Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, September 16, 2001

Novel uses surfing
as vehicle to plumb
complexities of life

"The Water's End"
By Christopher Hawkins (Trafford Publishing, 200 pages, $17.95)
(Available online at
and at bookstores in the fall.)

Review by Brandon Lee

FOR SOMEONE who claims to neither surf nor travel much-and who lives in Austin, Tex.--author Christopher Hawkins has proven himself quite capable in breathing life into a mythical, once-in-a-lifetime swell and a troubled, but soulful surfer/protagonist who allegorically tries to conquer the unconquerable.

Yes, Hawkins' new novel, "The Water's End," to be published Saturday, is your prototypical surf story in that it tells of yet another water nomad's quest for the rideable perfection, but it is the way he embellishes upon this basic plot line that makes this read fulfilling.


From his detail in describing the far reaches of Southern Mexico's coastal towns, to his uncanny ability to recreate in prose the magic of a building swell and a hard bottom turn, it's obvious that Hawkins has done his research, albeit mostly second-hand. Add to it familiar experiences of first-time romantic love and loss, the complexities of real and extended familial relationships, as well as the crises of identity experienced by several characters, and the novel can appeal also to those who've never set foot to surfboard, or ocean for that matter.

"The Water's End," tells the story of Rob Miner, a blue-collar East Coast surfer in his early twenties who willingly braves the harsh, frigid waves generated by New England storms, but longs for the warmth and supposed paradise of the waters on the opposite side of the continent. Once his grandmother--whom he's dutifully lived with and cared for on his own in her waning years-passes away, Rob has no other family ties that bind him and he sets out for the waves that he's previously only seen on the pages of his surfing magazines.

Once in Mexico, Rob falls in love in more ways than one. He finds waves he before only surfed in his dreams, becomes enraptured with another American traveler and befriends as his surf partner an orphaned teen whose parents were killed during the Zapatista rebel uprising. Unfortunately, much like himself, the girl he's fallen for is trying to erase bitter memories by forging new ones. And despite his big heart whether at sea or on land, Rob's satisfaction is fleeting when he discovers that unlike his situation, his lover's memories are willing to chase after her.

In "The Water's End," Hawkins has a story that flows much the same as some of the perfectly cresting peaks he describes. In real life and his novel, one wave is never exactly like another and a surfer can never keep nature's powerful creation harnessed beneath his board at every moment. In essence, its Hawkins' ability to accentuate this often turbulent yet nurturing experience, and then use it as a paradigm for other life experiences that makes this book a smooth and satisfying ride.

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