Shark Man (#8) Surfin’ U.S.A.

Tim’s father worked for the city’s maintenance shop. He worked on trucks, mowers, lifts, and tractors, anything that needed repair. Tim said he could fix anything.

“Does he know a lot about surfboards?”

“Sure,” Tim replied, as we approached his house.

Tim’s house was like my grandmother’s. It was a single-story beach house with wood-frame windows, each shaded by an awning.

Although Tim’s house was similar to ours, his yard was different. My grandmother’s yard was a double lot with several palm trees and a few large bushes, and a whole lot of sun-splotched, sand-riddled crabgrass. My sisters and I didn’t mind, especially after we found an old croquet set in the back shed. If we weren’t at the beach swimming, we were usually smacking croquet balls around the yard.

There was no croquet set in Tim’s yard. There wasn’t room for one. Every square inch was planted with a tree. Orange trees. Grapefruit trees. Papaya trees. Avocado trees. There was even a banana tree with large fan-like leaves that shaded the entrance to the garage.

“Let’s see,” Tim mumbled as we entered the garage, “we’ll need fiberglass, resin, clamps, sandpaper, a file….”

Tim named a laundry list of things I had never heard of before.

After we placed the surfboard on a set of sawhorses, Tim grabbed a file and began to smooth down the dings along the edge of the board. After he had filed a couple of them, Tim handed me a piece of sandpaper and said, “Here, sand these areas until they’re as smooth as glass.”

For the next hour or so we worked in unison filing and sanding, until we had worked our way around the entire board.

“All right,” Tim said, setting the file down, “now for the fiberglass.”

“Fiberglass?”

“Surfboards aren’t complicated things,” Tim replied, once again happy to be my tutor. “Several layers of fiberglass cover a foam core. That’s it. What makes some boards better than others is the shape of the foam core and how well it’s covered with fiberglass.”

“Oh, and the length of the skeg,” he added.

Skeg?

“Yeah, you know, the thing that sticks out beneath your board. If you didn’t have a skeg, it’d be like riding a slab of Jello. Your board would wiggle all over the place. You couldn’t control it.

As we talked, Tim set a roll of fiberglass on top of the board, along with a jar of resin. While I cut the fiberglass with a pair of heavy-duty scissors to fit the dinged areas, Tim poured the resin into a small tin can.

I watched as Tim smeared resin over a dinged area, laid a piece of fiberglass on top of it, then painted another coat of resin over the patch, careful not to work too fast so the patch didn’t move. After he filled the dings along the edge of the surfboard, Tim poured the remaining resin into the large crack on top.

“Okay,” he said, setting the can of resin down. “Nothing else we can do until it dries. Let’s go inside. I got something I want to show you.”

Tim led me through the house to his bedroom. The door caught my attention immediately. It was plastered with a poster of a humongous curling wave. Inside the curl a sun-tanned surfer crouched on an over-sized board trying to outrun the wave.

“Whoa, that’s some wave,” I said, as Tim pushed the door open.

“Yeah, want to see where it comes from?”

Tim grabbed something from his night table and spun around. It was a record album that sported the same image on the album cover that was on the poster on Tim’s door.

“The Beach Boys,” Tim grinned, flashing the cover in front of me. “It’s their newest album.”

“When did you get it?”

“A couple of weeks ago. I’ve been listening to it every night.”

“Cool,” I said, taking the album cover from him.

Surfin’ U.S.A. by The Beach Boys, I read slowly. The No. 1 Surfing Group in the Country.

As I ran my fingers over the shiny album cover, Tim jumped up on his bed and started singing at the top of his lungs:

            If everybody had an ocean,

            across the U.S.A.,

            then everybody’d be surfin’,

            like Californ-I-A.

            You’d see ‘em wearing their baggies,

            Huarachi sandals, too,…

As he sang, Tim spread his arms apart and pretended to be screaming down a giant wave.

“Hey, I know that song,” I shouted. “It’s on the radio.”

“You bet it is,” Tim replied. “At the top of the charts.”

After jumping off his imaginary surfboard, Tim took the album cover from me and threw it on his bed. “Let’s go to the beach and see what the storm has left us.”

As we headed out the house, Tim grabbed his surfboard. Although the storm had passed, the wind was strong and gusting.

“Waves!” Tim shouted, almost giddy with excitement.

Tim was right. The sea was one long line of waves all the way to the horizon.

“Look at those swells,” Tim screamed.

Although the wind was strong, it had shifted and was blowing out of the southwest, hollowing out the break, making almost perfect lines of four-foot waves. Several surfers were already in the water taking advantage of the changed conditions.

“Hey, is that Mae Beth?” I asked, pointing to a girl on a surfboard bobbing up and down with the other surfers.

“Looks like it,” Tim replied. “And she thinks she can surf, just ‘cause she’s Sonny’s daughter.”

“Tim, why don’t you like her?”

“I don’t know,” Tim scoffed, “maybe I do.”

Before I could respond Tim tore off his shirt and headed out into the water with his board. He paddled hard, past Mae Beth and into the thick of the other surfers.

At the first swell Tim turned and paddled to catch it. But the swell pulled ahead of him, leaving him short of the break. He reeled around and paddled back into the thick of the surfers. As he passed Mae Beth, he turned toward her and said something. She didn’t respond.

When the next swell appeared, several surfers began paddling to catch it, including Tim and Mae Beth. As the swell grew, they paddled harder. Finally, the swell swooped up Tim and Mae Beth, leaving the other surfers behind.

Tim was closest to the break, the fastest part of the wave. That gave him the advantage and he worked it for all it was worth, jockeying his board back-and-forth to gain speed on Mae Beth.

When he caught up to her, he angled sharply down the front of the wave, which was cresting at almost five feet. As he passed beneath her, Tim gave Mae Beth a little nudge. Mae Beth screamed as she lost her balance and plunged into the surf.

Tim continued to ride the wave, laughing out loud, until he bailed out. Meanwhile, Mae Beth swam after her board, scrambled onto it, and paddled to shore.

“I hate him!” she screamed, as she neared the beach. “I hate him!”

“Are you okay?” I asked, running up to help her.

“Leave me alone,” Mae Beth yelled. “I hate both of you!”

I watched Mae Beth storm off. Then I turned and watched Tim and the other surfers. My head throbbed. My heart raced. I paced back and forth, kicking at the sand. Finally, I turned and walked home.

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