Posted by: smithdavid | April 1, 2012

Lahinch, November 2010. Part 2

The tide is in the next morning – the waves are breaking on the boulders and we pick our way into the surf.

‘Good to get on your board quickly and get paddling – warms you up!’ says Emmet and he is on his board, efficient strokes taking him away from me. I follow his lead, the Mini-Mal wobbles as I dump myself on top of it. The waves are punchier today – there will be no standing, board at side, and picking them off as they roll in. These waves require more guile than that.

'...the tide is in...'

I make a few strokes and look up – I can feel the muscles and tendons in my neck strain as I do – this will take getting used to. Emmet is already some distance away – he’s attacking the break line. I paddle harder and feel my breath quickening – I’m only in five minutes and already I’m gasping.  A wave thunders into me and knocks me off my board. I expect to feel the rocky ocean surface but my feet thrash at nothing. A moment of panic, I cannot stand – Mike’s warning about the Lahinch rip ricochets in my head. Now in the distance, Emmet is sitting up on his board, hands in opposite arm pits to keep warm.

Earlier we browsed through the shops, trying on hoodies and gloves. Emmet buys nothing – I’m happy I’m now wearing both.

The roar from the ocean is dampened by the neoprene over my ears. I look up again, neck still aching. I thrash against the perpetual crash of waves. Just a few more yards and I’ll be out the break zone. But these last yards are hard.

At last I’m beside Emmet, gasping, sucking hard on the ocean air. ‘Well done – you’re out back on your second time!’ says Emmet, looking down from his perch on the board. ‘You know how to sit on the board?’ I spit out water (litres it feels like) and shake my head. With my last strength I clamber up. But I’m off the side immediately. ‘You need to clamp the board in your legs…you can balance yourself with your hands…’ He shows me and it makes sense.

Now I’m sitting, rising and falling with each swell – watching as they form and crash in towards the shore.

‘How things going?’ someone asks. It takes me a while to recognize Jens in his suit and hood. Before I can answer he turns his board, makes a few stokes, pops up and glides to the shore. It’s easy. Emmet takes one too.

Now I’m alone – a minute speck in the vast ocean, rising and falling. It’s soothing and terrifying at the same time. My breath is back and I’m ready. I clamber the Mini-Mal into position – a wave pulls, I’m on it! But then the board nosedives and I’m in the spin cycle, arms thrashing. Eventually my head is above the water again and I see I’m in the impact zone – the hardest yards will have to be made again.

It gets no easier. Eventually, energy spent, I let the ocean wash me home.

‘Not a great day out there…I only got one or two’ says Emmet, pensive, as he sips warm tea in Nicky andTara’s camper. I mumble agreement – I caught nothing. ‘You have wax on that board?’ he asks. I shake my head. ‘No wonder you couldn’t get up – you have to have wax on the board…’ For a moment I’m encouraged – there’s a logical reason for my failure. But this quickly wanes – I know it’s not true. There is a more fundamental problem.

I lean back on the bunk. It’s Sunday morning and the air is clean and the waves are crashing a few yards away and something resonates. Somewhere within my exhaustion and disappointment I smile.

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