Posted by: smithdavid | March 23, 2014

Lightness of Body

I’m in waist deep at Saunnton and feel out of sorts – there is no board beside me; Matilda is still on the beach, a hundred yards back.

There is good reason for the absence – this is my first attempt to teach others to surf. Claire and Sophie have both hired wetsuits and boards from their B&B and are now beside me, paddling for foamies.

Earlier, Emmet and I showed them how to pop-up on the shore. Recalling how difficult it was for me to learn to get up, it would’ve probably been better to get them to practice pop-ups for an hour before going near the sea. But they had that giddy, seaside excitement and there was no way we could deny them a run in the water.



A wave forms twenty yards away and Claire gets on the board. As it approaches I line Claire’s board up and when the wave reaches us I push it hard so that it is taken by the white foam. As Claire and the board rush away, her leash snags on the scar on my left hand – there is numbness and then sharp pain. It’s a schoolboy error, a mistake I recall a friend of Andre’s make when he helped with a lesson in Nahoon.

Claire tries to stand but the board wobbles beneath her and she is never well enough set after that to make another attempt.

I leave my hand submerged for a while; let the cold soothe it.

We try another wave for Claire and again it is difficult for her to get stable.

‘I was on a bigger board in easier conditions my first time – and I didn’t get up at all…’ I say when she comes back, grimacing. I remember showing her how to pop-up in a car-park in London when we first discussed her joining our surf trip. She had an elegance about her movements, her body is flexible. It must be difficult for her now not to be able to move that way. But she keeps going, trying wave after wave. I manage to get my hand caught in her leash again at one stage.

one comes back from the sea...

one comes back from the sea…

Emmet has paddled all the way out back and now I see him glide by; he’s got a long, long ride off a wave.

‘You mind if I go out there for a while?’ I say to Claire. She smiles, nods. She’s probably seen the longing in my eyes as I watch the waves forming farther out.

When I have Matilda and begin paddling out, I look up and see Sophie riding a wave, standing. She throws her arms up in a V, whoops into the air. I smile and resume paddling, anxious to feel the weightlessness of riding a wave myself.

There is not a long wait when I’m out. A line of swell rises not far away; I turn and begin paddling. I feel that familiar thrust as the board catches. I spring up, making no mistake and soon I see the blur of water on either side, feel the lightness of body, spirit.

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