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Taylor and Johnny-Boy gaze out at the glass and sip on hot coffee as beautiful barrels roll across the reef. The two surfers in the line-up surge up, down, and over the swells that draw waves from the deep Pacific to the triangular reef naturally formed under their boards.
They wax up their boards in anticipation of capturing a few of mother ocean's jade gems of joy, delivering to the coast's sneakiest of all reefs, where finicky shelves of shacks are meant to house the chosen few that can ride this place. This is where unicorns are caught, a treasure is discovered, and waves are ridden.
After scaling the steep cliff and tiptoeing the jagged rocks, Taylor disturbs the peaceful glass with his toes and sends ripples back out to the Pacific. Johnny-Boy jumps in and paddles out first; he snags a quick little inside wave that covers him up quickly and spits him out like a cannonball from Black Beard’s ship. He turns toward Taylor with eyebrows stretched, eyes rounded, and shouts, “Whoa... nice!”
As Taylor paddles out to gain pole position, the mysterious surfer on the outside drops in deep behind the back door and weasels under the lip and right into a hollow green cylinder of surprise and then in three seconds surfs right out from under the curtain with ease...
Taylor chooses the next wave as the previous surfer spins around and drops in, blocking Taylor from the position in the pocket.
Taylor thinks, "Looks like he's staking his claim to this green seafoam treasure."
Taylor flips his board over and falls onto the jagged reef underwater. As he paddles back out, the sea-going miner smirks at him, demonstrating his claim on the beach and waits for another wave.
Tit for tat... Next time Taylor will shoulder hop the salty miner’s treasure. His chance comes with the next set of waves. Like a duel in a western film, the salty dog surfer secures the position in front of him. He takes the same one Taylor wants and twists around behind him into priority position. Positioning yourself for priority at Weasel Reef is as challenging as fighting for the inside track at a NASCAR event.
Taylor reaffirms his intention and drops in on the wave in front of the stranger, spraying water droplets his way and pulling into a nice head-high tube that peels toward the cliff. Taylor gyrates through the barrel and enjoys a greenhouse view of the water tunnel, watching the top close in on the roof of his view, where the spectators watch up on the cliff up above.
The salty sea miner paddles over to Taylor with guns a blazing; irises dilated and eyes bulging out of his sockets as if Taylor stole his gold. Barnacles of salt crystalize on his 1970s style sandy silver-blond mustache and wild waves curl from his wiry surf-style hair.
He threatens Taylor ferociously, “Take another wave of mine and I will break your stick in half!”
Taylor’s adrenaline pumps as he tries to suppress any reaction of retaliation too quickly. His heart beats like a locomotive as his concept of time slows down with introspection...
The other surfer in the line-up paddles over to Taylor to inform him that he is unknowingly in a duel with Barrel Bill, who doesn’t share his waves with anyone, not even his own son!
Taylor asks the bystander, “Oh, yeah... How did he get his name?”
The surfer replies, “Barrel Bill used to steal barrels of wine from the Highlands Distillery on the shore of the San Lorenzo River and run-roll ‘em all the way to the river mouth then drink bottles of wine with his friends on the beach.”
With an eyebrow of surprise Taylor inquires further, “You mean he would run on the barrels like log rolling?”
The surfer elaborates, “Yeah he’s the only dude that can do it, but got caught and thrown in the slammer a couple times. I wouldn’t mess with him, bro, he’ll pound you.”
Taylor acknowledges, nods, and agrees, “He’s like my dad’s age but I can see his barrel rolling skills transfer nicely over to barrel riding these killer waves.”
Taylor wasn’t about to roll over for Barrel Bill and his desperate intimidation. He’s had several years experience working his surfing rotation in with Hawaiians like Titus, the Irons brothers, and Laird guys. He even scraps often here with the crusty crabs here on the much colder Cruz coast. Besides, these waves are awesome and well endowed with island-like juice.
Another three-wave set rolls in and Johnny-Boy paddles into a nice wave that propels him inside near the cliff. The bystander surfer grabs the second wave and rides it all the way to the beach. The third wave approaches and Taylor commits but Barrel Bill appears to be thinking the same thing again. He drops in at pole position but Taylor follows through, stalling in the bottom turn for a quick second and then cuts up into the lip, ripping the top of the wave off. He looks over his left shoulder and sees Barrel Bill, eating his wake and snarling with vengeance.
Bill pulls out of the wave and sprint-paddles over to Taylor, staring and glaring at him with anger. He splashes him a few times in the face and kicks him underwater in the legs and screams,
"I told you I would break your stick in half, well..." He pauses for a second and then grabs Taylor's board, then flips it over and breaks a skeg (fin) off with his hand and rips some fiberglass off in the process but slices his hand opens on the torn glass. Blood is gushing out of his hand as he looks in disbelief.
