Posted by: smithdavid | June 30, 2013

The Smallest Shift in Position

‘It’s pretty flat out there,’ says Colm, looking out to the calm blue which stenches out from the beige of Incheydoney Beach and runs interminably on towards the horizon. ‘Hope you like paddling…’

‘No problem with paddling,’ I say, ‘compared to the Tube it’ll be bliss…’ I’m at the Incheydoney Surf School, about to hire a board – it was never going to work out trying to bring Matilda from Hammersmith to Heathrow and then on to West Cork.

There a couple of surfers in the water, but they’re paddling across the bay, not trying to catch waves, just paddling.

the incheydoney headland...

the incheydoney headland…

‘You know how to paddle that way?’ Colm says, nodding towards them. They are crouched with their knees on the board, lifeguard style, reaching forward with both arms, pulling themselves along.

‘Never done it…’ I say.

He sets the foam board that I’m going to use on the ground, kneels down, shows me how to get maximum reach, how not to splash out inefficiently at the end of the stroke.

‘Might be about all you’ll do today,’ he says, again looking at the lake-like sea.

‘Still better than the Tube…’ I say.

‘Best place you can go is out towards Ring…’ he says, pointing to the faraway eastern side of Incheydoney. ‘If you go try just where the sea meets the estuary, there might be some kind of a wave for you…’

Now I’m on the 8’6” foamie, paddling out around the headland on which the car park sits. Last year my pride would not have allowed me to regress (as I thought of it then) to a foamie. But now I know it’s all about riding waves, by whichever means available.I get up onto my knees so that I can paddle with both arms. But the board wobbles and I splash into the water.

small swell at incheydoney...

small swell at incheydoney…

The next time I’m on my knees I can feel where the piece it missing from my left knee-cap and I have to shift to get comfortable. I reach forward, as Colm demonstrated, and pull myself along. Between this method, which continues to feel strange, and standard paddling, I travel the half mile down to the estuary mouth.

As Colm predicted, the pulses of incoming swell are forming small waves on a sand bank. I paddle for one and it does not really pick me up. I curse, thinking on such a big board I should catch just about anything.

Another wave comes in and this time I feel it take me and I pop-up. But soon it peters out into nothing and I stall.

This is the way it goes for the next hour. The waves were a similar size in Woolacombe and I was on Matilda and I got a good run off them. Now, on this longer, more buoyant board, it is a struggle once more. But the sun is shining and I could be in the timeless, ‘headache coloured’ (thanks REM for the borrowed image) Tube – so things are okay.

I paddle a little farther out, back towards the headland. Now a wave curls up and I go for it. I can feel that this one has picked the board up properly and I pop-up and ride until it’s too shallow.

The next wave is the same and the next after that, the smallest shift in my position has changed everything.

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