Posted by: smithdavid | May 11, 2014

At home

 

The sky is gray at Saunton and the cross-shore wind is lifting buds of white foam from the breaking waves, releasing it into the dull ether. I’m paddling out on Matilda (my 7’3” Superfish) and when I crank my neck up I see that a line of swell is pulsing towards me. There is an urge to turn her, let this first wave carry me and feel that sensation of floating – even if it is for just a short time.

 

But in my mind is impression of Emmet riding comfortably on a right, the wave carrying him a hundred yards or more across the bay. If I want to ride like this, I have to start taking waves from farther out, I know.

 

lines of swell as saunton...

lines of swell as saunton…

 

So I take a few more stokes – the oncoming wave lifts us (Matilda and I), tilts us slightly skywards and then we rock over and I resume paddling. Another wave comes and I feel the twitch that compels me to go for the wave. But again I think of the rewards for making it farther out and rock over this wave too.

 

My breath shortens and I suck hard, measure my strokes. Now I recall details from my runs around Hyde Park: having to tread carefully in the orange street light to avoid where tree roots have lifted the paving; the clock on the Harvey Nichols façade in Knightsbridge; starting to breathe in rhythm with my steps and feeling that I can keep going indefinitely. I try and find rhythm now with my strokes. Eventually there is one last swell to rise over and I’m out there where it’s quieter, less frantic.

 

I sit up on Matilda, put my hands in my armpits to warm them; let my breath even out. It’s gone quiet – the water is not glassy like it would be on a windless day but it’s not particularly choppy either. To my right, far up above, are the cliffs on which the road to Croyde is carved. The shoreline seems a great distance away but instead of feeling alone and adrift I feel serene, at home somehow.

saunton...

 

There is a splash in the water and a fish jumps out, across Matilda – within touching distance. It disappears into the water again and once my surprise has faded I feel myself smiling.

 

I let the first wave of a new set go. It lifts me gently up and sets me down. I leave the second too – the effort to get this far out has brought patience, it seems.

 

I see the fourth line rising behind the third – it’s bigger and will have more shape, I reckon. When I turn to paddle there seems to be fluidity in my movement. I wait until the wave is a few yards away and then start paddling – my arms have power after the rest. Matilda begins moving with the wave and my left leg bursts forward; I’m standing before I’ve had time to think.

 

I surge down the face of the wave, everything is blurred and magnificent. Matilda keeps thrusting along – I lean this way and that and she moves with me. I ride for fifty yards and still there is a sense of momentum, direction. I don’t want this feeling to end. And in this moment it feels as if it won’t.

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