Posted by: smithdavid | June 23, 2013

Tuned In

It’s almost three hours since I left Bristol. I thought it would take just over an hour. At least now though I can see the long, beige strip of Woolacombe Beach. It keeps reaching down south towards Putsbrurough until it fades into the horizon. Where the beach begins, near the village, the beige sand is darkened by the ant-like (from this distance) flow of bodies.

I drive down to the Esplanade, thinking, optimistically, that if I show the faith to go there, I’ll find a parking spot. But I reach Morhoe and have to turn back. What I do see from this vantage point though are the small, pulsing lines of swell and a few dark figures out there, just about getting up on waves. My back is aching now and I’m anxious to get in my suit and get paddling.

There is a makeshift parking lot on Challacombe Hill and I park and change, leaving my keys (as Tim trustfully does) with the parking attendant. Something about this small gesture of faith in humanity makes me smile.

I cross the road now, Matilda under my arm. Someone is coming up with a long board.

the beige band of woolacombe...

the beige band of woolacombe…

‘What’s it like out there?’ I ask.

‘Great day, swell is a bit small but if you’re patient, you’ll get something…’ he says.

I walk on down, the sand warm on the soles of my feet. There are children scurrying, parents trying to catch some peace beneath umbrellas. I wade into the water – it’s not cold at all – I’m thinking that if the car were closer I’d take the wetsuit off.

There’s nothing worth catching right now, what is coming in from the Atlantic is hardly a ripple. I paddle out deeper, look around to see if anyone is getting waves somewhere else. I sit on Matilda for a while, happy to be in the ocean after the long layoff and drive.

At last a swell line approaches from the glassy beyond. It moves inevitably towards me , there’s plenty of time to turn and paddle. I feel the pull on Matilda and I pop up and ride for a while.

a few going in...

a few going in…

I paddle out again and another wave comes. It’s only a couple of feet high but there is just enough power in it to pick me up. Again I paddle and pop up, this time standing up straight away, not crouching. I ride for a short distance and then am off again.

Another wave comes and it’s the same again. It occurs to me as I ride towards the rocks that mark the northern most tip of Woolacombe that I’ve been given an opportunity by these benign conditions to restore my confidence after my fruitless time in Bude. It feels that each time I pop-up there is harmony between the wave energy, Matilda and I; that there is the time for my movements to tune in to the today’s ocean frequency.

I keep up the cycle – paddle out, pop-up, ride, paddle out, pop-up, ride.

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