Santa Cruz big-wave surf icon reveals the triumphs & tragedies of his life in new memoir #LiveLikeJay #Mavericks






Dan Coyro/Sentinel Longtime local surfer Frosty Hesson is releasing an ebook about his life as a surfer, coach and mentor of Jay Moriarity. ( Dan Coyro )

Posted: 11/14/2012 05:09:31 PM PST

The day that surfer Jay Moriarity died in the Indian Ocean, his friend and mentor Richard “Frosty” Hesson was on a bike ride with a friend.

As workouts go, it wasn’t a major one for Hesson, a veteran big-wave surfer and life-long athlete who was at the time in his early 50s. Compared to many of the other rides he had regularly taken, this one was nothing special.

But about a half an hour into his ride, just as he was climbing a particularly challenging — though far from insurmountable — uphill, something odd happened.

“I just suddenly lost my energy,” he said. “I mean, I was done. And that never happened to me. I thought I was sick or something.”


The episode is one of many compelling tales Hesson tells in his new memoir “Making Mavericks,” released in conjunction, of course, with “Chasing Mavericks,” the drama based on Hesson’s long association with Moriarity.

The next day, Hesson took his two young children camping in the Big Sur wilderness, so he didn’t learn of young Jay’s death in a free-diving accident until more than two days later.

So, what happened that day on the bike? Hesson, sitting outside his Pleasure Point home and clearly emotional, said he had only one conclusion to make. “I think he was reaching out to me in some way.”

The fall of 2012 is turning out to be the Season of Frosty. With the release of the new memoir — Hesson appears tonight at the Capitola Book Café — and the movie, which features movie star Gerard Butler as Frosty, the 63-year-old Santa Cruzan’s life is literally an open book.

It is not something he’s used to.

“There are things in this book that people who’ve known me for 40 years don’t know,” he said.

“Making Mavericks” is part life story, part philosophical testament. Hesson said that his first idea was to write a coaching book, and, in that spirit, the book is laced with principles that not only apply to doing something challenging like surfing the big wave at Mavericks, but also to living day-to-day life with awareness and integrity.

Hesson’s story is also one of great personal loss. When he was 19, his mother committed suicide, and his father died just six months later. His second wife Brenda, the mother of two of his three children, died suddenly of a stroke. And then, there was Jay Moriarity, the uncommonly talented young man who gained lasting fame in the surf community by surfing Mavericks at the age of 16.


In “Making Mavericks,” Hesson takes pains to explain that he was not playing the role of surrogate dad for Moriarity, in respect for Jay’s actual dad who was absent for most of the boy’s childhood. But the narrative makes clear that, on an emotional level, the loss of his young surfing pupil was akin to the loss of a son.

Nicknamed “Frosty” for his thick mane of wavy blonde hair, Hesson spends a good deal of his literary output talking surfing, particularly the interaction between his analytical mind and the wave at Mavericks. The book attains a kind of page-turning intensity when Hesson describes the ordeal of being held under by the big waves at Mavericks, including the day he broke three surfboards.

“Really large waves have the potential to…”


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