His home life was troubled. His father had left the family when Jay was 8, and his mother struggled to keep a job and manage the household — both economically and emotionally. Her boyfriend left after he proved to be abusive.
Jay had the good fortune to live near Frosty Hesson, one of the best big-wave surfers of that era, and about 30 years Jay’s senior. Hesson had his own demons — he doubted his self-worth — but Jay prevailed upon him to teach him to surf the giant waves at a legendary area called Mavericks.
Mavericks is near Half Moon Bay, 45 miles north of Santa Cruz, and because of the area’s uniquely shaped ocean-bottom contours and coastal curve, it creates enormous winter-season wave heights of anywhere from 25 to 75 feet. In addition, the shape of the wave can be very peculiar and heavy — sometimes more sledgehammer than barrel. A number of surfers have died at Mavericks.
Moriarty had plenty of passion, but Hesson teaches him commitment — commitment to people, endeavors and a way to live. Hesson finds ways for Moriarty to develop and build himself — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Hesson’s been through a lot himself, and he sees himself in Moriarty. Together, they both grow by helping the other. They both have fears — traumas’ effects from the past, hanging on stubbornly — and ultimately they both tell each other about them.
Fearlessness and courage are a theme in this movie — applied to life, not just surfing. We learn that it takes honor and character to live with integrity and courage. And it can take practice and discipline and awareness to hone character and possess honor.
Lastly, we see Moriarty’s indomitable attitude and his appreciation for what he has. We all make a wake as we move through the world. What does ours look like?