Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Surf Diaries

# 16 Head Clear

I've had a lot on my mind lately.  Photojournalism tends to do that.  You have literally thousands of photos to pore over and separate the wheat from the chaff, and eventually the volume manifests in a splitting headache.  We filter through more noise than is healthy, and photojournalists, especially freelancers, have to be tough, because the noise eventually reaches a high pitched crescendo.

But today I have to surf after the still warm sights and sounds at a sick J-Bay following Jordy Smith's Billabong Pro win. It's not every day that you see a local boy become a world champ. And it is quite something to be right there, at the take off point, sharing the world's best right hand point break in the world, with the world's best surfers.  It is exhilarating in general, but if you've just started surfing, it is an especially great way to kickstart the inspiration and motivation.

So here I am on a heartbreak beautiful day that somehow doesn't belong in the heart of an Eastern Cape winter.  It's too warm, and too tranquil.

I find the water icy and translucent, and the waves very erratic, on the flatside though.  I'm not complaining.  Since my 5100km + trip to Kruger I've gained weight and lost momentum.  I have two companions chuckling beside me, and it's with some relief that I learn that they are just grommets like me - out here purely because they too have been inspired by great surfing.

I don't achieve much beyond quieting the noise in my head, and being transported by the mythical beauty that is so deeply part of the surfing experience.  The stars shining off the water, the rising curtains drawing thin to let rays of sun through before collapsing in growling foam.  The semi-isolation of it, the connection the salty preternaturally moving water gives one to the world.

Walking home I am reminded by a comment made by the editor of Zigzag, a local surfing magazine.  He says that some of the best surfers will log total standing times of perhaps just a few hours if you count an entire year's surfing.  If you think about the time spent drifting on the swells, waiting for waves, paddling out, and the short but ecstatic experience of each surf, I think you begin to see a little clearer what life is like.  Lots of noise with heavenly intermissions of silence here and there.  Drudgery with some burning romance to singe away the straight edges.  Governing patterns yielding infrequently to precious moments.  Both make either possible, knowing the bitter helps us to enjoy the sweet, but too much sweet turns bitter in the same mouth.

We must learn to respect the scarcity and preciousness of magic moments and encounters, but also not hold onto them as though we were entitled to more simply because of how happy these experiences are.  No, we must also  embrace and accept the ordinary, and not wish it away.  Because this is life, and the whole run of it is a miracle of existence, the odds somehow favouring us to be in this time and place.  Don't mess with that.

More Surf Diaries.

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