went quiet, and that was exactly Jeffries’ intent.
“I wish to propose a toast.” Jeffries raised his glass. So did everyone else as they rose to their feet. Even the little kids picked up on what was happening and lifted their Shirley Temples. “To Heath Larson, my personal friend who almost rode his last wave! And to Cheryl Corlund, for giving him, and all of us, a new wave to ride!”
“To Heath and Cheryl!” said everyone in unison as they all took a draught from their glasses. Then Jeffries and the gathering sat down. Heath Larson and Cheryl Corlund stood up.
“Speech! Speech!”
Corlund was about to say something when her husband pulled her down into her seat and stood up in her place. “All she was going to say was, its all Dolly’s fault!” he said, and everyone started clapping and looking to Dolly. Larson tried to sit down, too, but Bruddah pulled the chair back. “No, you go talk story, but make it short, brah, I wanna be Times Square by midnight!”
The big wave surfer gathered himself and walked to the front of the room.
“Thanks, everyone, and thanks Ben. I also want to thank Ben’s wife, and Captain Frazer and the crew, and especially Robin Maguire for keeping all the young ones happy and for the suites that the rest of us – ” he glanced at Cheryl and Roberto – “have enjoyed so thoroughly.”
Roberto and Cheryl gave each other a kiss. Their two teenagers were cringing – and happier than they had been in a long, long time.
“You know, the last time I was floating on the ocean, I don’t remember much. In fact I don’t remember anything at all since I was just this far away from being dead,” he said with a wave and nod to Bob Rowe and Randy Laine who had missed the Gulfstream but had flown in first-class during the day, “In the instant before I went under, I was so full of myself that I lost all contact with a simple fact – that I was human, just like everyone else on the planet, and just like every one of you. I thought I was master of my universe, until Mother Ocean took over, and suddenly I was nothing. And even that didn’t matter to me then.
“But when you are trapped underwater and waves are slamming you towards death, you are completely alone. And sometimes it is only then you realize life is precious and should never be taken for granted,” he said slowly, “Of course, by then it is too late as your mind goes black and no light comes on. But thanks to my friends, I’m here tonight, as we all are, to try and make the world a better place as best we can.”
Everyone clapped . . . and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“We are here to create a new way of doing business as a corporation with values. I know that right now our competitors don’t have a clue as to what we are doing, but when they get wind of us, you can be sure they won’t make our jobs any easier. After all, that’s what competition is all about. But we’ve got an edge on them that they’d never dream of – and that’s why I am here – and that’s why I convinced Ben to do everything in his power to support Cheryl’s idea. Or was it Dolly’s idea? So may I propose a toast? To Dolly Artensa – a true queen of soul!”
Glasses were raised and most were drained to the last drop.
“Now if you want to hear Dolly do “Respect”, she will be down in the disco lounge later tonight. But for now, well, let me close with a couple of thoughts. There was a man on TV a long time ago called Mr. Rogers, and most of you kids probably never heard of him, but for some of us he, well, he was a pretty good guy. And he was once asked what he thought about looking back on his thirty years of trying to reach out to people, especially young ones. And he said, ‘I don’t know that, as human beings, we are made for the world we are making for ourselves’.”
He paused to let the thought sink in all around the room.
“And then there was a guy named Ross Perot. He was very successful in his life, and one day someone asked him how he thought history should judge him since he was a self-made billionaire,” he said, glancing at Ben Jeffries who had told him the story, “So he answered the question, but he didn’t say anything about his accomplishments or his fortune. He simply said, ‘Let’s see how my kids turn out.’
“Well,” he paused, “I think we’re all here tonight to help make a world that IS made for human beings, using a corporation to get the job done. And if we do it right, then our kids, and our children’s children, will be just fine.”
The place was quiet for a second. Ben Jeffries stood up, as did everyone else. He shook hands with Larson, and the two titans gave each other a hug that would have crushed lesser men.
“Geevum brah, we goin’ for it big time!” shouted Bruddah.
Everyone broke out in laughter and applause as the two men stood apart and looked out over the deck.
“Ok, Bruddah, now we go Big Apple!” said Larson.
The lights from New York were glowing on the horizon, but it was nothing compared to the glow of human beings ready for a challenge that they knew could possibly change the world – even if only a little.

