________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


Wave Warrior. (Orca Soundings).

Lesley Choyce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
105 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-647-0 (pbk), ISBN 978-1-55143-649-4 (cl.).

Subject Heading:
Surfing-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Carole Marion.

*** /4

In a place where kids take to water like fish and surfing is a way of life, Ben is a poor swimmer and afraid of tackling the waves. His fear stems from his parents’ denigration of the sport and the wisdom of his grandfather’s words – words rendered even more reverent since he passed away the previous spring:

“Ben,” my grandfather told me one day while watching some kids from the city surf overhead waves, “you don’t play around with the North Atlantic Ocean. I used to risk my life to go out there and catch a couple of darn fish so we didn’t starve. But you don’t just go out there in that friggin’ cold water for the fun of it.”

     In Lawrencetown Beach, NS, if you’re not a surfer, you’re a nobody. Even Ben’s name is a nobody’s name. It isn’t cool like Genghis, Gorbie and Weed. These guys own the beach and the waves. Ben doesn’t even own a wet suit or a surfboard. School is out for the summer, and Ben’s father has gotten him a job working alongside him at the box-making plant. That isn’t Ben’s idea of an eventful summer; he is determined to teach himself how to surf.

     His first nerve-shattering experience leaves him with a bloody nose and a black eye. Oh great! Just what he needs to attract beautiful, graceful surfer Tara. While nursing his swollen nose and ogling the skilled surfers tackling the waves that almost drowned him, Ben meets an aging American surfer whose skills were renowned on the small screen and in print in the 60’s. At 75, Ray Clung has come to the quiet beaches of Nova Scotia in search of one final wave. It is Ray who teaches Ben how to become a “wave warrior,” with enough skill and confidence to compete in the junior men’s division of the mid-summer competition. Even Ray’s Zen teachings extend to losing, something that Ben is convinced he will do: “If you’re gonna lose, lose big-time. Have some fun with it. Show ‘em all you can take it.” And in losing big, Ben makes Ray proud and leaves the spectators laughing. 

     No one is laughing, however, when a tropical wave hits Lawrencetown Beach Point, and the surfers’ mettle is put to the ultimate test. And Ben is not laughing, either, when he discovers the real reason Ray has come to the Maritimes from Santa Barbara:

Ray had to lean against his van. Mickey D poked his head out the window and licked him on the cheek. “I came here to die, Ben. I’ve been fighting cancer for about three years, but it’s been winning. I was feeling better when I came here but knew if couldn’t last.”

“You’re making this up.”

“Hey, I wish I was. I didn’t write this script. I’d pencil in a happy ending, but maybe this is as happy as it gets. I was at the hospital this morning. Reviewed the whole thing with the cancer doctors here. They figure I should have been dead months ago. So it could be any time now.”

I felt light-headed. “Ray, I’m sorry.”

Don’t be sorry. I got to live one hell of a life. No big complaints.” He paused. “I could have stayed in California and watched all my buddies feeling sorry for me. Hell, they’d even let me steal their waves because they knew I only had a few more rides before lights out. But I had this vision in my head – being on the road with Mickey D and coming here. I’d always wanted to come to Nova Scotia. So I decided to come here to surf and then … well, you know.”

     This coming-of-age story is condensed into a brief, engaging tale of a 16-year-old boy who challenges himself and comes out a winner. Part of the “Orca Currents” series for reluctant readers, it will appeal to young teens who enjoy stories involving water sports and budding romances. The surfing lingo is prominent here and is a testament to the author who lives and surfs at Lawrencetown Beach in Nova Scotia.


Carole Marion is the Customer Service Manager of the Forest Lawn Branch of Calgary Public Library. Prior to this, she worked as a librarian serving youth and caregivers for over twenty years.   

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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