The annual Maverick Shore's surf competition came around at the end of each summer here in Hilo, Hawaii. I was entering to be able to take that prize of $1,000 and the title of Mercury beach champion. The only problem was that I would be competing against Josh Campus, the known pretty boy/bully of our neighbourhood who's been training for years, just like me.
When I stepped barefoot into that soft sand, I saw Josh stretching just in front. I glared at his curly blond hair and evil smirk as he stared at the dark ocean. The sea was darker than usual. The news said there would be a storm, but the competition continued. We've surfed through waves like mountains and rain like bullets. It would be fine...
"What's wrong Cody?" Josh shouted as he started walking over. "Scared of the clouds?" He snickered obnoxiously.
"The only thing to be afraid of is that nasty hair cut of yours," I mocked. A few boys standing behind me made an "ooh" sound and cheered.
"Try coming back from that one Campus!" Tyler Chen called from behind me.
Josh huffed before saying, "watch out for the waves, we're expecting twenty-foot monsters today. Wouldn't want anyone to get hurt now would we?" He hit my shoulder, walking past me, trying to be intimidating.
The 30 competitors were divided into three groups of ten, I was in the last group with Josh. As we watched group A take-off, the rain only started descending harder, like fast torpedos shooting down to the water. I kept thinking about the weather. One of the worst days we could have a surfing competition, the number of opportunities for wipeouts and injuries made my skin crawl.
"Hey Cody!" I turned around to find Tyler waving me over. "There's someone here to see you."
A stranger stood next to him with his arms crossed. He was dressed in sunglasses and a black turtle neck. He held a black umbrella with his tattooed skinny fingers and long dark hair that hung in a low bun.
"He's a scout looking for young potential. Something about WSL," Tyler said as he fist-bumped me. WSL, it stands for World Surf League, only the best of the best have the mere chance to be even considered for that race. And there I was, standing in front of a man who worked for the organization.
"Cody Grazer?" He spoke with a deep voice. "I need to have a chat with you," the man started strolling as I followed next to him. "My name is Ross Richards, I work for WSL. Do you happen to know who Josh Campus is?"
Of course, he was here for Josh. I should've never have gotten my hopes up.
"Yeah, you probably want to recruit him instead of-"
"No," he interrupted sternly. "I need you."
"Josh Campus can not be able to win this competition," before I could ask why, he explained. "Starting today, WSL will begin interviewing the winner of this competition each year. It's a new system that gives many nobodies countless opportunities. But what you don't know is that I know Josh. We used to train together when we were younger, I've seen what type of person he is, I know what he would do with the money and fame he might receive in the future. That is, if he wins."
"Wait. You don't want Josh to win because he's irresponsible? I mean, I agree, but you want me to beat him? Look, I'm sorry but I'm not as good as Josh. I know I can't beat his talent."
"I'm not asking you to surpass him I'm asking you to cheat."
My face turned white, "what? No. I'm not cheating-"
"You don't have to win, you just have to make sure he doesn't. That's why I've taken a custom surfboard that is fixed with special fins to create perfect balance on each side, as well as a secret boost of speed at the bottom. It's super easy to operate, you'll do fine."
"But, I can't cheat!"
"Will you do it? yes or no."
I looked at him with open eyes, he glared back with his inky eyes and an intimidating expression. The rain poured down on his umbrella, making pitter-patter noises that broke my train of thought. I looked at the ground in defeat and nodded.
Ross and I made our way over to his truck where he handed me the board. It was ravishing, with white and blue tangled to create a creamy sky colour. I glanced at the end of the beach and to the water where group B was starting their race. The waves were as high as trees, with clouds that reigned over the ocean like shadows in the night.
once I made my way back to the beach, I accidentally made eye contact with Josh. His green eyes continued glaring at me and my fancy new board. Please don't come over, please don't come over. I thought repeatedly.
"Grazer!" He called, my praying didn't work. "New board?"
