Posted by: smithdavid | September 22, 2013

A Small Victory

It’s clear and warm on Long Beach, Kommetjie. Across the bay are the green and gray peaks of Hout Bay. Phil and I are getting suited up. The few words that are exchanged are terse, there is a sense of nervous anticipation.

Yesterday we stood on the deck which currently shades us. We looked out at the rising peaks, at the guys (all of them far more accomplished surfers than us) going for waves that looked at least six feet high. Most of the guys made some sort of drop and then fell off, those watching winced and turned away. One or two actually made it all the way down and then steered into rapid barrels, disappearing and reappearing again, wows and whistles coming from us onlookers.

Although the waves aren’t quite as big as yesterday, I still feel that I’m probably out of my depth here.

the peaks of hout bay...

the peaks of hout bay…


‘There’s no-one on a SUP out there,’ says Phil, ‘don’t think we’re the most popular here…’ Phil was hard-running, vengeful-tackling rugby fullback back in the day, to hear him speak quietly this way is a little unnerving. I remember, too, the surf rage incident on my only previous visit to this beach, a year ago.  Some things are better gone at without too much thought so I forego the usual stretching and go straight in.

We’re surprised by the ease of the paddle out back. Phil is soon able stand up and dig the paddle into the water, thrust himself forward, my 8’2″ hire-board glides forward, easily making it up and over the swell.

Phil pulls out to the right of the line-up, I join the fringes, watching as farther south and closer in, a group of six or so young surfers take off on a wave after wave.

I go for a wave or two, but they don’t pick me up.

‘It was better half an hour ago…’ says a guy on a long board. The two of us are the farthest out back. ‘I really should go to work…but maybe it’ll pick up again.’ A wave or two later he catches one and rides left, carving this way and that comfortably.

It’s colder on this side of Cape Town (the Atlantic side) than at Muizenberg (the Indian side), every now and again I get an ice-cream headache. I look over at Phil for the first time in a while, things have got a lot more difficult and he’s struggling to stay standing on the SUP. I think about my last visit here, paddling around on the 7’2″, not catching a single wave.

a smaller drop...

a smaller drop…

A line of swell pitches now and I look around, there is no one else going for it, so I paddle. The board is taken by the wave and things merge into a rapid blur. In the confusion all I remember is that I must get up as soon as possible. I spring forward, my front foot lands near the nose of the board, my right is still at the tail. I remain crouched. I rush down the face of the wave, staying crouched for the fear of falling and getting pounded. Soon after it feels steady enough and I stand and now I’m riding the wave properly. There is a sense of victory, of having overcome a foe. Maybe if I were alone I would throw my arms in the air. But this victory of mine is so small compared to what those guys in the barrel achieved yesterday.

When i look towards Phil I see that its got even worse for him. It seems obvious now why there are no others in on SUPs, it’s almost impossible to stand up out here. He hasn’t given up though and he didn’t let the fact that there wasn’t another SUP out stop him. He has not lost his fearlessness, it seems.

The rest of the session is cold and I get dumped a few times in the lightening quick waves closer in. But nothing can take the earlier victory away.



  1. It all about having fun, enjoy!!

    • agreed. though sometimes it’s about being scared and the fun comes after. thanks for reading.

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