How long has it been since you’ve felt the sand between your toes?
Feet is seventeen when a Siren called Amity washes up from the ocean and calls his name. His mates are impressed, but Feet is terrified. He’s a virgin, his older brother’s just come out and the Siren “just wants to be friends”. What’s a man to do?
Identity and self-respect arrive like a new tide within Feet’s life, creating waves he’s not sure he can negotiate. Somehow, through the salt and the sunburn, Feet begins to discover the person he’d like to become. And, while avoiding the bigger issues of study and final exams, he recognises the things that truly matter.
Measuring Up is a chance to open the window and feel the sea breeze, a chance to remember what it was like when you first began to know yourself.
Dan was always first in and last out. Run and dive, like he was in command. No mighty ocean would ever stand in his way. He seemed to have the surf sussed. We wondered if he had balls of steel.
Ferret followed Dan. Full of bravado, then dumped by the very first wave. He could never time it right. He’d go down like a sack of shit and come up choking. You almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
Mel hardly ever swam. She loved the beach but hated bikinis. If she did go in, she moved slowly, savouring the moment. Or delaying the pain.
And me? I went with respect.
The ocean’s a lot bigger than I am…
Mel lived two doors up and the rule was that if I was surfing at Bar I had to invite her. Bar Beach was the perfect spot for families with young kids. There were no waves and if you timed it right, you could catch an awesome current as the lake drained into the sea. But, about fifty metres out, off the bathwater beach was a sand bar that kicked up some of the nicest waves known. Mel loved the calm and I loved the wild — Bar was the best of both.
‘Holy shit!’ Mel said as she stepped out onto her veranda. ‘Look at you.’
‘What?’ I couldn’t stand another bagging about the stupid new clothes.
‘You look like a grown-up.’ Mel giggled. ‘It’s like you’ve got your first bra and your periods all on the same day. Tell me — have you shaved your legs?’
‘Get stuffed,’ I mumbled, dumping my board and leaning against the decking.
Mel laughed. ‘You’ve even got PMS.’
I belted her on the arm and on reflex, she slapped me.
‘I missed you.’ She turned back into the house.
We struggled up the hill and then back down the side road. Mel led the way through the Rotary Tourist Walk, taking two shortcuts that took us down onto Bar. On the sand, Mel went to our usual spot and started unpacking her enormous beach bag as though she was moving in for a week. I stripped off what I had come to think of as my Canberra Clothes and stumbled into the boardies Mel handed me.
‘It’s a sad reflection on our relationship that you can just stand in front of me in your jocks.’
‘You should try it.’ I winked at her and she poked out her tongue.
The water was cool as it licked over my skin. I paddled out to the bar and nosed a place among the other surfers. It was late afternoon and pretty quiet; most of the punters were safe in their overpriced accommodation preparing for a night on the town. I spotted a few lads I knew and gave them a nod.
I was noodle-armed and weak as I fought to catch my first wave. The recent weeks of bicep curls and bench presses weren’t the same as a strong paddle stroke and I cursed Link for making me stay away. The wave was solid and I caught it easily, pumping for speed. As the swell subsided, I slipped down on my board and paddled back out. Resting on the gentle back waters, I sat up on my board and grinned, letting the endorphins rush through me. It was good to be home.
The waves were steady and consistent with no hint of wind. I’d caught a heap of good rides and was just starting to feel tired when the mother lode arrived. It was one big set — the kind that Ferret called tsunamis. The first few waves were full and watery, too round and swollen to catch. But the last ones were perfect. Sharp and intense, just begging to be picked up and brought home. I let the other fellas go first and waited till the set had nearly finished. I swam hard to get on and she delivered. I slid across the face, clean and smooth. I could feel the air drying my skin and the pressure of the wave moving beneath me. I was suspended in time and nothing else mattered. It was like I was vacuum-packed — just me and the wave.
Measuring Up was launched in August 2009 by Frankie J Holden.
“GJ Stroud’s book Measuring Up could be described as a modern-day homage to Puberty Blues.” Fiona Purdon, Courier Mail, 20/6/09
“Measuring Up is a strong Australian tale where you can almost taste the sea air and feel the sand beneath your toes.” Fiona Edwards, Australian Bookseller & Publisher, August 2009
“Set in the NSW South Coast holiday town of Merimbula, Measuring Up is a sand-and-surf incarnation of the young adult novel. Jonah finds escape and solace in the breaks and Stroud finds metaphors and allegories in the waves and rip of the ocean.” Lorien Kaye, The Age, 5/9/09
“Stroud has written a comic novel of teens finding their way in a world often strange and without a guide book.” Fran Knight, Magpies, 1/9/09
“Highly recommended.” Aleesah Darlison, The Sun-Herald, 18/10/09