The move to Mystery Island was the least of my worries. In fact, I had been earnestly scratching out the days on my calendar for weeks! I mean, there really was no friend to leave behind. None at all.
You see, being a spotted Kau in the middle of Meridell was not an easy life. Everyone kept on mistaking me for the spokesperson of the local Kau Kau Farms! And when this mistake first happened, I would politely point out their oversight. But on and on people would point to me and gibe at my bovine appearance, and this time they purposely ridiculed me. They’d call me Missy Moo even though that was nothing close to my real name of Kalina. Ugh, even this incorrigible neighbor of mine, Sid the Skeith, invented a rhyme that my whole township soon could chime on a dime:
Missy Moo, how do you do?
The town’s milk must be from you!
Best friend of the bakers,
You belong in Meri Acres
Picking up piles of poo!
In fact, on my last day in my village I had to endure more taunts of the dreaded “Missy Moo,” all the way to the boat until the last verses faded along with Meridell into the horizon. But I was not going to let this whole bout of bullying happen in Mystery Island. After all, their milk came from coconuts! Nevertheless, my body, my vessel that harbors such a reasonable personality as mine, is often viewed before what lies within. Indeed, the threat of being labeled a misfit again was still looming over my horned head. But this time I was determined to avoid the monstrous beast of embarrassment when it reared its grotesque maws to strike again!
Lo and behold, when I first arrived, everything was absolutely perfect. Honestly! In fact, most of my peers were intrigued with the fact that I had come from such a distant land. For once in my life, I could take a walk with someone without them humming the tune to “Missy Moo!” There was no more name calling, no more moos sent my way. Everything was absolutely perfect.
Well—there was just one tiny thing: I was completely bored out of my mind! Volleyball I was never good at, and my home-honored tradition of Cheese Rolling would be nigh impossible on the crowded jungle’s damp earth. My hooves were too stubby to grab Gormballs or flying discs, and with my full girth you can forget about hula hoops! So even though I was now enveloped in friends, I ended having nothing better to do with my time than lie in the sun.
But all that soon changed—for better or worse.
One fine summer day, standing idly in the back row of the volleyball game I was reluctantly participating in, I first glimpsed my new passion that would vice me forever more. The sight caught my eye, made my heart drop in my chest, and sent jealous chills down my spine. It was this Techo, sitting idly on what seemed to be a board of some sort, way out in the crystal blue water. Watching him, I immediately noticed a swell was fast approaching, curling over to engulf the innocent swimmer. He was sure to be swallowed up-- but no! A second more and he swiveled his board around, paddled into the wave, and, of all things, stood up! Suddenly he was gliding on the water, legs spread apart in a wide stance, arms outstretched as if embracing the fluid tides. At that moment, I realized that this sport, of which I had never seen the likes of in my land-locked village, was what I truly wanted to do.
The very next day I earnestly went the local surf shop, Neopoints clinking in the bag I clasped earnestly to my chest. As I entered the shack, a bell tolled my entrance, its pure sound ringing throughout the musty hut. Behind the counter, a blue Zafara looked up nonchalantly from his magazine. Once his sleepy irises found mine, they rolled over like waves and were gone behind the shiny pages once more. Deterred by this angst-y invitation, I observed the rest of the shack. A stack of boogie boards sat in one corner, wetsuits and board shorts in the second, and all sorts of gear and supplies littered the shelves as if they had never truly been organized.
“Don’t you have any surfboards?” I asked expectantly, my hooves twiddling together.
“Well, yeah,” the shopkeeper replied, clearly uninterested with my inquiry, “this is a surf shop.”
At the risk of sounding like I had no idea to what I was doing, I continued on with the inquisition.
“Um... where are they, exactly?”
“Out back,” was the groaned reply.
