Posted by: smithdavid | February 17, 2013


There is a vague spring heat in the air at Incheydoney as I wade in. It’s Good Friday and this is the first time I’ve surfed since early January. Matilda is light in my hands and the ease with which I can move her reminds me of a petit, delicate woman. But I remember the last time I used the Blue Bus in Gonubie, she was heavy and there was some security in her bulk, catching waves was not difficult. I again wonder if Matilda is too ethereal for me.

I push Matilda over a wave and then jump onto her and begin paddling. I feel the way she glides across the water; I don’t have to make the powerful, aggressive strokes I made with the Blue Bus. After a short time I’m out past where ten or so are getting instruction from one of the surf school guys. For once I feel elegant and graceful as I pass others.

Although I feel light as I paddle, I still anticipate that there will be leadenness about me when I turn and try to catch a wave.

Getting out back is not the harsh struggle it was in December, I’m out there without really losing my breath.

I sit on her and wait. From this vantage point I can see the long lines of swell forming fifty yards away. I let the first one go by. And the second. But on third, I can’t resist – I’ve come such a long way and it’s been so long.

I point Matilda’s nose just off the perpendicular to the shore. I watch over my left shoulder as the swell line rises. I paddle: two, three, four stokes. I feel the way the wave grips on her and now I know I am going with it. Without any thought I find myself standing and steering with my weight. The sensation of lightness is not physical alone. It seems that the element of darkness that shaded the months since my last surf has dissipated now that my body has confirmed it knows how to rise on a wave.

incheydoney beach

incheydoney beach

I ride only twenty or thirty yards and then the power is gone. Easily, I paddle back out. I need to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

lines of swell at incheydoney

lines of swell at incheydoney

Another wave comes and I’m straight up again, this time before it’s broken. I feel the wave pitch and then there is a split second of acceleration as I slide down the face. My organs seem behind me but before I can define the sensation it is gone. It’s like the first controlled turn on a black slope or that moment just before the ball billows the net after it has left your foot. Only more intense.

Twenty yards farther on I’m off the board and there is time for thought.  I know now that I’ve just experienced what surfers call ‘the drop’ (when you ride down the face of a wave). It was a small one but that doesn’t make it less real.

I paddle out again because my body craves the sensation again. There’s no mistaking it – I’m an addict.

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