“Don’t even tell me you’ve been in the water again,” Orville sternly chided his younger brother even before the door had slammed closed. Wilbur immediately tried to change the subject, not realizing it would only get him in deeper. “Hey, bro, I think we’ll have some good air for a try in the morning, don’t you?,” he offered cheerily if not also timidly. The rapier reply from Orville’s bunk quickly dashed Wilbur’s hopes for any slack. “Hey -bro,” he mocked, “if you hadn’t made off with every tin of varnish and last plank of spruce for that cockamamie surf board idea of yours, why yes, itwould look good for a try.”
Wilbur knew the recent crackups of their wood, wire and canvas-covered aeroplane had indeed required several damaged wing ribs be replaced. Its young co-inventor wanted to be anywhere but under the icy gaze of his seething partner of a sibling. But on the desolate dunes of the Outer Banks, howling with the Atlantic’s fury, there was nowhere to hide in the small shed that was their workshop, hangar, and domicile, all in one. Knowing his brother’s affinity for innovative experimentation, Wilbur boldly tried another tack.
“Orv, I carved a new nine foot gun, tapered to, like, about a foot – it rocks! But I’m thinking, if I could put a rudder-like device on the tail, you know, more like the flipper of an inverted shark, I could really shred!” The gas lamp flickered nervously in the reflection of Orville’s spectacles. The tick-tock of his timepiece fairly echoed like gunshots in Wilbur’s ears, even above the din of the storm and crashing surf nearby. Orville stared up from the letter, now resting upon his chest, from their father back home in Dayton, the right Bishop Wright. Wilbur averted his brother’s eyes, mindlessly fixating his own on the Requarth Lumber Company calendar posted above the bunks. It read December 16, 1903. Finally, Orville’s measured tone cleared the tense silence.
“Bro. We didn’t come here to surf. We came here tofly.”
The Brother’s Wright, soon triumphant in that quest, returned to beloved Dayton in time for Christmas. In the coming years, Wilbur, busy with their new flying machines, only occasionally stole a few sessions with his board on the Great Miami River, about a mile north of where the brothers founded the very first seaplane base. Now you can own a piece of history that Wilbur, but not necessarily Orville, would be proud to wear - a 40th Anniversary Great Miami Masters Classic t-shirt. Oh, yeah, according to scholars, Wilbur’s discarded concept of a “flipper,” a surf world-altering innovation now commonly known as a fin, would not be invented for over thirty years, and a coast away. He received no credit.