Posted by: smithdavid | March 15, 2015

Riding Again

Phoenix’s engine splutters but doesn’t take when I turn the key. I pull the choke out, give her another go. After a couple more tinny turns, her engine ignites and I pump the accelerator a little to be sure and then push the choke back, a small increment at a time. Shoving her into reverse, I let the clutch out slowly and she starts rolling out the garage.

She hasn’t been driven much since I last used her, two months ago. But soon she’s bouncing along 7th Street and it’s like her 40 year-old Isuzu engine will never die. Sticking out the back of her canopy, held fast by a piece of rope tied to her door, is Christine, my 8-foot custom. Soon we shudder down Gonubie Main Street – three of us, riding again.

the gonubie rip

the gonubie rip

First thing I do when I get to the beach is wax Christine – I drag the soft wax along her deck, leaving rolls of wax on the sides. Then I pull the stick back, making a criss-cross pattern.

At the water’s edge I do some stretches, trying a few of the yoga poses I learnt in December. The sweat runs down my forehead already – it’s supposed to get to 32 Celsius today.

When I begin paddling out, I can feel that my arms do not have the strength of my last surf – the two months in London have leached my power. But the river-mouth rip is strong here and I’m carried along, rushing past the rocks that mark the edge of the bay. Soon I’m in line with the second windsock – a landmark for the sandbank that pushes swell up, forcing it to break. I sit on Christine and wait.

On the second or third wave, I turn and paddle. I feel the pull on Christine, make a few more strokes and pop-up. The wave pulls me along, there is on great drop as it breaks and soon it staggers on towards the beach, leaving me stalled behind it. I jump off the board, disappointed that the ride was so short but happy that I got up so quickly.

There are a couple of guys on SUPs and a surfer in the line-up. The SUP guys are farther out – catching the waves early. The surfer keeps paddling back towards the rocks, trying to negate the effect of the cross current. I start paddling too, but soon my arms are tired and a couple of waves break right on me. It seems like half an hour that I spend trying to get back out to the line-up. And now, for the first time in this session, the thoughts start whirling. I compare this session to the last few I had here, think about how impossible it is to maintain my surf fitness in London, how you can’t be a serious surfer if you don’t live beside the sea.

the first beacon

the first windsock

But then a wave comes and without thinking about what I have to do to catch it, I turn and paddle. The back of Christine lifts as the wave reaches me and I make a last few powerful strokes and then I’m up, riding. When I feel the wave’s power beginning to ebb, I trim back towards the shore, gather some pace. Eventually, when I’m past the first windsock, I jump off.

I take the rip back out and soon there is another wave with an equally long ride. I think about my body remembering what is has to do if I just stop worrying and comparing and give it a chance. Then I paddle back out and catch another wave.

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