He yells more, “Let’s take it to the beach!”
They paddle to shore and by this time Johnny-Boy is by Taylor's side paddling with him. After about five minutes of paddling and about 200 feet, they walk upon the sand. Blood continues to squirt all over Taylor's board and in the sand. Bill appears stunned and pauses in disbelief.
“Let me see your board,”
He keeps bleeding on Taylor’s board and asks, “Where are you from and what do you think you are doing here?”
“My name is Taylor and I live at the Summit currently and grew up in Hanalei, surfing the North Shore of Kauai.”
Taylor’s brain lights up like lightning as instant karma is actualizing in full form. Cloud central has been keeping its eye on Taylor for years and demonstrates its power instantaneously. Taylor comes back to Barrel Bill with,
“Why are you so bitter? You have these perfect waves to surf every day...”
Bill defensively replies, “You have a lot of nerve. Guys like you come here thinking they can surf here without respecting us. If you do this to the Choco boys, they’ll pound you... Ho, the Choco boys will bar you from their unreal waves in Hawaii.”
Taylor further secures his confident position with:
“I know, I got chased around by the locals for seven years on the north shore. It’s part of the Houle hazing process and I lived here for half my childhood too.”
Barrel Bill pushes his point further:
“When I surfed Hanalei, they hounded me too; the Choco boys won’t stand for you trying to take their waves!”
His eyes glaze with intensity. “They knocked me out of there!”
“I know brah, you have to earn their respect, show Aloha, and ask permission to date their Wahines,” Taylor jokes.
Bill tries to hold back his smile but laughs a little... and at this point, Taylor figures he will name drop a couple to validate his point.
“You know Chaz Johnson?”
Bill quickly replies, “Yeah, I used to work with him at the Distillery, loading wine barrels and shipping em out. No way... I can’t believe it.”
Taylor jumps in, “I went to church with him for years.”
Bill starts to do a 180 and turn his attitude around. He turns to my board and analyzes the broken skeg. The blood from his laceration continues to ooze and dries on the deck of Taylor’s Island Creations board. It is his favorite thruster. Bill pauses with regret and apologizes.
“I am sorry I broke your skeg... I have a barrel of wine in the back of my truck or I can give you $20 to fix your fin, if you are okay with that?”
Johnny-Boy, who was standing by the scene, jumps in and requests, “We’ll take the barrel of wine.”
I nod and wonder how many bottles are in a barrel.
Bill confirms, “I need to wrap this cut and then I will get out the barrel for you guys.”
He scales back up the rocks and up the dirt trail to his truck. Johnny-Boy and Taylor chat all the way back up the trail about how lucky they are to have avoided a fight and how they scored a free barrel of wine.
Johnny-Boy shares, “Tay, we scored... I think 16 bottles come in a typical barrel, at least the ones we used to buy for the restaurant (Johnny-Boy manages an Italian restaurant).
Johnny proposes, “That’s like two to three bottles a guy if we call everyone and have a barbecue tonight.”
The boys approach Barrel Bill and his red Toyota 4X4 with an old camper shell. He opens the back and hands a barrel of wine to Johnny and then turns to Taylor and hands him a $20 spot. As he closes the shell the guys notice three or four more barrels in the back.
He pleads, “Here’s a twenty to fix your fin. And please don’t say anything to Chaz if you see him again soon!”
Taylor agrees and reassures him, “No worries, it’s all good.”
On their way home, the boys replay the story over and over again in wonder and are thankful for the positive outcome. They invite Buffalo over to enjoy some tasty lamb chops, coupled with some Wonder Wines from the Distillery. Buffalo knows his wines and will have to evaluate the score. They update him on the day and he obliges to cruise over.
Buffalo shows up and sits down to join them for some apricot lamb chops and vino. He opens the barrel and gazes with amazement,
“Holy Vinoli! These are bottles of Ridgeline, 1982, the best Merlot to come out of California or out of the world, for that matter!”
"This stuff reverberates off the tongue in three dimensions and has a cherry vanilla aftertaste."
He continues on, “And it’s about $65 a bottle. That’s $1,040 worth of wine. What a score!"
“You can buy two boards with that.”
The guys pop a bottle and gather around to talk story and enjoy the score of a lifetime. Taylor brings the bloodstained board in to show Buffalo. Buffalo stares at the deck for a few seconds and presents a puzzling look on his face. He indicates enigmatically, “Guys, I don’t know if you see it, but his blood dried on your board in the shape of a lightning bolt! Apparently cloud central was watching over you guys. Unreal-kine...!”