Posted by: smithdavid | March 16, 2014


There is a table beside a window in a nook in The Thatch; it’s still bright enough outside for the space to seem large. I sit down and although we’re out of the main thoroughfare, I can still see who is entering and leaving the bar.

When Emmet returns from the bar he puts a pint of Guinness down for himself, passes a pint of Coke to me. Despite the ache in my body from this morning’s surf and my drowsiness in this warmth, I still harbour thoughts of another session this evening. It seems, to me, a waste to be beside the sea and not use every possible opportunity to surf.

‘Got a few nice ones this morning,’ Emmet says, lounging back on the padded bench, drawing on his pint. Emmet is more the one-long-surf-a-day type than the as-many-as-you-can-fit-in. And he’s right about this morning, I can still picture his crouched stance on the handful of long, languid right hand waves that he caught.

I see Claire’s long brown curls now; her eyes dart around the space. When I stand she sees me and comes over. Sophie, her friend, has also come down for the weekend; she also wants to try surfing. They sit down, order teas.

a line-up of five or six...

a line-up of five or six…

It would be easy now to stay here for the evening, start again tomorrow. But Claire and Sophie want to go to the beach and that feeling of restlessness within me is resonating once more. Emmet, perhaps wisely, opts for a nap; the three of us pile into the estate.

There is plenty of space to park on the Esplanade in Woolacombe. Claire takes the camera as I start suiting up.

The light is already fading as I jog down the concrete path with Matilda under my arm. I don’t stretch and begin paddling out immediately. There is a point, twenty yards or so away, where the waves are jacking up. I look up and see that farther out, perhaps another fifty yards on, there is a line-up of five or six. One of them paddles for a wave, pops up. He carves a few curves on the face and then jumps off. I know that I should paddle out to this line; the rewards will be there if I do. But instead I go to the closer place; rationalising that I’m tired and should take the easier option; at least I’m in. Something within me is dissatisfied though; something wants me to go to that less certain place.

a short ride...

a short ride…

I paddle for one of the re-forming waves, Matilda catches and I pop up. But soon she stalls and I have to jump off. I fluff the next wave: a hand slips off Matilda and when I try and recover I see that the shore is only twenty feet away and there will be no time to ride.

I try one or two more – the vanity in me is hoping that Claire will catch a shot of me standing and graceful on a wave. But there are only half rides and eventually it is too dark and I have to return to shore.

It is, however, still with a sense of reluctance that I leave the ocean.

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