Posted by: smithdavid | September 30, 2012


It’s only a formality this morning as I stand in The Bay Surf Shop. The hard sell was done in the golden dusk and gentle surf yesterday evening.

There is no choice – the only 7’3” they have is white and almost entirely unmarked. I would have chosen this anyway – there is something intense but understated about her.


Dave has her up on trestles and is inserting the fins – there is a choice of three or four. We agree that at my level, a standard thruster (3 fin) arrangement will be best. He puts a leash on and then shows me how to wax her properly. The harder, cold water wax first – scraped on diagonally across one way and then the other. A few scrapes of the warm water wax on top.

Tim goes to park at the beach a short distance away and I walk down with her under my arm. She’s clean and light and sleek and I’m beaming.

I never gave the mini-mal a name – maybe because she was given to me. This is different.

It does not take much thought. I can still hear Jean Reno calling Natalie Portman ‘Matilda’ in Leon, my favourite movie.

I catch Tim’s eye when I meet him in the car park. He understands – I have to take Matilda into the ocean immediately.

Now I’m paddling out and she glides – just as Tim’s board did. Maybe smoother. A sets comes in – there is weight behind these waves – they’re similar to what we surfed yesterday morning. It’s not straight forward to get out back – Tim and I are both gasping. At least with Matilda’s sharp nose I’ve some chance of ducking her under a wave.

Finally we’re out there. Both Tim and I are spent. As he did yesterday, Tim picks off one of the first waves that come and he’s quickly up and closing in on the shore.

I paddle at one. But it doesn’t take me. Then another. Same. There is a moment of doubt, not in Matilda, but in myself. I have a board that’s new and floaty, I should be making every wave. The ocean, as if it has heard this inner dialogue, goes quiet for a while. I catch my breath and remember that I’m lucky to be out here at all.

a few going in…

Then another wave comes – four foot and angry. I paddle and feel myself tip over the edge. It’s too steep for me to stand so I stay down. After a while Matilda is steady enough for me to move. I want to spring up but I’m on my knees first. Then, with great effort, I’m standing.

Quickly, I’m ahead of the white water. I shift one way and Matilda moves with me; I shift the other and it’s the same. She’s like the lover with whom few words need to be exchanged, everything is instinctual.

I ride almost to the shore. Then I’m paddling back into the break zone. Next time I want to stand up straight away.

But it doesn’t happen. My body is weary and the waves contain fury. I have to make do with that one wave. For now.

As I leave the ocean I promise myself that I will practice pop-ups at home so that I can do Matilda justice.


  1. Nice entry and great photos. They cheer up a cloudy day.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • thanks for stopping by bill. glad it cheered you up. dave

  2. Dave,

    I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship- to quote the final line from one of my favorite movies. Oh, what places you and Matilda will go.



    • thanks tom. i’ve already been quite a few places with matilda. and the journey has only just begun….dave

  3. Dave – its like choosing vanilla icecream – sometimes the plain, understated is just the best choice. I’ve never surfed, but feel through your posts, that I almost could! 🙂 Heather

    • thanks heather. everyone should surf, i think. i’ve yet to find something better for lifting the spirits…dave

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