The main conflict within this memoir arises from Norman Ollestad’s feelings of resentment, but also idolization for his father. He feels that his father pushes him too hard to try and become a better surfer, skier and hockey player, which takes away from his time to create friendships and do things that other kids his age do, such as biking or playing ball. Norman looks up to his father’s dare-devil qualities, as he admires his father’s courage. His father would often wake him up as early as 5 am to go surfing, skiing or to play hockey. The conflict in this novel is just as much external as it is internal because Norman is still just a kid, but he’s being pushed to thrill-seeking extremes. However, he is also conflicted on whether he should listen to his father because he loves him and does not want to disobey, but he does not see why he is being pushed so much. Norman loves his father and idolizes him, as aforementioned, so he listens to everything he tells him, but this also has negative effects. After his father dies, Norman has tendencies to put his self-pleasure over others. For example, he rushed to the beach to go surfing and forgot to lock his dog Sunny up, potentially putting her in danger because of the coyotes. This demonstrates that although he loves his dog, he loses sight of those around him because he puts his self pleasure over everything else. This arises from the fact that he rarely had a say in his father’s decisions, as he was always dragged along on trips to go surfing or skiing. So as a result, whenever he has the opportunity to do what he wants, he dives head first into it, without thinking of the consequences.
Norman battles this conflict throughout a large portion of the memoir, however, he begins to realize and appreciate his father’s relentless pressuring of him to become a better skier. He also begins to reminisce about the experiences he had with his father, as he realizes that he is dead. He begins to resolve this conflict on his own, as at the start, he was unsure as to why he was being pressured so much. But once he accepts that his father is truly gone, he cherishes the moments that they spent together, and comes to appreciate that he has been molded into one of the best surfers and skiers in his age group. He realizes that his father pushed him so that he would not “[miss] out on fantastic moments “because you have to “[fight] through things to get to the good stuff.” His father was trying to make him see that “there is more to life than just surviving it. Inside each turbulence there is a calm—a sliver of light buried in the darkness.” Within every problem and crisis in life, there is hope and something that can be learned from it. Through his tireless skiing and surf sessions with his father, Norman matured and clung to the hope that he would survive when the plane crashed.