Posted by: smithdavid | January 26, 2014

Leaving me Behind

We’re in the living room of Finn McCool’s Surf Lodge, Rossnowlagh. Hannah’s eating her high protein power breakfast (eggs), Emmet and I are eating toast. I point to East London on the world surf map that hangs on a wall, show them my home break (‘home break’ is tenuous seeing as I’ve never lived there, but Dad lives there and I surf whenever I visit).

I look out the large window towards where the waves break. The lines of swell that pulse in from the deeper water seem small and toothless as they jack up and break.

small & toothless

small & toothless

‘Might be okay?’ I say.

‘Sure, we’ll give it a try – last day…’ says Hannah.

Emmet shrugs, shakes his head. ‘It’s giving even smaller than yesterday…’ he says. ‘But suppose we’ll have to go in, won’t we?’

Now we’re wading in, three of us, boards floating on the waist high water as we guide them forward. Emmet slides on to his board, starts paddling towards the back-line. Hannah wades in a little farther and then a reforming wave approaches, the face cleaning up and rising two feet. She turns, pulls herself on to the board. The wave begins to pull her and she makes a few strokes and then pops up, right foot first.  She’s crouched, her hands pull at the air as they always do. Her eyes clench with focus, she rides, staying on the clean face of the wave. She goes for fifty yards or so, it seems there’s more weight behind the waves than my peak out the Finn McCool’s window suggested.

‘Go Goofball, go…’ I shout, knowing she won’t hear.  The nickname has just come to me. Of course it’s because she’s a goofy-footer, but there’s also the fact that she’s ever so slightly, endearingly, clumsy.

Another clean, two-footer approaches. I hesitate – if I want to improve my surfing I need to get out to the back-line more often, where the waves have more bite. So really I should paddle over this wave, keep going. But I turn and paddle, the temptation of a small, easy wave to get the confidence up is too much.

The 8’7″ board begins to glide with the wave, I put my hands on the board, they’re near the bottom of my rib cage. It should be easy now, a thrust with the arms and I’ll be up on my feet, riding. But my left hand slips and my chest hits the deck. The board slews off at an awkward angle, the wave pulses on to the shore, leaving me behind.



Just a fluke, small mistake, I think and begin paddling again. Another two-footer comes, again I can’t resist and turn. This time my back foot slips and I’m in the water and the wave travels to the shore without me.

I stop for a minute, draw a deep breath. Out towards the back-line Emmet has caught one and is riding casually right. Then the Goofball also gets one, rides left, crouched.

It’s me who’s the clumsy one now, I think. And this after two nights of solid surf talk.

I do the only thing that can be done, get back on the board, resume paddling.

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