Reading Surf Sisters sent me back to my teenage life, a time when wet hair, zinc cream and the warm smell of wax was de rigueur in our coastal town. It also sent me back to the sisterhood of teen friendship – the strong connection forged between friends, the occasional hiccups and of course, the ever present focus on boys.
Marlee, Tilly, Pink and Fran are consummate coastal girls with a keen love of the surf. Pink (real name Jasmine) comes from a wealthy surf-label family and has dreams of creating her own surfwear line. Marlee and Tilly are surfers with supreme potential, and Fran’s talent is in filming all the heart-pumping action.
When Pink’s father, Mitch, announces the inaugural Island Breeze Freeze-Out comp for female surfers, Marlee is stunned to receive a wildcard invitation to participate. The only trouble is, the comp will be held at Shipwreck, a legendary break in Western Australia. Being an east coast girl, and coming from little money, Marlee has no idea how to raise enough money to get to the coast.
Pink, along with Fran and Tilly (who will also compete), decide to come to their friend’s aid by hosting a massive beach party, which raises enough funds to get Marlee to the west coast.
With her transportation troubles over, Marlee has fresh troubles to worry about. Not only has she pushed away boyfriend Kyle in an attempt to focus on her training, but when she arrives in WA, she also pushes away her friends – believing that she needs to be alone to really concentrate on the challenge before her.
Like most teen friendships, the relationship between these girls is support-driven, and Marlee soon needs her friends when she realises she will be competing against a world champion surfer. Can her friends help this up-and-coming surfing rookie garner the courage to perform against the world’s best?
Author Laurine Croasdale’s sequel to Surf School showcases young Australian beach culture to a tee – and it’s obvious the author drew on her own experience of the surfing lifestyle. But Croasdale grew up during an era when women didn’t surf much – certainly nowhere near as much as they do today.
“I spent most of my teen years at the beach with a group of mates and always feel really happy and peaceful watching and listening to the surf. I love the beauty and diversity of this natural environment,” Croasdale tells Australian Women Online.
“I travelled for many years and when I returned to Australia, lots of girls were out in the water surfing and I thought that was fantastic, so I wanted to write a story for girls about something that has been very male orientated,” admits the author.
“I also wanted to write about the strong bonds of friendship that are so important to girls and aren’t celebrated enough.”
Croasdale has written a book that will certainly resonate with teen girls, even if they’ve never seen an easterly swell. The book may involve a ‘journey’ to pro-surfing, but it also showcases the inner journey of these girls – both via their friendships with each other and with their love interests, with their own families and within themselves.
Aimed at 12-15 year old girls, the author found it easy to plant herself firmly in the hearts and minds of teens. Her daughter and friends were 15 when she started her first surf book Surf School, so writing from a teen perspective came naturally.
“I speak fluent teen!” she laughs, “I also remember what it was like growing up in those years.”
Essentially, Surf Sisters is about self-discovery – something all teens find themselves firmly implanted in. The story is also about discovering life direction – deliciously padded with friendship, romance and fun.
And Croasdale is delighted by the feedback from her readers, who are not always from her target group.
“I am getting emails from adults and 10 year olds who love it, and recently an 8-year-old boy!” she says.
There are lots of hooks in this book that will reel in readers of many ages, hook line and sinker. Fashion, hair, part time jobs, fitness, family dramas and boys boys boys – will hold a captive audience. It also helps that Croasdale’s characters are very real. They each have their own distinct voice and personality, allowing a variety of readers to intimately relate. Sure, the character’s sisterhood is tight, but it also has its ups and downs, like any real life teen relationship.
What I liked, in particular, about Surf Sisters were the interesting parent-driven subplots, some current, some delving far into the past, but all lending protagonism and uncertainty to the girls’ voyage. This parental involvement deepens and enriches the plotline… sometimes it’s heart-warming, sometimes it’s downright annoying, but it’s something young readers will totally relate to.
“Teen/parent relationships are really important and can also be tricky,” says the author. “Parents need to be seen as characters who have flaws but who also try their best even if the teenager can’t see or understand things at the time.”
Croasdale also evokes a wonderful sense of emotion between the girls and their love interests, but the focus is definitely on the sisterhood between the main characters, something the author believes is a bedrock for future friendships.
“I am still close friends with many friends from my teens and hope to encourage girls to see friendships as something to value for life,” Croasdale tells AWO. “I don’t think the ‘mean girl’ novels are representative of most teen girls and their behaviour is uninspiring to say the least.”
The plotline of Surf Sisters is detailed yet tidy and all elements are resolved, but not in that neatly-tied-bow ending that lets so many books down. Croasdale leaves us with an ending that warms us, but also makes it clear that life isn’t always fair nor perfect and that there will be more for these characters. More growth, more excitement but also more of the uncertainty that inevitably unfolds in every person’s life.
Whatever readers glean from Surf Sisters, it’s without a doubt the author was focused on celebrating the joy of friendship – and, of course, the pursuit of the perfect wave.
“I wanted to give my readers a great read, but also a feeling that you are at the beach without getting your feet wet,” says Croasdale.
When you’re enjoying this entertaining young read, close your eyes. You’ll smell the wax. You’ll hear the crashing of the waves. You’ll feel the soft sand between your toes and the warm sun kissing your shoulders.
Croasdale has certainly achieved her mission.