In her debut, Angulo offers a compelling story of the connection between two surfers.
Kaimana “Kai” Keller is a teenage Hawaiian surfer with talent and promise. Everything changes for him when he catches a wave that turns into a perfect barrel. As he’s about to exit the barrel, Keller’s “reality skips a section,” and the wave holds him underwater, causing him to lose consciousness. Kekoa Jones, a cynical, aging former pro surfer at the same beach, notices Kai’s empty board and pulls Kai out of the water. Kai is alive but in a coma and struggling; Kekoa finds himself drawn to the boy’s hospital room, and begins to talk to Kai. It becomes clear that they need each other: for Kekoa, “[t]here’s something that happens to me in this room….My own life goes on hold”; Kai, deep in a coma but still aware, relates to the reader that “seeping through the crevices in the rock wall I’ve built around myself, I hear the surfer.” Angulo seamlessly portrays the bond between the two, as Kai helps Kekoa see beyond his own negativity, allowing him to connect with the world again, while Kekoa takes Kai on a journey of self-awareness. Alternating chapters are narrated by either Kai or Kekoa, each with a different typeface. Angulo makes sure nonsurfing readers will understand various aspects of everyday surfer life and culture in Hawaii, including a handy, though not alphabetical, glossary of surfing-related terms. Overall, Angulo has delivered a novel with quiet depth and a deeply satisfying ending.
A well-told story—and love letter to surfing in Hawaii—about the transformative power of a personal connection.