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Time to rock and roll! He splashed out of the water and crossed the hot sand to his surfboard.
The board was a beauty. At seven feet long, it was known as a shortboard? the best length for doing tight maneuvers on a wave. It was made of fiberglass, foam, and balsa wood. Except for the black rubber traction pad near the tail, the deck was covered with bold graphics in neon colors. The underside was glossy white and sported three curved, triangular fins at the tail. The board's leash-a long urethane rope with an ankle strap at one end-was attached to the tail.
When Kai reached his board, he secured the strap around his ankle. Then he picked up his board and headed back into the ocean. He floated the shortboard in front of him, pushing it along until the water reached his waist. With one smooth motion, he slid facedown onto the center ofthe deck He pulled his arms through the water in even strokes, paddling away from shore.
Kai was as comfortable in the sea as he was in his own bed. He'd grown up playing in the sand and surf of this stretch of southern California beach. Kai's father had once been a professional surfer, and he made sure that his son respected the awesome and unpredictable power of the sea. When Kai showed an interest in surfing, his dad had taught him the rules of safety before they even began with the basics of the sport.
That was four years earlier, when Kai was ten. Since then, he had become as confident on his shortboard as other fourteen-year-old boys were on skateboards and snowboards. He couldn't imagine a life without surfing-and hoped he'd never have to.
Kai continued to pull himself along through the water. He wasn't alone. Eleven other people were out surfing. Some sat on their boards, watching for a good wave. Others, like Kai, were paddling out to join the lineup-the place where surfers waited their turn to surf. Only two people were actually standing on their boards and slicing their way back toward shore.
Kai reached the lineup and sat up. As he bobbed, on the waves, a cool breeze blew across his face, arms, and chest. He adjusted the neck of his long-sleeved rash guard shirt. He was glad he'd decided to wear the shirt instead of going bare chested. Not only did the stretchy fabric keep his chest from being scraped by the board, it kept him warm!
Kai looked out, to sea and spotted, a decent swell He glanced around. No one else was making a move to take it so he decided to go for it.
He lay down on his board and stroked hard to stay ahead of the wave. Then he felt it the moment the wave surged beneath him and started pushing him forward. Now! instinct told him.
In, one explosive move, be shot from a prone to a standing position. His stance was practiced and sure: feet shoulder width apart, left foot forward, right foot planted on the traction pad, and knees bent. He stretched his arms out and leaned forward for balance.
He'd caught the peak of the wave perfectly. It was a "left" a wave that broke from his left side toward right. He rode the swell frontsidem, with the white water boiling at his back and the crest rounding in front of him. The water beneath the board was like a living thing, rippling and strong., He pumped the board, pushing. It up and down with his feet, hoping to get enough speed to reverse direction and catch some air. When he didn't, he rode the wave straight into shore instead.
Kai bailed when the water was a few feet deep. He pulled on the leash to bring the board back then returned to the lineup.
When he got there; Kai saw Vaughn, a boy he knew from school. Vaughn was with another, boy who looked older and wore tinted swim goggles. The other boy looked vaguely familiar, but with those goggles, Kai couldn't place him.
"Hey, Vaughn, how're you. doing?" he called, raising a hand in greeting.
Vaughn returned the wave. Kai paddled closer to them.
"What's up, Kai?" Vaughn said.
"Hopefully me, on my board-and soon!" Kai replied with a grin.
Vaughn laughed. "Yeah, I'm hoping to get in a few good runs, too." He introduced the other boy. "Kai, this is my cousin, Roger. He's visiting for the weekend."
Roger nodded then turned back toward where the waves were forming. Kai studied the boy's profile, more certain than ever that he'd seen Roger somewhere before. He decided to satisfy his curiosity.
"You look kind of familiar," be said to Roger. "You ever surf here before?"
"No," Roger muttered.
"Roger usually rides, farther up the coast," Vaughn added hurriedly.
"Oh yeah?" Kai said with interest. "I've surfed some places up there, too I bet that's where I saw you." "Doubt it'". Roger said. "I surf at a private beach."
Kai looked excited. "But I still could have seen you there! My dad took me to a private beach up the coast last year. The waves were killer!" He smiled ruefully. "Unfortunately, the rocks under the waves were killer, too. I rolled over one that, cut my leg something fierce. See?" He pointed to a three-inch-long, jagged; white scar on his left thigh. "I almost passed out when I saw the blood."
Vaughn made a face. "Gross. Don't tell me you kept. surfing!"
"I wanted to; but my dad made me go to the first aid station By the time I got it fixed up, we had to leave," Kai said.
"How come?" Vaughn asked curiously.
"The beach was being dosed down so some movie company could shoot a surfing scene that afternoon." Kai rolled his eyes. "Someone told me the star of the movie was afraid he'd be mobbed by fans. Talk about ego, huh?"
Kai expected Vaughn to agree with him about how silly movie stars could be. Instead, Vaughn glanced at his cousin then dropped his gaze to the water.
Roger lifted his goggles and fixed Kai with a cold stare. 'What do you know about it?" the older boy said. "Maybe the guy just wanted a little privacy. I mean, I bet if you're an actor you get recognized all the time. I bet people won't leave you alone-even if that's all you want." He fit the goggles back in place, spun his board, and paddled furiously away to catch the next wave.
Kai stared after him open-mouthed. He'd finally realized where he'd seen Roger before.
Excerpted from Catching Waves by Matt Christopher Copyright © 2006 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted March 27, 2012
Posted July 8, 2011
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