I nodded in thanks, but then remembered he couldn’t even see me behind his magazine unless he had x-ray vision. My shoulders shrunken in chagrin, I made my way to the wooden back door of the shack, and, with a few shoves, made my way to the outside. The bright sun stung my eyes, as I was already used to the dim confinements of the shop. How long had I been standing there, taking in the rustic décor with my mouth hanging wide open? Once my eyes adjusted, the surfboards loomed above me like a beacon on a bamboo rack. From long boards to short boards, they were in every size and pattern. Only one, though, caught my eye. It was a simple blue long board made of foam; deep blue, like my eyes. Grinning, I picked it up from the rack, struggling to keep it in my arms, and brought it through the back door with an enormous thud.
“Whoa, whoa! What are you DOING?” the Zafara exclaimed, suddenly alert.
“What? I want to buy—”
“Why do you think they’re outside, genius?” he scolded harshly, and at that moment my sweaty hoofs lost their grip on the board and it clattered to the floor, knocking off a dozen of the paraphernalia off the counters. To this he only moaned louder in irritation.
By then, I could see his point: the tail of the board was still sticking outside the door, even though I had crammed the rest in without at thought if it could fit inside the cramped hut at all! I attempted to lift it up and out again, but he only waved his arms around in protest and did it himself.
“Alright, girlie,” he sighed to the tropic air, laying the board against the store wall. “You better pay me and get out before you wreck anything else.”
I nodded, cheeks flushing in shame, and fumbled with my money pouch.
Meanwhile the Zafara began to stroke his chin. “Geez, I don’t know why your brother can’t buy his own stick himself...”
“B-brother?” I stuttered, snapping my head back up. “No, no. This is for me.”
“Ha!” he laughed. “That’s rich. A girl surfer, and a Kau at that!”
“What, you’ve never seen a girl surf before?” I accused, but my insides were squirming at his jeering.
“Oh, yeah, I have,” he spoke, grinning cruelly. “And they all stink like my socks! Lying on the beach is all they’re good at.”
Grinding my teeth, I didn’t speak, not wanting further my embarrassment. I could feel the cold tongue of that former beast against my neck, echoing my past torture on my peers’ behalf. I quickly thrust the Neopoints out to him and snatched my board from off the wall, hoping to never go back into that shop again. I can still remember the words he shouted to me as I stomped of into the sand:
“Don’t wipeout, now! You might make a tsunami!”
Despite this possible threat of ridicule for surfing, I still committed myself to learning the sport, the art form. My first day of waves lead me across the crowded beaches, behind the jetties, all the way into a secluded cove. The waves there were miniscule compared to the greater, more populous expanse of the beach, but I feared looking like an newbie in front of the other surfers and beach-goers. Heck, I already was under the abuse of numerous stares as I struggled with my long board, dropping it numerous times against the hot sand. Each time I would look around with my face red, grip the rails, and race off with it once more. Boy, it was difficult to carry at first. I couldn’t hold it above my head as my horns would puncture it, but carrying it under my arm was tricky, as it would often slip out from under my hoof after a while. Finally, after my fourth failure, I found a sweet spot where I could grip it with both my armpit and other hoof, and I was off!
I had also brought a surf magazine with me, unraveling it in the sand and reading an article for beginner surfers on the basics of the sport. After practicing on the sand, I gulped and headed off towards the whitewater.
There in the soup, I waited for a wave to break and churn towards me. It took me the whole day, from the early morning to the first scarlet streaks of the sunset, for me to actually tune in my balance and stand up. Every other time I was either too far forward with the nose slipping into the water, or too far back so I couldn’t even get both feet on the deck at all! When I finally found a firm stance, my back stretching straight, I was disappointed to find that compared to the graceful Techo I first saw, I probably looked unnatural and stoic.
Since my silent lagoon had usually closed out waves, as the whole thing broke all at once, I eventually had to muster up the courage to take my board and hop on down to the main beach, where the waves were much better but where judging eyes could evaluate my efforts. Desperately trying to ignore the raised sunglasses of some of my more material-oriented girlfriends, I towed my board into the water and paddled out.
Before I attempted to ride a few big ones on the outside, where the largest waves break, I stuck to the inside. Even though they weren’t even as tall as me, they were so much better than the ones I had previously been on. These I could cut on, sending out a white trail across the green wall as I glided on through. It would have been perfect if people weren’t watching me, waiting for me to choke. I could just imagine the people on the beach.
