The ocean is only a short distance from their mill town, but Pikelet's parents are afraid of it and Loonie's father, who owns a bar, is oblivious to it. But the ocean is a seductive presence for the adventurous boys, especially when they discover surfing. And even more seductive is Sando, a veteran international surfer who lives by the ocean and surfs with a grace and passion that the boys admire. They become his acolytes. Initially he is their teacher and guru, but gradually he begins to push them to surf in riskier and riskier situations. At the same time his wife Eva makes it clear that she can barely tolerate their presence.
I loved Winton's spare but lyrical descriptions of the exciting, harrowing thrills of surfing, as well as its beauty. It's easy to see why the lonely boys were so quickly addicted to it. But what happens when a boy is seduced by the attentions of powerful adults? When he is convinced that taking risks is the key to becoming extraordinary? That's the question Winton tackles. The two boys discover different answers, but both are powerfully and permanently affected by their childhood experiences.