Posted by: smithdavid | May 13, 2012

The Start of the Affair

As we enter the Rossnowlagh car park Emmet is craning his neck to see out.

‘Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes – look how clean that it is,’ he says. I still don’t know what clean means but it must be a good thing. Quickly we’re parked and standing on the rocks that separate sand and tarmac. There’re about ten of them out there, dark silhouettes, black hooded heads twisted towards the shallow winter horizon so that they can see what is approaching. They wait, backs erect, noses of boards pointing skywards.

‘If one of them gets up, then we really know,’ says Emmet. And one of them does – a gentle, graceful arc carved into the face of the wave. ‘That’s us – we’re on!’

‘It’s just getting good now…but I’m wrecked,’ says the girl beside us in a thick Dublin drawl as she packs her board into her boot.

‘That might be Ciaran’s camper…’ Emmet says as we leave the cars behind us and move closer to the cold water.

‘a thin wedge of pink’

Now we’re wading in. This is the acid test for my new O’Neill 5/3 Heat wetsuit. I bought it in The Great Outdoors in Dublin a few weeks previously. It’s like a second skin compared to the Purple Turtle. A second skin that creates a vacuum effect on the groin area I discover once I’m fully immersed. It might be uncomfortable but at least I’m not cold. Not even the 7 degree water can penetrate.

There is a wedge of pink within the sky. It’s like a sunset yet it’s only midday. It’s like a shaft of sunlight in the dark, imposing forest of winter. Up north along the coast the light brown sand band wraps around the headland. To the south are cliffs, a house or two scattered along them.

I see the swell coming. It’s not big but it’s clear and defined and there’s time to turn. I paddle and I feel the min-mal bite into the water. I get stable and then I’m on my knees and then, a short while later, I’m standing. I’ve remembered Andre’s 4 point method for getting up. It’s not fast but I’m on the wave.

‘I see you’ve learnt something inSouth Africa…’ says Emmet when I’m near him once more. On my face is a broad grin.

He paddles out back; I’m happy to stand waist deep and pick just-breaking waves off. There is a consistency I have not yet experienced. I have faith – if I miss one there will be one similar just behind it. Or maybe one more behind that.

‘There is a consistency I have not yet experienced.’

I catch one and ride it till the energy is spent. I know it’s shallow but I don’t want to get off. Eventually I feel the tail of the board dig into the sand, I’m afraid to look at what damage may have occurred.

Then something rises in my consciousness – shouldn’t I feel heavy because of that other warm apartment in Dublin, where they are? Or because of that December seven years ago? But when I’m up on that board I am weightless. And when I’m in the ocean the sea is vital on my face and there are no thoughts, only sensations.

The light is fading by the time I go in. Emmet waves from Ciaran’s camper. ‘Have you lost a fin?’ asks Ciaran. Now I see the price of riding too far in.

The O’Neill slips off when I change, my days of wrestling the Purple Turtle are over.  There is a cup of tea in Ciaran’s. Now the debate begins – another night in John Conboy’s or on to Strandhill where the night will be alive in The Strand Bar. Some remembered loneliness within flares and we pack the car and head south to Sligo.

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