I didn't say anything. Then, the announcer called up group C to take their positions in the water. We both ran up to the shore. The rain was even more terrifying up close. My ears went numb as I jumped into the freezing ocean. Everything felt like a blur, the waves started moving in slow motion and I felt like passing out with the amount of stress I had. When all of a sudden, a gunshot went off and the competitors around me dove board first. My head was pulled back to reality as I continued after them.
Violent waves smashed back and forth against me. I looked around to find a few people trailing behind, struggling in this current. However, Josh was right by my side and racing with amazing speed. The first wave started to form into a huge wall of water. I gulped and paddled faster. Right when I felt it was a perfect time, I turned my board around and waited for the wave to take me so I could ride it.
"How did you get so damn fast all of a sudden!?" Josh shouted from beside me as he turned his board around as well. I ignored him and kept my stare in front.
Suddenly, the wave arrived. I was floated up easily thanks to the extra fins. Josh stood beside me as we started riding the wave. I did a few spins to impress the judges, Josh copied me but his board didn't perfect it like mine.
"What's wrong? Scared of the clouds?" I mocked as he did before.
"You're getting cocky now," he shouted, wobbling and trying to keep balance on this terrifying current. "How did you suddenly get better than me!?" With frustration, Josh rammed his board closer to mine, I swayed back to avoid his strike. My eyes went big as he continued to try and attack me.
"What are you doing!? Stop trying to cheat!" I shouted.
"You want to talk about cheating!? You're the one with a rigged board!"
I went silent in disbelief; how did he figure it out? My eyes kept staring at the end of the wave barrel that was quickly closing, making the walls tighter. Josh's eyes kept squinting, looking to the back of my board.
"Ross Richards!?" He exclaimed in rage. I turned my head to where he was looking to find Ross's name signed in big sharpie letters. "He gave you this board!?"
His face turned to pure anger. Before we could make it out of the tube, he rammed into my board and knocked the both of us over into the ice-cold water. The last thing I saw before I went under was the end of the wave, collapsing over us like the amount of emotions I was feeling. We went down with the surf, rushing into a deadly current.
I bobbed my head up from the sea only to be greeted with harsh rain and looked around frantically for my board. I saw it a few meters away, thankfully in one piece. My arms felt heavy as I swam towards it. Josh bobbed up next to the board. He glared at me through his curly wet hair, droplets of water falling off like our last bond of friendship.
"What the hell was that for!?" I exclaimed, laying my upper body on the board.
"Ross!? Ross Richards!? Do you even know who that is!?" He yelled. A sudden clash of lightning hit land, I turned my head to the beach. Coast guard was standing there, ready to rescue if we didn't come back. Thunder roared over our heads, I winced in fear.
"This is getting dangerous Josh! We don't have time to argue, we have to get out of the water before the lightning travels here!"
"Explain where you got the board first!" He shouted. My options were limited. Josh was as stubborn as a mule and wouldn't move even if he was dying. I had to tell the truth.
"Ross told me that he was part of WSL and-"
"It doesn't give you a reason to cheat!" I went silent as he shouted at me, rain poured down on us, covering his sudden tears. "I know where cheating gets you, Cody! I know where it leaves you." His sentence got quieter as he spoke. There was a slight crack in Josh's voice, a type of voice I've never heard on his pride-filled attitude.
"What happened Josh? Why are you suddenly acting all soft?"
Josh hesitated for a moment, looking at me and debating if he could trust me. Then, he spoke. "Ross was two years older than me at the time, I was fourteen, he was sixteen . There was a race for teens like us, we would be competing against each other. Ross was jealous. He was jealous of how I became so good so quickly. It took him years to perfect jumping when it only took me months. At the race, he cheated and added special fins to his board. I watched him do it behind his truck with his other sketchy friends, I tried telling the judges, but before I could get to them his friend beat me up and threatened me."
