Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Surf Diaries

# 12 Tribe

Let me explain how the break at Pipe works.  Basically there is a concrete rectangle enclosing a pipe that sort of juts out to sea.  If you look at the shapes of the dunes and the strand you can actually tell that where the pipe is there was probably originally a stream of some kind.  Because right where the pipe is the dunes sort of flay outwards on both sides.  So I imagine the ancient rock and sediment is sort've concentrated in a narrow channel directly in front of the Pipe.  You'll notice the waves start breaking at a point quite far out, roughly in front of the pipe, and then break gradually and slowly to the left and right.  This is where the surfers congregate - in this channel.

There's quite a lot of rock sticking out at low tide to the right of the Pipe, to the left there's one slab but the beach slopes too much and the break becomes too steep, too sudden and too late.   The right is always an option because the break is further out and more gradual, but it's risky because there are slabs of rock littered all over.  Thus far I've kept to the left side, moving increasingly close to the central channel but never quite in it.  As the tides change though, the left side sometimes becomes slightly better, and the channel also moves slightly to the left as the change turns, but still more or less in front of the Pipe.

In front of the Pipe is where the surfers hang around, forming a kind've  arrow, with some surfers further out and some closer to the shore, but all on the same line more or less.  Up until this point I have kept my distance. The downside is I've been rewarded with the sort of waves you get when you stick your bare hand down the toilet bowl.  And that sort of color too.

So on this outing I'm hanging out with the tribe, not entirely intentionally, I just want to get to where the good waves were.  I'm getting tired of being thrown around like a rag doll and I'm I'm getting impatient that I stand but don't surf. On the other hand I know that since I am still a grommet de lux, and this is only my 12th outing,  I am still a danger to every living thing around me.  Hell, I've torpedoed my own board so that it's boomeranged back and bashed my head.  I'd hate to see my board slice off someone's leg or cut out someone's kidney. 

While I'm floating around close to, but really on the periphery of this group of about 15, [there's just one guru older than I am] I notice the oldest dude has a red board and he looks like he is the best.  At one point he bales on a wave and the red harpoon shoots out - to my untrained eye it looks like the nose misses another surfer's head by about a foot.  That's exactly the sort of thing I'm trying to avoid - inflicting cerebral catastrophe on someone or being the unwitting recipient. 

I know, I know, I'm not in the sweet spot, so I miss a lot of the best rides.  But I can't blame the waves, because every now and then a beaut rises up plum in front of me.  I'm further back; where these swells rise they dump onto shallow sand in a very turbulent explosion of sand and foam.  It's on this surf that I experience by far the worst dive into seabed so far - I'm basically spear tackled like an exotic species of kelp, the wave trying to get the bulb of my head planted securely into the beach.  I swear even after a good bath later that night I am still digging sand out of my eyes and ears.

I do manage an extended stand, maybe a new record, but the thing is I'm still in the pop and stand phase.  I'm nowhere near the stand-and-then-surf stage.  I'm riding the coat-tails of my board and then hitting the deck.
After more than an hour a photographer pitches up with a lense as long as my arm.  I spot a fish as long as my forearm glitching under me.  The guys are getting up again and again, and it's within this context that I feel compelled to perform.  The answer is to put myself in the middle of the channel where the best waves are, where they form the best and break the best.  I'm not quite ready to be that close and personal with the other guys, especially because if I fall off my board can easily shoot into someone right next to me.  I don't know if I'm being stupid about this or sensibly careful, but I maintain my position.  I stick my hand into the toiletbowl and it's happy stinky surfing time for me.

I may be on the periphery but during this session a bunch of surfers catch waves passing right by me only to emerge moments later, heading back, trying to get back to where the action is.  As the sun sets I paddle halfway up the beach and then turn towards the shore.  It's not the most successful outing, but I do know that each time out there I am evolving - either in terms of strength, or knowledge, or anticipation, or reflex, or just the spectrum of experience of which sea conditions bring about what.

With the sun sinking, almost gone, I cast a glance back with my surf board under my arm, and from the dune the sea is quite a sight.  A silver sheen with tents of green.  You can clearly see the green tents rising out of the silver in that channel right in front of the pipe.  From here it looks so simple and so easy.

# 11

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