“Oh, is that a girl out there?”
“Yes, and a Kau at that too!”
“Can those even swim?”
After a couple days, it came apparent that I could no longer avoid the outside, as it was calling me like a Siren. After each mediocre wave I rode, a surfer ahead of me would catch an even bigger one and ride it further than I had ever hoped to. Unfortunately for me, out there the water’s surface was dotted with dozens of surfers waiting for that big one I wanted. But eventually I couldn’t ignore my heart’s longings anymore and began to paddle out to the deep blue horizon.
“Hey, take a look at that, boys!” a Kougra surfer exclaimed, an extended claw pointed at me. “I didn’t know you could take Kauabunga literally!”
The rest of the surfers laughed in response, but I tried to keep my lips tight. In truth, I didn’t know any comebacks to say. Instead, I’d have to show them how good I could actually surf.
The first set of waves arrived, and I was still pretty far behind the rest of the surfers. I watched as they rolled over an arching green swell easily. As it approached me, however, it began to curl threateningly. My mind screamed at me to go under, under!
Oh, but my body pleaded over.
As a result, my surfboard was tossed back by the force of the wave, jostling me under the water. I tried to scramble to the surface, but the wave broke on me and I was thrust down again. After what seemed like a whole minute, I broke the surface, gasping for breath. To my utter disappointment, what I heard instead of inquiries of my health were bouts of laughter, from both the water-goers and from the beach. My eyes tearing up, I scanned the surface for my board. A Buzz body boarder in the whitewater was clutching it in his hands. I waded over to him, and he handed it back. Even though he looked concerned, I could tell he had been laughing earlier.
“You know, that’s what leashes are for,” he reminded. “It’s for when you wipeout.”
“Yeah, thanks. I know,” was my gruff reply. Great, now they were treating me like I didn’t even know what I was doing!
Oh, I really wanted to turn back around and ride a nice big wave, one that I knew I could handle. But my body betrayed me once more and I headed back into shore, my head down yet feeling all the stares at my spotted skin.
The next time I was utterly determined to score a big one in front of all the guys, just to prove I wasn’t inferior to them in anyway. Regardless of my willpower, the new nickname of “Kauabunga Kalina” opened the old scars inflicted by “Missy Moo.” After enduring more rounds of heckling and passing over waves, I finally spotted one I could ride. I earnestly paddled into it, lifting myself up. My heart swelled at the accomplishment, but only two seconds had passed before another surfer dropped in on MY wave and completely cut me off! I swerved out, glaring at the Ogrin when he returned.
“That was my wave, pal!” I asserted, slamming the water with my hoof.
“Yeah, that was kind of mean, Harry,” the Kougra agreed.
The Ogrin simply rolled his eyes. “She’s a kook, though. Kauabunga Kalina the kook! Can’t ride a wave without wiping out and drowning us all!”
“Oh and you’ve never fallen before?” I accused.
“Sure I have, but I certainly haven’t as much as you,” he retorted. “Go back on the beach and soak in the sun with the rest of the girls.”
Even though I hated his reply, a part of me truly wanted to do that: to lie away, blending in, and be away from all this ridicule. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to walk around the beach without people shouting “Kauabunga” at the sight of me? What I wanted was a new life, away from my former one of loneliness, and now I just had to go right ahead and repeat history. Had I not learned anything?
I really tried to ride another wave, but no matter how hard I paddled I just couldn’t catch one. They teased me for being noodle armed, but I tried again and again. Eventually, I gave in, and headed towards shore, not even able to ride one in the whitewater while on my way back. When I got home, instead of placing my surfboard right next to the front door so it could beckon me in the morning, I stowed it in the under my bed, shutting the door on my wistful dream.
In the weeks following my departure from the ocean, the calls of Kauabunga subsided a bit. Sure enough, my friends had come up to me and questioned me about my neglected passion. Heck, even people who ridiculed me for it pondered on the prospect of me quitting surfing.
