Twenty years forward, are we going to be living in a fabulous chlorinated utopia?
Twenty Years After
An early morning sun danced off of the water as it bloomed over the horizon, and the empty San Clemente coastline sat idle save the folding of a crisp beach break. Three solitary figures crept through an overgrowth of shrubs along the forgotten path, unmolested since the Great Shift of 2016.
Kelly Slater, flanked by his two grandsons, slowly stepped to water’s edge. The boys, trembling, each took careful hold of his hands.
“Where are we, Grelly?” asked one of the boys nervously. “I think I’m sinking!”
“Relax. We’re on a beach,” Kelly chuckled.” “And you’re not sinking. This is sand we’re standing on.”
The boys’ eyes widened as a dark green wave stood up and peeled for yards in both directions. Pointing at the liquid phenomenon with one hand, with the other they tugged on Kelly’s hemp-organic cotton blend reverse printed short sleeve camp shirt with the other.
“Grelly, Grelly!” they shouted. “That’s one of your waves!”
Kelly looked down at the boys in delight. “Pretty close, I’d say.”
“Who put it out there? Someone stole it!”
“No, boys. It was created by Nature. By God.”
Slack-jawed, the boys shared a knowing glance, then gazed up at their grandfather in awe. “Are you God?
“Ha! Great question.” Kelly exclaimed. “Let’s just focus on these waves, OK?”
The boys, truly confounded by the sight, continued to pepper Kelly with questions.
“This doesn’t make sense. Where do you plug it in? Where’s the outlet?” they probed.
“There is no plug.” Kelly replied. “They run on their own power, kids. Whether we were standing on this beach or not, the waves come. No one controls them. ”
Frustrated at the explanation, one of the boys rebutted his grandfather. “So, you’re telling us that there’s no manager, no tickets, and no lines. This is just not right. And we’re supposed to believe that some unseen force can make these waves.”
Jaw clenching, Kelly attempted to keep calm. “Nature.”
“Can we sue it?”
Kelly paused. Looking down at one boy then the other contemplatively, he responded, “Don’t you worry about things like that. Let’s just enjoy the spectacle of this beautiful swell for what it is.”
The boys, still unconvinced, proceeded with their interrogation. “Why would anyone want to go out there? How would anyone know where to stand? There’s no take-off pad. And is it deep? A person would drown, for sure.”
At this, Kelly smiled. “Yes, one would surely drown today. But, believe it or not, before the advent of my wave machines, we used to swim out there and catch our own waves,” he said.
“But that’s impossible. You couldn’t account for variability,” fussed one of the boys. “How did you program the waves?”
Kelly slowly raised his head and fixed his eyes beyond the waves.
“That’s a great question, son. The answer is: you couldn’t. But that’s the thing, you see. Before the Great Shift, we watched the ocean, read it, listened to it, built a relationship with it. Knowing the ocean and its gifts was true bliss.”
Kelly’s voice drifted.
“But then we abused it, dogged by greed. We took it for granted. Eventually, the masses started to suffocate it — those lemmings who clogged the waves with boards they didn’t know how to ride and water they didn’t know how to respect, buying unnecessary surf-gear and clothing…”
Kelly’s head suddenly shook awake.
“Well, the clothing part was OK, but the rest became a living nightmare. I saw the End and had to act.”
The boys stared admiringly up at Kelly. “So, you had to change things.”
Kelly breathed deeply. “Yes. Luckily, I dreamed up the wave pool. Now, just twenty years later, we’ve democratized surfing to the point that anyone can act like a jackass on our wave machines, anywhere in the world. There’s simply no need to come to a beach like this.”
“You’ve completely lost us,” they whined. “We want to go back to the wave pool.”
“Alright, alright. But before you go, you know the drill…”
Rolling their eyes, the boys sang out in unison, “We know, we know. A hug and a kiss.”
“And $54.99.” Kelly raised his eyebrows. “Each.”
As the boys ran back up the trail, Kelly carefully scanned the beach and walked over toward a single stone laid underneath a palm. He stooped down and dug deeply into the sand. Soon he felt the familiar edge of a 5’10” Merrick squash tail. W
ithin minutes, Grelly was out in the ocean, smiling wryly and paddling for a glowing six-foot peak.
(Editor’s note: this story first appeared in an issue of the oldest surviving paper surf magazine Surfer.)