Just about everyone was up early the next morning except one husband and wife who stayed in their suite and missed breakfast without a second thought. But when he heard an alarm clock built during World War Two coming in low to buzz the Aeolusean, Roberto Mercante made his sincere and profuse apologies to a not-quite sated Cheryl Corlund. He had a plane to meet, and she was beginning to understand his attraction to her first rival.

“Clem Charleton! Great to see ya! You haven’t sold ‘er yet, have you? You said you’d call first, remember?”
“I ‘member Roberto, but after our little visit here, I gotta an airshow to do up on the finger lakes, an’ I hear there’s a lotta buyers up there,” he winked, “so you’d better make a decision pretty damn quick, good buddy.”
Another figure emerged tentatively from the seaplane. She looked around before stepping on to the tender that would take them to the Aeolusean.
“Hi, I’m Roberto Mercante. I wish we could have talked a long time ago.”
“Well, let’s get it right this time, Roberto. Wilson’s surfing career almost did me in once, and I will not allow that to happen ever again!”
“That makes two of us, mom!”
Mercante stepped out of the way as the former world professional surfing champion gave his mother a long delayed hug and a kiss.
Then Clem’s nephew emerged from the PBY along with his wife and three children. Mercante and Corlund had pulled out all the stops. They wanted every person that could possibly help them in planning their new business, including the owners of a mom-and-pop surf shop. And at Roberto Mercante’s request, Tommy Pratte had brought along some samples of his innovative surf trunks.

Friday was a busy day mixing all the young people with their parents and guardians into focus groups on what was right, and wrong, with not only Wavelife but the entire retail end of the apparel industry.
Saturday morning was spent perusing dozens of clothing samples that Corlund had “acquired” through her Seventh Avenue contacts. After lunch everyone went off to New York for a matinee show on Broadway and a fun tour of the city well into Saturday night. Sunday was relaxed and slow aboard the Aeolusean until the time came in the late afternoon for all the children and guests to go back to California and Hawai’i.
But for the principals of the new company, Monday and Tuesday were spent hard at the grindstone. Augmented by a small group of industry experts, Corlund and her team put together the steel frame of a new company. And if “Riding With Grace Means Family First” did not quite resonate yet, they had another card to play when it came to courage and resilience.

