Posted by: smithdavid | December 16, 2012


I wrench myself up onto the board so that I am sitting. The waves are powerful and choppy. We noticed this from the Stilwater (a beach near Wilderness in the Western Cape) car park but it didn’t stop us. We didn’t want to spend hours looking for somewhere to get in like we did yesterday.

I crank my neck around so that I can orientate myself. I remember being a hundred yards to the right of the yellow and red beach-marker flags when I first got in. But now I’m a hundred yards to the left and I know I’m moving, my internal GPS can sense it.

I lie back down on the board and take a few strokes towards where I came from. But I know my efforts are futile in the face of the tide against which I fight. I sit up again to catch my breath, I see the flags becoming ever distant. Now I feel everything in my body tense up, like when I’m standing near the dizzying edge of a very high place. The flags become yet smaller.

vic bay car park

vic bay car park

I recall Emmet’s words from a conversation about rip tides a long time ago: ‘I always paddle diagonally towards shore, at least it doesn’t feel as unnatural as paddling perpendicular to the shore..’  So I drop down again and paddle.

For a while it seems like I’m actually going further out to sea. My heart is pulsing the blood urgently around my body. I know I’m not in any real danger, this current is taking me across the shore rather than out to sea. But I feel alone and rudderless.

Eventually I let a few waves take me with them. I paddle along with some. Soon I can stand and I walk the board back along the beach to where Abi sits and waits.

I rest beside her for a while. EV is out back, picking off whichever waves he chooses.


vic bay

After a while I go back in. EV comes in closer to shore and makes some waves near where I am trying to make a few. I still have no luck. He doesn’t need to say the words when we eventually head in. His expression tells me to persevere.

Later we’re in Victoria Bay. There’s a point break on the headland that intrigues EV and a beach break closer to shore that might just suit me.

As we turn and walk to the car to suit up, we notice a commotion on the beach. All the swimmers are scrambling to get out the water and the surfers at the point have all come ashore. We wonder what’s going on. Then we see the white flag with the black shark symbol at the lifeguard stand. For a while there is some concern as the surfers in the beach break line-up are oblivious of the flag. Then one of them cops and there is a flurry of arms and legs and they all sprint-paddle back in.

‘The fishermen saw a shark,’ one of the lifeguards says. We think of hanging around for things to clear but then decide to go back to Sedgefield.

We go in at the estuary mouth at Abi’s place. The waves are big and messy. Once again EV uses the rip and I get caught in a mid break zone. I can neither duck through the waves nor catch them. I fight for a while, thinking at least my fitness will improve. There are again glimpses of EV riding waves in a faraway, magical place.

Afterwards we sit in the The Beach Bar. There is an area of tables set up in beach sand and a fire is raging. EV, for my benefit I’m sure, steers the conversation away from surfing as we sip on Windhoeks. Heat radiates off the land and from the air and everything is good.



  1. Dave,

    “…and everything is good.” The perfect ending to a well-told story.


    • thanks as always for reading and for the encouragement tom. i’m in sa now and will be at what i consider my local break (gonubie, east london) on wednesday. to quote counting crows: ‘it’s been so long since i’ve seen the ocean…’

      • Enjoy.

        And safe journeys.


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