“Oh, I just lost my board,” I would say, waving it off like a Petpetpet. “It was stolen weeks ago.”
I somehow failed to mention that I quit because their jeers had previously kept me up at night.
So there I was again. A normal spotted Kau. I was in the back row at volleyball again. I was sunbathing with my friends, always making sure to stare up at the sky rather than the ocean. I was a typical girl, doing typical things.
Whoop. De. Doo.
I wasn’t complaining, though. If I couldn’t achieve my goal of becoming a great surfer, then I could at least accomplish having a lifestyle free of incessant gibing. And that was enough.
Anyway, this one day my itch-- that urge to throw up my bed skirt and unveil my board again—came back to me and settled in my spine. That day there was an offshore breeze, not a cloud in the sky, and the waves were absolutely gorgeous! As I sat on the beach close to the water, I watched the sand escape through my hooves like the waves I could have been catching and that other surfers were getting instead. Boy, it drove me mad!
“Oh look! Ol’ girlie!”
“Watch out for noodle arms!”
I had cringed, hearing these taunts rising in the distance. How could they still be going at it, after I gave up the whole sport?
“Be careful not to extinguish yourself!”
“Ha, ha smoke on the water, everyone!”
And then I realized this mocking couldn’t have been for me. Squinting against the tropical sun, my eyes caught sight of what seemed to be a bonfire lying on the surface of the water. A few steps forward and I realized it was none other than a fire Kyrii, sitting placidly on the waves with her flame mane quivering with heat. Around her, all the other surfers laughed and jeered. Seeing as how fire pets are usually hot-tempered, I expected her to shout back as I had previously done. Yet she merely sat there in the horizon, ember eyes peeled on the rolling set emerging. I could only watch as she twisted around and dropped into the face of the wave, moving as fluid as water on her stand. Her fire scorched the peak of the wave, sending steam rolling into the air accompanied by a loud hiss. The image was seared in my brain, as I had never seen such a beautiful sight. She was intertwined with two conflicting elements, yet completely at peace! Everyone on the beach had their eyes locked on her as she cut gracefully through the blue wave, so contrasting, so unique. As the rest of the wave began to break, she swerved out to ride yet again.
Watching this surfer, I realized that even though I had been trying so hard, I was putting my effort into the wrong places. Instead of focusing of bettering myself at the sport I loved, I yearned to fit into this new place like a puzzle piece. Every wave I had ridden on that beach had not been for my own fulfillment, but a show for others. Had I been trying to prove my worth when I already knew I was priceless?
The big difference between that Kyrii and me was that when she rode that wave, she did it for herself. There were no other surfers or spectators there at all, at least for her. It was just her and the wave, both living off each other, working cooperatively. And I, well-- had I really caught a swell with the simple goal of enjoying it?
Searching for the light to extinguish my shadow of doubts, I rushed home and pulled my dusty surfboard out from under my bed. This time I held it with a new passion and understanding as I sped out the door, across the beach, and into the oncoming waves. Though the Kyrii surfer was gone by now, I paddled to the outside with a newfound confidence.
“Oh, boy, it’s the return of Kauabunga!”
“We need some extra life lifeguards, stat!”
To this, I said nothing. I only breathed in the salty air, felt the current on my legs, tasted the anticipation on my tongue, and watched the horizon. Every sense but sound I used. My heart leapt at the rolling bulge of a wave fast approaching, just in the sweet spot I was in. This time, as I dropped in the wave, I wanted to relish every moment. Right after I stood up, the wave formed a beautiful green barrel around me and I reached out to skim the face of the wave with my hoof, feeling the spray kiss my snout. Inside, the laughs and taunts could not be heard. There was no one but me and the wave.
Oh, I really was beautiful now!
After that day, I became dutifully committed to paddling out there every day and catching the best waves I could possibly ride. Sure, sometimes I wipe out and the chorus of name-calling strikes up again, but I just smile and nod, hoping to do better next time.
Besides, Kauabunga Kalina is a pretty cool surfer name after all, if you think about it.