Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Surf Diaries


# 5 Wimp, or warrior?

No two ways about it, it's my fault for buggering around and only heading off once the sun has already sunk below South Africa's big fat sulking lip.  I've been very ineffectual today - one of those days where a rotten sleep infects the substance of an entire day and you get caught up in the spiderwebs of wishful thinking - but you don't actually get anything done. Surfing is on the to do list and of course at the close of day I'm busy and allowing daylight to slip through the hourglass. For some reason this is one 'do' that I can't bear to add to list of things I haven't done today.  And so, when it is late enough to still go surfing that it starts to beggar belief, the car fires to life and gate opens with a slow, grinding metallic shrieking  You see I'd rather get a splash of salt water in my face than the alternative - logging more facetime in front of my monitor.

The seagulls ["OMG look who's here!"] and boemelaars are settling in for the night as I strip down.  The sea is turgid, and by that I mean not the easiest water is coming my way.  I notice something again on this outing, something I'm noticing with increasing frequency.  Maybe you think it's stupid but I'll be wading towards the waves, my board beside me, pushed by the tips of my fingers on its back.  I watch how the board effortlessly moves through the water, fluid, balanced.  With nothing on its back, the board is a natural surfer.  So the trick is to stand on the board and not fuck up the ordinary flow of the universe.  Yup.  Easily said than done.

The waves tonight swell into decent breakers, and then, suddenly, become mean motherfuckers.  The thought that occurs to every human being who has ever swum in the sea occurs to me now.  "Are you a man or a mouse?"  Are you going to cower and hide whenever a motherfucker wave slides out of the gloom, or are you going to face your fears?  I face my fears a few times, and get to chew on the sandy sea floor a few times.  I do a few somersaults in water, blindly flailing my arms in case of the board torpedoing towards my forehead.  At one point I get the nose in my ribs, but just a glancing blow.

It's violent and it's not pretty, but each time my fingertips touch on the board and we head back out I get a better sense of the water, and the waves, and how it works.  I can sense that I need to speed up, and be more responsive once I'm up.  While my instinct is like an arrow that has only had one knife stroke to sharpen it [ and requires a hundred more refining knife strokes to sharpen the arrow head to a needle point] my body is on a leash somewhere else, gaining strength and agility but way behind what my reflexes are asking for, and way behind what surfing requires.

I suppose I haven't mentioned this before in much detail.  It's part of the spectrum of each experience, but of course if you're not out there you're not going to know.  The water has a haunting beauty about it.  Once you'd paddled out, or perhaps a wave has heaved under you and broken beautifully - but you've missed it - and as the water settles out you catch a glimpse of extraordinary beauty.  I am surrounded by silver light.  Silver and pink.  The water around me is like unused tinfoil, reflecting everything - the sky, the board and me.  The silver mirror becomes something like crumpled foil along a long textured carpet that touches and follows the shore for as far as I can see, all the way to the harbours faint grey cranes, towering in the distance.

I experience a slow motion and almost painless version of what must happen when you roll your car off a cliff, and then decide to call it quits.  The 4 boemelaars congregating to one side pose a possible threat to my life in growing gloom, and I decide that if they start to advance on my position I'm going to have to toss the board and make a run for it.
But I manage to leave the beach alive, still a wimp, but alive.

Go to # 1 here.
# 2
# 3
# 4
# 6

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