"Are you sure about this?" Twister asked Reggie as they approached the beach the next morning.
"Tito seems pretty sure," she answered, evading the question.
They approached Tito and he instructed them to set their boards down and take a seat on the beach. They looked at each other skeptically, but obeyed.
"First, I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself back under the water. You must feel it again in order allow it to leave your mind."
Twister followed the instructions and the fear came back to him. Reggie noticed him start to shake and she was about to say something to Tito when he held up a hand to stop.
He spoke to Twister again. "Now remember the first time you caught a wave. Remember the feelings of excitement and happiness and replace the bad memory with this one."
Twister tried and it seemed to start to work, but then the other memory came back to him and he was helplessly struggling for air. "It's not working," he said with his eyes still shut.
"Give it time, allow yourself to feel both if that is what your mind wants." Tito said calmly. "You may need a stronger memory. Think of another instance you felt happiness in surfing. A specific instance, the first competition you won, perhaps. Remember a time when the water was your friend, and not your enemy."
Twister squeezed his eyes shut harder to try to think of one. At first, all he could think of was being trapped under water, but then tried to think back to a specific instance where he was really happy to be surfing. It wasn't a competition. He didn't know when it had been or what else had happened that day. All he remembered was effortlessly catching a wave as Otto was in front of him and Reggie and Sam followed. He remembered catching a little air off the wave to try to impress Reggie. It was a sunny summer day and the waves had been amazing. There were no other surfers around them and they all rode it out smoothly before hopping off their boards and into the water. This time, as his mind led him back under the water, he smiled at the refreshing feeling of the cool salt-water smoothly gliding against his skin before he came up for air.
When he opened his eyes Tito was handing him his surfboard. "Now, you are ready."
As they paddled out, the only hard part for Twister had been nose-diving under the waves. He still had experienced the fear as he went through the first wave, but he tried to focus on how he used to love the feeling of going through a wave and it got easier for him as they continued.
"Think back to the memory," Tito shouted at him as they continued to paddle. "Remember that this is what you love. It's who you are."
When they saw a good wave come, they started paddling to try and catch it. Twister felt anxious as the wave got closer to him. He tried to remember what Tito had said but he felt like he wouldn't make it and the wave would knock him down, leaving him unable to get up again. His self-doubt led him to not stand up at the right time and the wave crashed on top of him. He toppled under the water and for a moment, the fear returned again, but then it almost felt nice in a way. Of course, he knew being tossed and turned under the water wasn't actually a pleasant feeling, but it reminded him of previous experiences where being thrown under a wave was just normal life instead of a way to die.
"Are you okay?" Reggie had already been paddling towards him when he came up over the water.
"Yeah," he said and for the first time since his accident, he had actually felt an strange peace in having been under the water. He hopped back on his board and looked back to see another wave forming. "Come on, let's go for this one," he said as he started paddling.
"That's the spirit, cuz!" Tito said as he also paddled quickly to try to get the wave.
This time when the wave came, Twister didn't feel anxious. He felt like he was meant to be surfing. It was a part of him and he needed to do it again. When the wave was close enough, he jumped up and rode out the wave without really even thinking about it. He could hear Reggie and Tito behind him, cheering him on. He felt a sense of euphoria as he surfed the wave. After the wave had died out, he jumped into the water and everything felt right; this was the way it was supposed to be.
For next two days, Otto hadn't suggested surfing because he had tunnel-vision about making sure they were ready for the hockey finals. Twister and Reggie didn't bring up surfing. Although he had now longed to go back in the water, he had told Reggie he thought it might be nice to have his return actually be when they went during the festival.
The day of the festival, everyone was doing anything they could to help at the Shack, but it still seemed almost impossible to keep up. Reggie and Otto were bussing tables while Sam and Twister washed dishes in the back. Tito was trying to cook the food as fast as Raymundo was taking the orders, but the orders kept piling up more and more. At the end of the day, they were all relieved to close up and hit the beach. As they paddled out into the ocean, Reggie and Tito stayed close to Twister for reassurance, but he didn't need it anymore. He was back to his old self, when surfing came as naturally as breathing to him. As they treaded water, waiting for another wave, they watched the festival happening on the pier. They saw lights and floats and they could hear the faint sound of the marching band mixed in with the roar of the ocean. Once they had been surfing for about an hour, they headed back to shore and sat on the beach, watching the rides lit up at the pier. The fireworks started and they all sat in amazement as they bursted in the sky. Reggie leaned against Twister and he put his arm around her and gently kissed her forehead. The fireworks reflected off the water as the waves rolled to shore.