“Heads up, Nancy!” George Fayne’s voice rang out over the sound of the crashing surf. “This one’s awesome, and it’s got your name on it.”
Nancy Drew waved at her friend and lined up her surfboard to catch the crest of the huge wave that was rolling in. “I’ve got it, George,” she called.
After paddling with her arms to launch the board into the wave, Nancy rose to her feet and easily caught her balance. She skimmed lightly across the eight-foot swell to the spot where the wave flipped forward. Then she rode the inside curl until it ran up onto the beach with a foamy crash.
“That was the best ride of the day!” Nancy shouted to George, who had just cruised in behind her. “Let’s get Bess to try some surfing.”
“Fat chance.” George’s tone was teasing but affectionate. “That would mean she’d actually have to get off her beach blanket.”
Bess Marvin, George’s cousin, preferred to spend her recreational time watching sports from the comfort of the sidelines. George was just the opposite. Lean and active, she loved to participate in any kind of sport. Both girls were Nancy’s best friends.
“Did I hear someone say fat?” Bess’s voice drifted across the sand. George’s petite cousin raised her blond head from the blanket where she was sunbathing. “I hope you’re not talking about me, ’cause we’re on vacation here in Hawaii all week, and I refuse to think about dieting.”
“Oh, too bad, Bess, because I just found out about this great Hawaiian pineapple diet,” George said, shaking the seawater from her dark brown curls. “It’s guaranteed to work, or else you get a free plane ticket to return to Hawaii any time — “
George stopped just in time to duck a wadded-up towel that Bess had lobbed at her.
“Don’t worry Bess, we weren’t talking about you,” Nancy said, lowering herself into a beach chair. “Besides, you know you look fantastic in that suit.”
Bess was wearing a white one-piece bathing suit that set off her trim figure.
“Thanks. You look good, too, Nancy,” Bess replied. “I noticed a few guys checking you out as you were riding that last wave. There was one guy I noticed. He was riding an aqua surfboard. He’s cute — and a great surfer, too.”
“I saw him,” George said. “He’s the one who did that amazing air flip. I’ve never seen anyone do that before, except on TV.”
“Well, I guess this beach is ‘Surfer Central’ this week,” Nancy said. “Anyone big in the surfing world should be here for the competition.”
Nancy, Bess, and George had arrived on the Hawaiian island of Maui a few days before the start of the island’s biggest surfing competition. The contest had drawn surfers from all over the world.
The three friends were visiting for a week at the home of Danny Takemura, one of Nancy’s friends who had spent his junior year of high school in River Heights. Nancy and Danny had become good friends during that year, and they’d stayed in touch ever since as e-mail pen pals.
The three girls were sprawled on a beach near Honolua, on the northwest coast of Maui. The white-sand beach formed a long, graceful crescent between two hills. It was divided in two by a long wooden pier. Dotted with graceful coconut palms, the hills and beach framed a sparkling blue jewel of a bay. Right then the bay was rolling with ten-foot waves.
“Don’t look now, but there’s an aqua surfboard heading our way,” George said.
“What?” Bess glanced in the direction that George was looking. Two tall guys were approaching. One of them was holding an aqua-colored surfboard.
Bess bent her head toward Nancy. “Oh my gosh, Nan — it’s him,” she whispered urgently. “The cute one. I think I’m going to die. How do I look?”
“Pretty good — for a person who’s about to die,” Nancy replied, suppressing a laugh. “Hey, that’s Danny with your surfer dude, and something tells me we’re about to be introduced.”
“Hey, you three,” Danny called out his greeting. His voice rose pleasantly in the rolling Hawaiian accent that was common among those who had grown up on the islands.
“I want you to meet my buddy, Josh,” Danny said. “He and I have known each other since third grade. Even so, he’s still a malihini. That means he’s a newcomer in Hawaiian.”
“Yeah, well, I had to come over from California to save you islanders from losing all your surfing competitions,” Josh said as he playfully punched his friend. “Josh Brightman,” he added, smiling down at Nancy and Bess. “I’m the polite one.”
Josh was broad shouldered and deeply tanned, with a shock of sun-bleached golden brown hair that spilled over his forehead and curled in back almost to his shoulders. The outer edges of his hazel eyes were lightly creased — from a life spent squinting into the sun, Nancy surmised.
“I saw you out there on the water,” Bess said, the faintest sign of a blush rising to her cheeks. “You were really good.”
“Josh is a legend among us surfers,” Danny said. “He’s hands-down favored to win the Golf Coast Surf-Off that starts this Saturday.”
“Golf Coast? That’s what they call this western part of Maui, isn’t it?”
“I guess you really did read all the guidebooks I sent you, Nancy,” Danny said with a chuckle.
“Golf Coast is also the name of a sports store that’s big in Hawaii and California,” Josh said. “They’re the primary sponsor of the contest this week. It’s a big event for them in many ways. They’re adding a line of surfboards, and this is a great way to let people know about it.”
Danny rubbed his hands together with anticipation. “Just think, Josh, only three more days till you win that prize money — seventy-five thousand big ones.
“Seventy-five thousand dollars?” George let out a small gasp.
Josh grinned. “Yeah, it’s big money, but I’m not spending it yet. There are a lot of great surfers signed up to compete. Any one of them could win.”
“No chance, Josh-o,” Danny said, opening the cooler he and the girls had packed back at his house. He pulled out some cans of soda and handed them around. “You’ve got it nailed. There’s no one here who knows the local waters like you do.”
