Posted by: smithdavid | March 11, 2012

The Good Turn

'...a 7'4" Mini-Mal..'

I open the door and there it is – pristine in its red bag, an outsider in amongst the drawings and samples and dust. Mike said he would bring it and it’s not that I didn’t believe him – he’s not that kind of guy – I’m just surprised now that it’s here. I fight to suppress a smile – a surfboard in a Dublin site office on a rainy, early-autumn day is incongruous. It hints at something higher minded than construction, something less concrete. For the rest of the day I wait eagerly for someone to ask me about it. But also I feel deceitful – I am by no means a surfer. Not by a long shot.

‘There’s no point in it gathering dust in my parent’s house…’ Mike said a few days previously in the site canteen.

‘And you’re sure will never use it again?’ I asked, knowing I must ask, knowing the likely answer, yet still afraid he might change his mind.

‘Sure! Got caught in a rip in Lahinch – the lifeguards had to get me. No-one ever told me not to paddle against the rip – I wore myself out…’ Now I think of how the ocean is unconcerned over the folly of an individual in the face of its vast, unknowable power. My enthusiasm dips briefly.

Mike refuses payment for the board. I then offer spare shopping vouchers – it’ll cost me nothing and it’ll buy him brownie points with the missus. But he shakes his head. ‘What goes around comes around – you can do someone else a good turn some other time…’ he says.

Again my spirits soar when I carry the board from my car into my apartment. It is so much more than foam and timber and PVC. I think of the image I have of surfers from childhood: free-spirited mavericks, dismissive of authority and establishment, the focus of the guilty longing of just about every girl, every woman. This board tells the world that I am one of them even though my conservative, engineer’s path thus far says otherwise. I suspect that what I think this board symbolises and what it actually does are worlds apart. But only time in the ocean will show me.

‘Let’s have a look at her,’ says Emmet, unzipping the bag later. ‘Mmmm, alright – yes. Yes, nice board – what length is she?’


'...beneath the winding staircase..'

‘She might be a bit short…’ Too short! The damn thing barely fitted into my car! (For the record – she is a 7’4” Mini-Mal and Emmet’s first reaction was spot on). But I am determined to use this board – there is a sense of destiny about it. A destiny that I hope does not include being pulled out to deep sea by a rip!

Once we’ve put the board away Emmet shows me how I should pop-up (getting from the paddling position to the wave riding position). ‘You should practice – even here in the living room…’ he says, after some enthusiastic demonstrations. That’s crazy, I think, I’ll be fine when I’m in the sea…

I have a new board these days – Matilda (a story for another day), so the 7’4” Mini-Mal lies beneath our winding staircase in Ealing, London. She’s brought me a long way and now she’s waiting for me to do someone a good turn, so that she can begin giving her lessons all over again, so that she can return to the ocean. That someone might be you.


  1. Keep it coming… loving the writing, you’ve a great way with the written word!!

  2. A free-spirited tale. I love the image of the surfers. Get Matilda out for a spin!

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