Josh lifted his arm to show his scar that's been hiding under his bracelets for years. "I didn't tell anyone because I was afraid of those guys. My pride was too big and I ended up competing with an injured arm- the biggest mistake of my life. I couldn't balance or become quicker in that current, an enormous wave hit me and I was dragged underwater, without having the strength of my arm to help me swim up. I smashed my head against a rock and passed out, almost drowning. The coast guard thankfully saved me. When I made it back to the beach on a stretcher, I saw Ross with his stupid trophy and his stupid fake smile."
"I had no idea," I said lowly with an awful feeling in my heart. Why have we been so mean to each other all these years? I never knew he dealt with this kind of pain.
"Ross went on to join WSL, doing god knows what to get his way and climb to the top. Since then, I haven't been able to surf as well as I used to. Each year I kept competing but was never able to be the best because of my injuries. Ross only gave you that board so you could win, and he wouldn't have to see me again. Because he was afraid that I would surpass him again if I was taken to WSL. Don't trust snakes like Ross, he only used you because he thought you were young and easy to manipulate. But I know you aren't. You're so much more. You deserve to win, not me."
My heart dropped. "Have you been keeping that in all these years? why didn't you tell me, why didn't you tell anyone about this?!"
"It's something I want to forget. This year I've been feeling much better and I think that that's why I've been acting so stupid and cocky, it's because I'm healthy again. When I heard that WSL was going to be here and would interview the winner, I was so happy. It's the last year I can qualify, they only take kids nineteen and under. This is my last chance to full-fill my dream. And I let my anger mess it up." He flared his arms up, gesturing to the ocean that surrounded us.
"Josh." I looked him deep in his watery green eyes, the rain blending in with his tears. "You can still win."
He chuckled, "no. I can't," Josh turned his head to the waves beyond us and pointed to a plank in the water. I squinted to see that it was his surfboard, broken in two pieces. "The current isn't exactly on my side- or my boards," he hesitated and suddenly looked up to the clouds. "And the weather!" he exclaimed, "Oh god! This is all my fault, we coulda been back at the beach by now! This is too dangerous we gotta-"
Before he finished his sentence I quickly plunged back into the water. Josh called my name but I ignored him and I ducked under the board and checked out the 'boost' Ross had told me about. I found a button next to the fins, the board had a small bump here. I bobbed up from the water and kept my finger on the button.
"You're winning this competition. And going to WSL." I declared. looking back to the forming giant wave coming closer.
"What?!" Josh exclaimed.
"You're taking this board and making a perfect surf to the shore, if they ask, I wiped out. Coast guard will rescue me once you get there."
"Cody, what about your shot with WSL?"
"I always have next year, right?" I smiled, feeling the strong current right behind me. Josh nodded and prepared himself on the board, I got ready to push the button. Suddenly, Josh grabbed me and swung me over onto the board next to him.
"Screw next year, we're doing this now!" He declared before pushing the button himself. The whopping twenty-foot wave pushed us as the board propelled forward and flew on the face of the wave. Thunder clacking as we did.
The ride was terrifying, we were hanging off by a millimetre, one wrong move and we'd fall to our deaths- or severe injuries. But at the same time, it was one of the craziest feelings I've ever felt. Escaping the wave's dreadful teeth, we made it to smooth water. Finally collapsing at the shore.
After receiving countless calls from the judges about two teenage contestants disappearing in the ocean during a thunderstorm, firefighters, and ambulances were there and ready. When Josh and I woke up the next morning, our names were on the news. Headlining with; "Two boys escape a shocking disaster after almost drowning to a twenty-foot wave during a thunderstorm. Only to make it back to the shore alone thanks to a fixed board given to them by former WSL recruit Ross Richards."
That's right. Ross was fired for being responsible for giving an eighteen-year-old a rigged board that had the power to drastically throw someone off and fling them into the air. It turned out that the boost was made for the weight of two people and Ross was just a psychopath who didn't want me nor Josh to win. In fact, if Josh didn't string me along with him on our ride back to shore, he would've fallen off and injured himself even more.
In the end, that cheating-board dragged us into that incident, but also helped us out. WSL heard about our bravery and rewarded us with special training for future years. We went on to become world champions, surfing by each other's side for the rest of our careers.