Authors: J.C. Burke
Also by J.C. Burke
The Red Cardigan
Nine Letters Long
The Story of Tom Brennan
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First published by Random House Australia 2007
Copyright © J.C. Burke 2007
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National Library of Australia
For secondary school age.
ISBN 978 1 74166 155 2 (pbk.).
1. Surfing – Juvenile fiction. I. Title.
Cover design by saso content & design pty ltd
Cover images courtesy Getty Images and saso content & design pty ltd
Typeset in Zapf Calligraphic BT 11/14.5 by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound by Griffin Press, South Australia
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Poppy, Francesca,
Natasha and Seraphina
'Georgie! Please be careful. That board cost a lot of
money,' Mum reminded me for the one millionth, no
sorry, one billionth, time this week.
'Well, I didn't ask you to buy it for me,' I felt like
spitting. I chickened out though 'cause it would've
sounded ungrateful. But lately that's what I'd been
feeling like – one pasty, ungrateful blob on two fat
It probably had something to do with the fact that in
the last couple of weeks I'd been reminded too many
times how 'ggggrrrraaaaatefuuuul' I should feel. How
'privileged' and 'fortunate' I was to have been selected
for the Elite Young Surfers Camp. And 'howwww'
many girls would give 'their right leg' to have been
picked for such a thing.
Yeah well, I wanted to tell those girls not to chop off
their right legs on my behalf. They could have my place
in the camp and my right leg. Come to think of it, they
could have both my legs. That way I'd be able to have a
double leg transplant and get slim, tanned legs like Kia
not have to go to surf camp.
When I found out that Kia and I had both been
selected for the camp, I screamed so loud I had a sore
throat for the next two days. But slowly things began to
change and I started to feel differently about it.
In the beginning, I thought it was just butterflies.
But each day my tummy felt heavier and heavier and I
realised it wasn't butterflies. It was a cement brick
sitting in my guts. A cement brick also known as
That used to be the way I felt before a sleepover. I'd
start off being super, super excited and then slowly,
slowly I'd get a familiar feeling in my tummy, like I'd
swallowed a brick, and I knew then I didn't want to
stay over anymore.
I grew out of homesickness when I was ten. Now I
was fourteen but my tummy still told me what I didn't
want to do.
This time it had nothing to do with missing home. It
had to do with pressure. Pressure with a gigantic 'P'.
I loved surfing. Once, I'd lived for it, but lately – like
since the exact time I got selected for the camp – it had
been getting too serious and I was starting to feel
pressure. Pressure and me meant one thing: I start
stuffing up. Big time.
The bikinis that Kia and I made sat on top of my bag
along with the latest one, which I'd finished last night.
That bikini was meant to be for me and I'd promised
Kia I'd wear it at camp so the girls could see our full
range of designs.
I seriously must've been in fantasy land when I'd
agreed to do that. But at the time it looked so promising.
Kia had found the most gorgeous black lycra with
silver stripes. She'd bought metres of it with the money
we'd made from our stall at the local markets.
'Georgie,' she'd announced a few days ago, 'I am
going to design a bikini especially for you.'
Really, what she was saying was that she was going
to design a bikini for the 'larger lady'. It's not that I'm
fat – according to Mum I just have a muscular body and
big bones. Big, chunky, heavy bones.
'Sew the stripes up vertically,' Kia explained, 'and I'll
cut the sides of the pants just a little bit thicker.'
'Gee thanks, Kia,' I blurted. 'Is that to counteract the
hip-bums I get with string-bikini bottoms?'
'Georgie, you wait. This is going to be so flattering.'
'Have I designed a dud yet?'
She hadn't. Kia's designs were amazing and she had
such a good eye for fabric. I was just the workhorse
whose mum owned the sewing machine. Yet our label
was called Bikina, which was 'bikini', 'Kia' and
'Georgina' all put together.
Mum dumped another pile of clean washing onto the
bed. 'I thought six pairs of undies would be enough.'
'The camp goes for three weeks!' I said, one hand
shoving them into my bag while the other removed my
personally designed bikini.
