Establishes ASP’s First Reading Group
After five years struggling to qualify for a top 44 berth through the WQS, San Clemente’s Chris Ward was shocked to discover a massive lack in reading skills among his new ASP Dream Tour cohorts. Ward later recalled that at his first event in the big-time, one competitor asked him how to spell “uh.”
“What do you mean, ‘uh?’” Ward asked.
“You know,” replied the current #4, “like ‘uh’ dog, or ‘uh’ cat. Just tell me how to spell it, Seppo.”
“It’s an ‘A,’” Ward said, “as in A.S.P.”
“What? That don’t sound right, does it, mate?” responded the top athlete before returning to fill out his facebook page.
This conversation came as a milestone for Wardo. The problem of literacy amidst such gifted competitors simmered in the back of his mind for several seasons. At first he was savvy enough to imagine that there must be a way to use their inabilities to his own advantage. He saw a trifecta of drugs, booze and low reading skills at the heart of the Dream Tour’s malaise. Yet, considering Kelly Slater’s relative sobriety and reading acumen, every scenario Ward envisioned still put him at numbers 2 or 3.
Then in January of ’08 Ward was arrested for beating up a couple of girls in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. At rock bottom in the drunk tank, he realized that taking advantage of others’ weak points—like being girly and not knowing how to hit good—did not necessarily make one stronger.
Understanding that a best case legal scenario would force him into some serious community service hours, Ward decided to take action right then and create his own organization for the advancement of reading skill among top athletes: The Chris Ward Book Club. This humanitarian action just might sway the judge in his upcoming court case, or at least fulfill a community service obligation. And if nothing else, his fellow surfers reading a little bit, well, what could it hurt?
The first meeting of The Chris Ward Book Club kicked off in the competitor’s tent at Sunset Beach during the O’Neill World Cup last December. Other than the fact that it would take place during the comp, this book club was unlike others in that there was no one book to be read. Each competitor was asked to bring their favorite books and read a portion to the group in hopes that those who couldn’t read at all, would be influenced into learning.
Wardo started off by holding up his favorite book. It was titled “Drinking for Dummies.” He couldn’t help but feel pride while looking around the tent and discovering that several surfers brought their own books to read. Adriano De Souza brought “Fast Track to Citizenship,” and Andy Irons brought cult classic “Junky” by William S. Burroughs.
Ward thanked them all for participating and began to read from the chapter: “How to Survive a Bar Room Cat Fight.” Before diving in, Ward pointed out that most of the “dos” and “don’ts” were numbered in this chapter, so the others were able to follow along easily.
Just then, Bruce Irons stumbled into the tent. Ward reacted by raising his book so Bruce could see the title, and then followed by “shushing” the drunken competitor as he continued to babble. “Whoa,” Bruce exclaimed loudly, “Paper puzzles! I haven’t seen so many in one place since I was little keiki kine. I used to stare and stare and never could figa ‘em paper puzzles out.”
“Paper puzzles?” Wardo looked up to ask. “You mean books?”
“Yeah, like math and riddles. Supa’ hard to figa, and with crazy letters. But you guys must be pro readas’, shoots? There’s choke paper puzzles here, brudha.”
Andy Irons quickly stood up and grabbed his younger brother, asking him nicely to sit down and read with the group. “No way Brah!” said Bruce, “dis ‘MY Booze Cruise.’” Andy and Bruce then began to grapple.
Ward decided to read over the ruckus. The others attempted to follow. But then Florida’s C.J. Hobgood stepped into the tent. “Holy Mowly, so many paper puzzles!” said the former champ, “Me and my kin read paper puzzles in a tent every Sunday, same thang just like this. Septin’ we read the same exact book all together, call it the ‘Good Book.’ Me, I like to count to ten, turn the page, and let the preacher feller tell what was said by Jesus and such.”
Adriano De Souza pointed at C.J. and began to laugh. Then Bruce grabbed Andy’s book and threw it at C.J. The Floridian made his fingers into a cross and began to wail the word “Sinners,” over and over while backing out of the tent. Some say he spoke in “tongues,” others say it was backwoods swamp talk. The rest of the competitors, sensing weakness, pounced on the weakling Christian by throwing their books too. C.J. ducked, the books missed him and the Floridian dodged literacy once again.
That might have been the unfortunate close of the first official Chris Ward Book Club. However, when C.J. went on to win the contest, many of the book club members approached Ward asking about this one “Good Book” of which C.J. spoke and asked, “did it really only take a count of ten to get from the top of one page to the bottom?”