Posted by: smithdavid | June 3, 2012

A Strange Disquiet

I’m in the impact zone: my shoulders ache and the tender spot in my ribs from the skiing fall all those years ago throbs. When I do notice my breath (and this is not often), I see steam rising into the dull grey sky. In between torrents of water, I strain my neck to look for Emmet.

Then a wave knocks me from the mini-mal again and I’m back in the middle of it. Those in the line-up are only ten yards farther out than I but it may as well be a mile. The exertions of the last hour and yesterday at Rossnowlagh have left me near exhaustion. It is all I can do to get back on the board and face the next wave head-on.

two go looking

Existing in this particular space at this very moment is raw and vital and terrifying. Where I still lying in bed, either dreaming indistinct dreams or worrying over over-dramatized worries, things would be different. But they’re not. I’m in an angry sea in Sligo and I’m alive. Right now it seems just barely.

I paddle hard, determined to make those ten agonising yards as quickly as possible. The cold has given me a headache and my lungs burn, like they do when you sprint after months of inactivity.

At last I’m sitting on the mini-mal again, a straggler in the line-up, afraid to go too close for fear of another tirade from a dark neoprene shadow.

a boarder in the cold

And then there it is – like dry land when you’re adrift – a wave that I can just about manage. With the last of what I have I turn to shore and paddle. It’s going to break right on me but I don’t care – some new desire for weightlessness has over-ridden all else.

She pulls hard and everything is blurred – I know this feeling. If I could only get up it will be an immense ride. But I’m already dropping down the face. It’s okay, I’ll take the drop while I’m still down and get up after, this wave has power.

But when I look up I see another surfer sucking in air, readying themselves to dive under the wave. If I keep going I’ll plough straight into them. I can’t turn while I’m on my belly. There is only one thing to do.

Cursing, I roll off my board and feel water flush up through my nose.

I’ve been washed out to where I can almost stand. I wait here for a while, trying to recover, codding myself that maybe a wave will reform here and I’ll be able to catch it.

It’s been a lonely session. But there is something different about this loneliness. It seems not to reach as deep as the loneliness of waking deflated on a directionless Sunday.

I stay in no man’s land for a while, not willing to give up, not strong enough to go out-back. At last I relent and let a wave take me in. I stumble out over the rocks and stagger up the concrete ramp.

I thought I would feel relieved to be out. But there is a strange disquiet within. Something is incomplete now that I can no longer feel the sea water. It’s like my body is already craving the sea.



  1. I don’t think anyone has better captured the frustration- and the irresistible pull- of the experience of surfing than you have in these posts. I’m along for the ride for sure.

    • thanks tom. just had another weekend of it. 3 days of catching small waves on the clean and feeling like a god and then a day of obliteration and humility. but was planning the next session before i left the water.

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