Wide pants, vertical stripes – did any of it help? Any
of it? No! It still looked disgusting on me. There was no
way I was going to wear it. Ever!
'Yes, I know camp goes for three weeks,' Mum
replied. 'Haven't you ever heard of a washing
'Oh great, I'm going to have to do chores as well?'
'What is your problem, Georgina? You're sounding
like you're being sent to prison.'
I went to open my mouth, but I couldn't think how
to explain to my mother that that was exactly how it
felt. Apparently, there was no computer, which meant
three whole weeks of no msn, no myspace and no way
for me to design the website I was building for our
Plus Kia's dad told me they didn't 'encourage the
use of mobiles' either. This was actually going to be
worse than gaol! Much worse.
'Oh, I forgot to tell you,' Mum said, 'Mr Parsons rang
last night. He wanted to know if you were definitely
playing indoor soccer next season. He thought he
better check if it clashed with your surfing commitments.'
I heard my voice bounce off the ceiling: 'It doesn't!'
'Well, it does a bit, Georgie,' Mum began.
'Because the deal was you wouldn't take too much
on next year.'
'I'm not taking too much on.'
Mum stopped folding the washing and sat on the
bed, always a bad sign.
'My recollection, Georgie, is that when you made
the Elite Young Surfers Camp, you, me and your father
sat down and discussed . . .'
It was like Mum's words were being sucked up by a
vacuum cleaner. All I could hear was the sound of my
panic. It was too late to admit that I'd just been caught
up in the excitement with Kia and that I'd changed my
mind now. How could I tell Mum and Dad that all
those weekends they'd driven for hours so I could
compete in some surfing contest were pointless? If
I told them that competitive surfing wasn't fun
anymore, that it was too serious and the pressure
was starting to strangle me, they'd probably tell me
I was being dramatic and to pull myself together. So I
couldn't tell them. I couldn't tell anyone. Not even Kia.
If it wasn't for my tree-trunk legs, I wouldn't be in
this situation. That was just another reason to have
them amputated. My legs supposedly, if you listened to
the experts, made me a powerful surfer. According
to my coach, Steve, they even gave me the potential to
surf like a boy. Apparently that was meant to be a
compliment. So why did it make me want to hide
under my bed and never come out?
'So what did you say to Mr Parsons about indoor
'I told him you were still keen.'
I gave Mum such an enormous kiss we almost
somersaulted off the bed.
'Oh, I so hope we keep the same team!' I squealed.
'We promised each other we were going to try to stay
together. Even Emily said she was going to put off
horse-riding if it –'
'Mr Parson's a bit worried there's going to be too
many girls registering.' Mum had that cautious tone in
her voice. Like the one she used when I didn't get into
the surf camp last year and really – like really, really –
wanted to. 'He said seeing you'll probably have
weekend surfing commitments it might be better if he
puts you in as a reserve. For the A's, of course.'
'But I don't want to be a reserve!'
'Georgie, how can surfing be your top priority if you
have to be available for indoor soccer every weekend?'
'I really, really want to do indoor soccer, Mum,' I
explained. 'And when winter comes I want to do proper
outdoor soccer, like I always do.'
'Well, darling, you can't do everything. Not
'Why can't I?' I propped my board against the wall,
hitting the window frame a bit too hard.
'That board was very expensive,' I mumbled.
'I beg your pardon, Georgina?'
'I don't think you understand how lucky you are to
be going to this camp,' Mum regurgitated. 'I don't get
it. Are you nervous? Is that what it is?'
'A bit, I suppose.' I went to bite my nails but there
was nothing left to chew. 'I guess I just don't know
what it's going to be like.' That was true.
Mum hugged me then looked at me with hopeful
eyes. She was trying to make me feel better, but it just
made me feel rotten inside. 'You earnt your place in
that camp, Georgie. You worked damn hard for it too.'
Just as I felt my bottom lip going floppy and starting
to tremble, my mobile erupted into a Jack Johnson
'I bet that's Kia,' I said, and gulped.
Knowing Kia and her dad, they were probably
already there. Last night Kia kept texting me saying she
was so excited she couldn't sleep. I couldn't sleep
either, but it wasn't because of excitement.