A companion piece to the movie about surfing legend Rick “Frosty” Hesson’s life.
Hesson’s fearless love of water developed early in 1950s San Francisco; he loved the “motion and speed” of the ocean and the fact that “it was alive.” Tempering this exhilaration was life with a mother plagued by chronic digestive maladies and a frustrated, hard-drinking father overburdened with family financial responsibilities. As a teenager, Hesson expressed an interest in surfing, and soon, prefab board at his side, he began a trial-and-error ocean education at the beach and at school swim meets with a dedicated coach. Adulthood brought increased familial responsibilities and varied roadblocks as he flunked out of college, narrowly avoided the draft, processed his mother’s heart-wrenching suicide and rushed into marriage. At 26, “Frosty” (nicknamed for his whitish blond hair) revisited the surf at Hawaii’s Waimea Bay and, eventually, returned to Northern California’s Half Moon Bay, where the nation’s pro surfers often stay in the winter to be close to the notoriously mammoth “Mavericks” wave swells. Hesson enthusiastically describes his experiences riding the “Mavs” and his intensive mentorship with burgeoning surfer Jay Moriarity, a relationship that began when the boy, a quick learner, was 12. This pairing of wise experience with eager novice dominates the final third of the author’s autobiography. After years of Hesson’s mindful tutelage, Moriarity, at 16, fearlessly braved the risky Mavericks and emerged as prime sports-media fodder. Sadly, his time with the boy ended tragically when Moriarity drowned while free diving. Throughout, the author comes across as a decent man with great wisdom and compassion.
Hesson ably captures the enchantment and inherent dangers of surfing in this distinctive memoir.