Mixed Plate
In Search of Captain Zero

Allan and La Casita (photos courtesy Allan Weisbecker)

In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road
by Allan C. Weisbecker

A month ago I got an unsolicited email offering a complementary copy of a "surf novel" cryptically entitled In Search of Captain Zero. I responded to the generous offer by promising a review on my website, but cautioned that I would be "brutally honest," as I always try to be.

A few days later, I received an UPS package from Putnam Books. Putnam? I was impressed. Surfing is such a niche market that you rarely see books coming from publishers such as Putnam. Typically, they are produced by small publishers or are self-published with quality that's marginal at best. Would this book be different?

It was.

I read it while on vacation to Disneyland. My exasperated wife can attest that every free moment I had was spent poring through the book. I found myself laughing out loud and gasping in amazement. I loved it that much.

In Search of Captain Zero is Allan C. Weisbecker's memoir of his journey down through Central America in search of waves and his long-lost friend. He sold all his worldly possessions, packed up his camper/truck with gear and surfboards, and embarked on a two-year search that took him from New York to the border of Panama.

It's part Surfer's Journal (which he has written for), part Miami Vice (which he has written for) and part The Perfect Storm (which he mentioned in the book).

The surfing stories are detailed and colorful, with lots of extremely subtle nuances that only a surfer can truly relate to. Allan has had extensive surfing travels and draws on his knowledge throughout the book. I could fully relate to the "stink eye" stand-downs, wipeouts (especially the Wipeout), the alpha-male posturing, acceptance into the lineup, the expatriate's arrogant attitudes, and much more.

Allan is more of a longboarder, so he craves more "the glide" and getting up on the nose rather than slash and carve shortboard stylings. However, he also loves deep, powerful barrels, which are also vividly discussed. The descriptive words truly struck a chord in my heart.

Allan used to be a big-time drug runner and his exploits were shared in full detail. These passages were scary, funny and sometimes truly outrageous. I had to ask him whether they were real or not, and he confirmed that they were all true. There's excessive drug binges, scuttling of ships, murder and hijinks.

I enjoyed his generous usage of Spanish phrases and sentences throughout the book. It added a genuine flavor and made for a much more interesting read.

With respect to The Perfect Storm, there are relived moments when Allan and company were caught in nasty Atlantic storms. Where The Perfect Storm is a manufactured recreation of what might've occurred on the Andrea Gail, Allan has lived to tell about near-death experiences in various unseaworthy vessels (with more creative names).

I don't want to spoil the ending, but I think Allan eventually found himself. The ending actually left me wanting more, with some issues seemingly unresolved. But in dialoging with Allan, I understood why they were left that way. In a sense, he's still living out the ending.

The passages of dealing with banditos and federales were harrowing. Desperation takes on a new meaning when you have only your wits and your dog to rely on. I know I wouldn't have pulled through some of the situations he went through.

One sidenote is that you have to check out Allan's website, www.aweisbecker.com. It's very klunky with heavy graphics, but has some exceptional photographs, including photos of his search exploits. I think Allan's next book should be a photographic coffee book--his shots are that good.

The book is available for purchase there. However, you might want to save the Captain Zero images and extra comments until after you've read the book. I did it that way to keep an open mind and not taint my imagination while I read the book. When I did get around to seeing them, I was pleasantly surprised that most of my mind's imagery matched up with the photographs.

I know that some people may not appreciate the book as much as I did (my wife, for one). However, if you have even an inkling of appreciation for travel and surfing and nature, I think you'll be stoked on this book. The trippiest thing is that it all really happened.

stickman (my brutally honest opinion)

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