Monday, May 31, 2010

The Surf Diaries

# 8 Surf where the surfers are

Today is different.  I've scoped out the conditions at another surfing spot, down the road from my pad.  The waves here are better, but that's not all.  They may be bigger and more muscular, the sets may have excellent definition, problem is when they crash down it's either on the beach or on less than a foot of water.  I know this.  And I know the surfers out here know their shit.  This is my 8th day out and I don't know shit, but you can't stay in kindergarten forever.

There are about twenty or so surfers mixing it up.  They know to catch the wave while it's in an advanced building phase, do their switchbacks and showing off, and then basically sweep back over the lip just as it collapses.  My problem is I'm still struggling to stand for more than 2 seconds, I'm not really at the point where I can get my ass from A to B at will.  It's more a case that I get up and then the wave owns my ass.

A few times I swear a shark longer than my board has just slipped under me, but after the fourth float-by I realise it's a sort of flat piece of rock that's sort of long and jagged with a shark-like shape just 4-5 feet below me.  It's weird to have rock like that when there's sand everywhere else.  At the other beach I mistook a large blue canvas bag for some alien ocean creature.  Settle down...focus...catch a wave if you can.

I'm surfing around 10 metres away from the surfers.  You'd think I'd be getting exactly the same waves but there's a slight slant to the strand here, and if you watch the foam, you can see the waves collapse and lose momentum here worse than down the road.  But that's okay. It's close enough.  I'm here to learn how to pop, and also to play in the vicinity of the big boys, not go around like some dog with his tail between his legs all day every day. Adapt or go and play with your mouse.

I can immediately sense the muscle of these waves.  Yep, here it's all bigger, faster and harder.  That means I have to pop.  I've evolved from a marinaded steak on the grill, to wors on the braai, to scrambled egg and now I'm about at the speed of a pancake flip.  Still not quite a pop, but that's why I'm here - to take that learning curve straight up.

I take a beating.

At one point my shoulder hits the seabed hard and I'm feeling a bit like Atlas, except it hurts too much to shrug.  A little later and I swallow a teacup of salt.  Yummy. I take a few pounding blows of the surf itself - DOOOOF DOOOOOOOOFF  DOOOOOOOOOOFFFF.
I think it's at the point - about an hour into the session - that a petite blonde walks along the beach, that I suddenly grow a set of balls [don't ask me what happened to the one's I had, I may have left them on my towel or next to my mouse at home].

Anyway I end up catching a major wave and disappear in a cloud of froth, board shooting out like a missile launched from a submarine, my own feet and elbows punching me in the face, sky vs earth unknown for numerous seconds.  The very next wave I do something even more daft, I catch it and drop into the canyon below and feel the full force of the seabed, the board and the water trying to turn a human being into a jellyfish.

What is happening though is that even on the waves I don't quite catch I get up.  I've picked up speed, and a lot of strength.  I'm not fucking around like I'm a bartender standing, pretending my surfboard is the bar.  I'm lying on it, and it's not that tiring.  I'm also doing something out there that's important.  I'm watching the other guys.  Watching and learning.  I catch another wave, not perfectly, and sort of get up on one leg with the other still in a kneeling position.  It's a fuck up but I stay on for a good few seconds.

The sun sinks and disappears and slowly the surfers pack up and the fishermen arrive.  The houses and buildings visible from the strand blink yellow squares at me, and then the fishermen turn on their torches.  Eventually all the surfers are gone, it's just three bodyboarders and me.  By the time I step onto the beach the first stars have come out.  As I walk away the sea is empty.  But tomorrow, when they're all at work or at school, I'll be back.

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