Posted by: smithdavid | March 25, 2012

Lahinch, November 2010

I expected the water to be colder. I can feel it around my calves and knees as I wade in, but it doesn’t bite. My hands, placed on either side of my board, are cold but not numb. The oblique, winter light is fading but you can see the waves and that is all you need to see. There are one or two others in but otherwise Lahinch is ours.

Emmet paddles out as soon as he is waist deep. I stand for a while, springing up each time a wave rushes in, pushing my board over the top. The waves are manageable – I can stand my ground at chest depth and there is a chance I will catch one from here.

I look up and see a tall, graceful figure glide past in front of me – Emmet has caught his first wave. He whoops into the cool November air – it has been a while since he was out last. I want to be up on my board, I also want to whoop into the air.  From this position I cannot see the sets as they come in. I have to judge one wave at a time.

'we look out for Nicky and Tara's camper...'

Now I turn the board and I feel the pull – this is my wave! I’m charging in towards shore but the board never feels stable enough to stand. Still the rush is beautiful. I wade back out – I feel no cold flush as each wave breaks – the patches on the Purple Turtle are holding.

Emmet glides by once more – no whoops this time but they are not required. I see another swell – it rises slowly as it moves inevitably towards me. I turn the board and feel the pull. It’s that same rush once more – only this time I clamber up and find myself half standing. For a split second I am a surfer! But then the board shudders and I am off, breathing in salt water.

It’s nearly dark and the waves continue to roll in. I catch a few more waves and the result is similar. For a few seconds I’m a genuine surfer, for the rest I’m an unfit, 36-year-old wannabe.

Ugly yellow light cuts the gloom in the car park as we stumble back. We look out for Nicky and Tara’s camper but ours’ is one of only two cars parked. Steam rises from our suits as we pull them off. Emmet has to help me pull my legs from the Purple Turtle – the years have made it more like stiff rubber than neoprene.

‘What suits are you using,’ a tall, slim, German accented guy asks us as we towel off. ‘You’re from South Africa?’ he asks when he hears me speak. ‘I lived in Cape Town for a while – surfed Dungeons while I was there…’ We look at him in a new light now (Dungeons is SA’s giant wave). He’s surfed Mavericks too (California’s monster). I’m glad he didn’t see my amateurish efforts earlier.

Later we meet Nicky and Tara, Jens and Lisa in Kenney’s. The fire is warm and the Guinness is smooth. I listen to the talk of how surfing is so much more difficult than skiing (I’m relieved to hear) but how the thrill is greater. For me now, like a child, tomorrow cannot come quickly enough. I want to feel that salt water on my skin, I want to become worthy of my board.


  1. I want a purple turtle and a surf lesson from Emmet. Sorry Dave, I’ll go with Emmet over you on this lesson! I’ll have a pint of Guinness with you after by the fire. I feel like I am really going surfing with the two of you! All good.

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