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Saturday, November 15, 2008  

A Young Man and His Shark

Radisson Hollingsworth wanted to be a surf champion. As a boy living near the ocean in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, he grew a youthful interest into a passion. In his last year of the fifth grade his father paid for surf lessons for him and got him his first board, a not-too-expensive dark blue epoxy Malibu board. Every weekend, he and his friends would carry their boards down to the beach and paddle out for waves. During the winter months, he wore a wetsuit; in spring he wore a rashguard shirt; in summer it was just him and baggies and maybe some zinc oxide on his nose. He would study other surfers and their styles and avidly read surfing magazines. He let his hair grow longer, at least as long as his parents would allow, and he made sure that he wore the latest surfing styles. Hanging out on the beach whenever he could helped him to cultivate a brown solar-burned skin and sun-whitened hair. He also rode a skateboard, but that was only to continue honing skills he needed to maintain his balance on the board in the surf. It was a lifestyle thing, too, but it suited the young Radisson, who got the nickname "Rad," which he liked. "Rad" seemed like a truncated version of radical and that boosted his self-confidence with friends and strangers. So Rad he was: young surfer, cool dude, athletic and healthy. He won his first surf contest at the age of 13. Life was good for the young surfer. Until he met the shark.

It was a spinner shark, prone to leaping high out of the water as it hunted schools of fish. It was a Saturday in the early summer, not unlike others the young Rad was familiar with. The surf was small that day, as is normal on the Florida east coast in summer, but glassy and surfable, at about waist high. It was very early in the morning, around 8 o'clock, and Rad was sitting on his board, legs dangling, facing the rising hot sun. His companions were scattered, several yards away, in silent anticipation. Small waves, too small yet to ride, rose and closed past them on the shore. It was calm and very quiet. Rad squinted, searching the horizon for the hump of a swell. He paddled a few feet to the south and then sat up again.

Suddenly a swirl of activity happened all around him; popping sounds were everywhere; scattered masses of small silver fish hopped on the water's surface. They lit the surface of the water like small intermittent flashlights. Out of the depths of this maelstrom of fish emerged an enormous gray figure. It rose quickly and its strong body twisted as it breached the water's surface. The fish, as big as a torpedo, was close enough for Rad to touch. Its skin was like dull slate; water streamed from its surface. Its harsh mouth opened and closed and the small silver fish, some horribly mangled, their small eyes wide with pain, poked through its gnarly razor-wire teeth. Just as quickly as it emerged, it fell back into the ocean. A hideous eye stared at Rad before it submerged. The school of frightened fish, in flight from this savage life-eater, moved quickly away. And then the water was calm. [ MORE ]

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 11:45 PM |
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