Another Orca Soundings adventure for teens working on their reading skills.
Ben Currie lives in Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia. (For those of us Southern Californians with little knowledge of geography—think far to the east, far to the north, mostly surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, in Canada—but not far from the state of Maine. As for the ocean there, think cold, cold, cold!) Ben’s always been curious about surfing, but he’s a lousy swimmer. Plus, he’d been warned away from the sea by his fisherman grandfather, who understood its dangers and its killer waves. Ben misses his grandfather, who died last spring.
As much as he loves his grandfather, you know from the book’s title that Ben isn’t going to be able to stay away from the water. When he tries to surf—renting a shortboard with a V tail ( a ‘fish’), the reader knows he’s in trouble—he wants to imitate the truly experienced surfers on his first day out. So it isn’t just the freezing cold water that gets to him—it’s his naïveté that that nearly kills him as he struggles to paddle, takes off from the wrong spots, has a great chance to be mowed down by other surfers, gargles saltwater, and face-plants into the bottom of waves.
Bloodied, bruised, and broken, Ben probably would have given up if he hadn’t met an old dog named Mickey D, and then the dog’s owner, Ray. Ray is a veteran surfer from Santa Barbara, California, who has driven all the way to Nova Scotia in an old, junker van. Ray is willing to teach the ‘gremlin’ Ben. “‘Fight your inner demons.’ . . . ‘Be a warrior. Don’t ever let the suckers get to you.’”
The surf action at Lawrencetown Beach is hyper competitive and violent as guys like Gorbie and Genghis would as soon cause someone to drown or ram him with their surfboards than share waves. Yet Ben finds one more friend in Tara, who is a beautiful and graceful surfer, but knows how to stay cool. Ben will need to learn to survive, deal with loss and death, choose whether or not be a hero—all while learning to sense the rhythms of the ocean and respect its power.