Sunday, May 16, 2010
The Surf Diaries
The plan is to get up earlier than usual and catch the waves before the breakfast flocks descend on the beaches. So much for the best laid plans.
A front sweeps by my window while I am sleeping, spinning driblets of rain against the glass, so that by the time I'm up the scene outside is a cool grey with a blinding white glare blasting off the sea; and the glare grows in intensity as the day wears on. But it stays chilly. It feels too chilly to surf, especially with the stiffness that has seeped into my bones overnight.
From my window I watch the waves rising like pyramids, long and muscular, a clear and healthy green, before crashing into bright white. These are the waves I want to ride, but I'm nowhere near ready. I drive with my board to the kindergarten sets down the road, where nobody is looking and the gulls have to sign contracts not to laugh.
Now I watch closely as a surfer knifes along a gleaming green curve, leaving a shaving foam of white behind him. He is what I am not - the master of his domain.
I am not only not the master, even where I am - in my doman - I am a pathetic prisoner. I may be up and ready to go but the gate's remote has been misplaced. How dysfunctional of me. A thorough search turns up nothing, then an entire FBI-thorough turning over of the entire apartment also turns up nothing. Am I going mad?
Finally, as shovels are being assembled to begin digging under the foundations [perhaps the remote fell through a crack in the floor and is gradually headed towards the bowels of the earth] - the remote reveals itself in the most obvious place. The pocket of a jacket slung over a chair, worn the previous evening. The search has consumed over three hours. Even so what's left of the morning remains cold, so I let it slide by.
In the afternoon, something curious happens, or rather, doesn't happen. No wind has turned up to spoil the afternoon, and even better, it has actually warmed since noon. This means one thing: the surf is still on.
Of course this is good news, but my body takes the news with a little resistance. As I'm leaving, on the steps downstairs, I can feel that it has stiffened considerably, not only from the previous day's exertions but from what it felt like this morning.
No gulls today. Oh there they are, a few of them, paddling in the dark grey sunless water. The sea this afternoon is a different monster. Rougher, darker, moodier and bigger. But somehow better, and somehow appropriate. Yesterday was right for yesterday, today is right for today.
When I paddle out I can feel how deep the tiredness is in my bones, how far the salt of fatigue has seeped through my skin.
Once again, on my very first wave, I am able to put feet onto my board. If my best effort the day before was 0.2 seconds of feet-time, this first effort is 0.4, and it only gets better.
These waves are different, that much is clear. None of yesterday's KA-PLUTS. Instead an even SKRRRRSSSHHH. They don't rise, create an almost impossible curve that swallows the nose of your board [and then you]. These are building on smaller waves to create handsome ridges that break gradually and almost uniformly - sometimes suddenly, but no dumpers this time. Another change, it's deeper today and the tide is advancing along the shoreline.
If the sea is a different monster today so am I. Parts of me are so sore they feel bruised. The struggle to get through the surf is not so much due to the surf - yes the surf's bigger but not really a barrier - the problem is I am wasted. At times I lie on the board like a dead turtle, arms limp beside the board, legs dangling.
Since I'm a far better swimmer than I am a surfer, and I'm more of a triathlete these days than a swimmer's swimmer, I finally throw away the rulebook, and start swimming back through the surf, dragging my board behind me. It's unconventional, but it's quicker and easier and today, it'll do.
Another wave and I almost stand as the edge accelerates me forward. I'm somehow more into the groove today, so when I'm catching a wave I'm actually gliding and rising and getting a sense of exhilaration - an excitement that was lacking from yesterday's kindergarten session.
A few times I'm on a wave and the heels of my hands slip off the rails - too little wax.
Getting up on the board I realise requires strength and agility. This sense is refined by the actual physical experience, which I find is articulating the necessities of surfing more clearly than I can. What you're really doing out there is very physical. It's like doing pushups whilst lying on a rickety ironingboard that has been perched on a 7 on the Richter scale earthquake. You need strong arms, a strong chest, strong shoulders, quick legs and all backed up by good reflexes and good stabilisers and that X factor - a feel for what you're doing. It's coming.
At various times I extend my feet-on-board time to over a second and then approaching 1.5 seconds. But I can't say I'm surfing. Once I am vertical I fall. There is no swashbuckling with the wave, no fancy footwork, no direction.
At other times the sun siphons through the steel sinews rising over the harbour, spooling bright white Godlight suddenly, unexpectedly over me. I glance towards the tunnel of light, I am in its beam, the rest of the beach is a drab moonscape. There are moments in life that are sometimes too beautiful for words or cameras. Gas shifts and the beam disappears. A gull swoops low over me. I have a chance to recall a tweet sent earlier in the day.
the link to this article - but more than anything else thanks for this visual:
'Holy s***! We just saw a gigantic shark eat what looked like a person in front of our house! That shark was huge! Like dinosaur huge!'
I am a little uncomfortable until I realise South Africa's murderers are far more dangerous than a Great White, and South Africa's criminals are far more likely to kill you than any other creature on Earth.
It's a good session but after more than an hour, I'm done. I strip off the suit and pack up to watch the Stormers run over the Bulls. It's while I'm watching the game that the words of that Kurt Cobain song surface. I don't know why. I guess it's a subconscious signal that we spend too much time being trapped in our own made up shit, the shit in our own heads, than experiencing real life. We're preparing, we're thinking, but why not just come as you are and do it.
Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be.
As a friend, as a friend, as an old Enemy.
Take your time, hurry up, choice is yours, don't be late.
Take a rest, as a friend, as an old memory.
Go to # 1 here.