“Well, Jo Jo Sergeant and Keiko Mann were favored to win.” Josh set down his board and took a soda from Danny. “But both of them had to drop out of the contest pretty suddenly. Tough break for both of them. Jo Jo came from the mainland and Keiko from Japan to compete. They were the two top contenders.”
“Why did they drop out?” Nancy asked.
Josh shrugged. “Keiko got really sick all of a sudden — food poisoning, they think — and Jo Jo had an accident and broke a leg. They’re both laid up at the motel where all the out-of-town guys are staying. It’s not unusual to have last-minute dropouts, but it is kind of weird that the two top guns got knocked out of the running like that.”
“That sounds like a mystery for you, Nan.” George nodded at Nancy.
Nancy jokingly placed her hands on her hips. “This vacation is strictly for R and R — rest and relaxation. No mysteries,” she said in a mock-stern voice. “Only fun and sun are allowed all week.”
Mysteries and adventure had a way of following Nancy Drew wherever she went. The eighteen-year-old daughter of criminal lawyer Carson Drew had already established a reputation as an excellent detective by solving a number of difficult cases.
“You guys may be here to take it easy,” Josh said, “but I’ve got work to do. I have to sign up for the opening heat at the sponsor’s tent. Then I’m going to hit the surf again. Would you like to come along?”
He was greeted with a resounding “yes” from the group.
“I’d love to, but I don’t know how to surf,” Bess replied uncertainly.
“I’ll give you a lesson,” Josh offered. He took Bess’s hand and helped her to her feet.
Josh and Bess walked a little ahead of the others, talking and laughing as they headed down the beach toward the blue-and-white-striped sponsor’s tent next to the main pier.
“Bess seems to like Josh,” George whispered to Nancy. “I haven’t seen her blush like that in a while.”
Nancy nodded. “Well, she’s right about one thing — he is cute. And he seems nice, too.” She paused and glanced out over the ocean.
“I’ll bet you’re thinking of someone right now,” George said.
Nancy gave her friend a little smile. “You’re a mind reader, George. I was just thinking how nice it would be to walk along this beach at sunset with Ned.”
Ned Nickerson, whom Nancy dated, was at tending classes back home at Emerson College. The sight of Bess and Josh having fun made Nancy realize how much she missed Ned’s sparkling brown eyes and good sense of humor.
The Golf Coast sponsor’s tent was a beehive of activity. Suffers clustered in front of a registration table.
“Be back in a sec,” Josh said to his friends as he joined the other suffers at the booth.
Nancy was checking out a display of T-shirts when she sensed that someone was watching her. She turned around and saw a man standing slightly apart from the other surfers. The man, who seemed to be in his early twenties, had a shiny black surfboard and an arrogant look on his bronzed face. He nodded to Nancy without smiling.
“Who’s the guy with the black surfboard?” Nancy whispered to Danny when he walked over to join her.
Danny followed Nancy’s gaze. “Oh, that’s Hank Carter,” he said slowly. “We call him the Lone Wolf of Maui. He’s a few years older than we are and keeps to himself, even though we all knew him while we were growing up. He’s super competitive and gets bent out of shape during a contest like this.”
Just then Nancy felt another set of eyes on her, these from a woman with long, silky white blond hair. She was standing next to Hank. The girl shot Nancy a sharp look. She tapped Hank on the elbow to get his attention. He gave Nancy one final glance before turning his attention back to his friend.
“I guess your Hank’s no lone wolf when it comes to girls,” Nancy commented as she and Danny rejoined their friends outside the tent.
Danny laughed. “Yeah, on that score he’s more of what you might call a real lady-killer.”
Josh greeted them outside the registration area. He had his surfboard under one arm and his registration forms in his free hand.
“Let’s head back to the spot where you were sunbathing,” he said. “The surf’s a little calmer there, and that would be a better place for Bess’s lesson.”
A short while later Josh led Bess into the water while Nancy, George, and Danny stretched out on their towels. Nancy took out a selection of local fruit — guava, mango, pineapple, and papaya — from the cooler. “This I have to watch,” George said gleefully as Bess took Josh’s surf-board. “If only I had a camera.”
“If anyone could get Bess out there, it would be Josh,” Nancy said. “Look! He actually has her on the board.”
Bess was riding the surfboard on her stomach for a while to get the feel of it, Nancy assumed. Then she saw Josh showing Bess how to rise to a standing position.
“She’s waiting for a good set of waves,” Nancy said with delight. Bess hugged the board for a while, then rose uncertainly to her feet. She raised her arms as if she were on a balance beam, leaning first to one side, then the other.
“Wobbling right…then left…and forward…and back she goes! Tough break for the rookie,” George called out like a sports announcer as Bess tumbled backward off the board, directly into Josh’s arms.
“Well, at least she had a soft landing,” Nancy said with a grin.
Just then Nancy noticed a blur of motion to her left. A scruffy-looking man had emerged from the low-lying brush near a stand of palms. His head was shaved, and he had a stubble of beard. The man sprinted toward the waterline.
“Boy, he’s really hotfooting it,” Danny commented.
“Yes,” Nancy replied. “Why do you suppose — To their surprise, the man made a beeline for the spot where Josh’s surfboard had drifted to shore. He grabbed the board and hoisted it above his head.
“Look at that,” Nancy cried, already on her feet. “That guy’s stealing Josh’s board. We’ve got to stop him!”