“It was a good idea then, and it’s still a good idea, and we’re going to do it,” said Cheryl Corlund, “Let’s go over everything that happened, starting with bringing Heath back to life, and going backwards all the way to the moment when Ian Clark first showed us the video.”
The surfers, the executives, the backer, and Clem Charleton were all in the library of the Aeolusean. Sonny-boy’s mom was there, too, sitting next to her son and re-claiming the role she once had as his best friend and surf coach. It took all morning to fully flesh out the after-action report of the events, from Larson’s brush with death to Ian Clark’s pitch meeting. When they were done, it was Aleja Gracellen who stopped them all in their tracks.
“You know, the footage we saw in the board room had a perfect left breaking. Being a goofyfoot, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Now Heath, you say the Navy wave action models were almost identical?”
“I checked back and figured out when Merrill must have shot the footage. There was only one Southern Hemi swell that came through just before Clark called Cheryl that could have produced the waves we saw. I got the computer graphics for it, and then when the May swell came up, I compared them. That’s why I was so amped up. What are you getting at, Aleja?”
Sonny-boy Noaloa knew the answer.
“Aleja, you one smart haole chick! Da left shoulda been da kine - - -”
His mom pinched him hard under the table.
“Excuse me Miss Gracellen, but your suppositions are quite correct. If the prevailing swell size and direction were practically the same, and the sub-surface shoaling zone identical, then the quality of the lefts should have remained undiminished.”
Everyone in the room did a double take.
“What?” said Noaloa, “What did you expect? Hey, it’s the King’s English with my mother sitting here. Isn’t that right, Bruddah?”
“Dat’s right, Wilson, and I tink you right, brah. Barbie, da left no good when we surf da place, but you tell you saw it perfect on da video, yeah?”
“Yes, Bruddah. Not only that, but on the photo trip, when the Skyhook banked away from the squall, I saw a reef in the distance and maybe another one even farther away – but the one closest to us had a left rolling along with an eye that didn’t close.”
“I wasn’t watching that trip - - -” interrupted Noaloa.
“No, you were too busy watching yourself on Roberto’s camcorder!”
“True, but when we were circling out there last time I thought I saw a circle of white water about ten miles away and one more way out on the horizon.”
“I saw ‘em as we were coming in,” said Randy Laine, “but we were so stoked on what we had right in front of us that none of us gave those other reefs a second thought. Aleja, I think you may be right.”
“Yeah, Heath, so we had to save your life because you were riding the wrong wave!” said Bob Rowe with an almost scolding tone to his voice. A few started to laugh but quickly swallowed their smiles when they saw the look of contrition on Larson’s face.
“Well, Heath, maybe you should try again,” said Cheryl Corlund, stepping in for him at just the right moment. He looked at her but didn’t say a word. Her husband, though, did have something to say.
“I agree, Cheryl, except for three problems. Ian Clark and the exact location of the reef are still under contract to Wavelife. Same for Tina Sanchez and the Skyhook. And they have the permit.”
“So what do you suggest?”
“Well, I remember the course from my time in the cockpit on the flights we made out there. The airspeeds, too. As for getting out there, well, Clem, how much would you charge for a charter to southeast of Tahiti and back?”
“Hell, that’s a long flight. Cost ya ‘bout,” he paused, “Well, you know what they say, Roberto, if ya hafta ask how much - - -”
Mercante’s excitement faded from his face as he realized just how expensive it would be to fly a PBY from Florida to Tahiti. Cheryl Corlund came to the rescue.
“However, Clem, if you donate your PBY to the Foundation and we hire you as her pilot, you get a tax write off AND a good salary. Is that right, Ben?”
“We’d have to account for all her uses and be ready for the scrutiny of the IRS. They would take a dim view of directors going on surf trips,” said Jeffries sternly, “But since the Skyhook is already doing non-profit work, we can cite them as a precedent, especially if we assist them in their work down there.”
“Well, that’s a lot of flyin’, so I’ll need to train someone in the organization to fly ‘er!” said Charleton.
“Good, Clem, and I know just the man for the job. Ok, Roberto, that problem’s solved. Now, about the permit.”
“Well, Clark got the permit for a hundred square miles all around the reef, so we’ll just have to wait until it expires – in August.”
A groan went up from around the room until Aleja Gracellen brought smiles back all around.
“That’s ok! My dad told me once that the biggest day he ever saw at Malibu was towards the end of August. It came out of the Southern Hemisphere, so I think we still have a chance! Besides, I still want to surf those lefts, Cheryl, and you said that was part of the deal!”

Tuesday night was the wrap up – and a special ceremony took place in the library of the Aeolusean. First off, the board of directors of the Mother Ocean Foundation: Cheryl Corlund, Roberto Mercante, Ben Jeffries, Aleja Gracellen, Bill Massara and June Wilson, voted to expand the board to include Sonny-boy’s mother, Clem’s son-in-law, and Bruddah, who vowed to make sure real aloha was always at the table. Next, the official document to launch the new corporation was presented to the board for consideration. Not only did it include a section based on the Valdez Principles concerning the earth’s ecology with respect to manufacturing, labor and materials, but it also established a commitment to the eco-psychology of the communities where their products would be sold.
Cheryl Corlund and Ben Jeffries were convinced that corporate stewardship of basic human rights was good for business. For them, that meant establishing a presence in the marketplace by promoting values and behaviors that are less about buying power and ownership and more about a sustainable quality of life. They knew this was going to be no easy task. Using capitalism as a tool for altruism was akin to using a hammer to sculpt a flower, and they both made sure everyone understood the severity of the challenge.
Everyone did, and no one flinched. The document that came to be known as the Aeolusean Agreement became the opening section of the articles of incorporation for a new kind of company. And the vote was unanimous.