Posted by: smithdavid | October 1, 2017

The Day Before I Leave


Clean as! says the text from Greg, my brother-in-law. He, my sister and nieces have driven down for a walk along the Boardwalk and maybe later a drink at Gonubie Point where often we lean against the bumper of his bakkie and watch the waves pitch. On a good day there’ll be a few out negotiating the steep take-off and fast right and I’ll wonder how they make it look so effortless. On the best days, of which we’ve seen one, a pod of dolphins (thirty or so on the occasion we were there) will duck and dive around the surfers, wearing expressions which can be nothing other than grins.


I’m at home (five minutes up the road), arms still aching from a three hour surf this morning during which the ocean produced one clean three-footer after another. Either I go now for one last surf (I return to the UK tomorrow) or wait until the morning. Tomorrow my energy will be replenished, my head cleared of the haze from my long morning session. But it’s clean now – I pull my 3/2 off the line, strap Christine (my 8ft minimal) to the roof of the hire car.


I roll into the sand swept car park, turn into the only available space facing the sea. Once out the car I climb the lower rail of the balustrade to get a better view. In the bay the sea appears smooth and viscous, like liquid mercury, as the lines of swell pulse shoreward. A crew of five or six surfers, three or four SUPpers wait in the usual beachie position – between the two weather vanes on the rocks to the left, just to the right of the lifeguard house. Being a late starter (36 when I rode my first wave), I prefer not to compete for waves as often I end up following the wisdom of the crowd rather than trusting my own judgement and not making waves as a result. Also, there is much thrashing of arms in the line up when small waves come but not much riding. On my right, near the rock pool, the same lines of swell move inevitably towards the sand. I jog to the Boardwalk to be sure – the waves are small but catchable, every now and again a bigger one comes. Back at the car I pull the 3/2 the right way round one last time, take the board from the roof.

Wading in I wait for a break in the sets, start paddling – Christine glides (she’s so much easier to paddle than the 6’4” that I’ve been torturing myself with for most of my two weeks in Gonubie); I’m out back with minimal effort. I’ve just sat up when a wave begins cresting. I turn and paddle, feel the surge as the wave comes and then I’m up, accelerating down the face. I trim this way and that to keep momentum. It’s a long ride because Christine is so buoyant, I’m in the shallows when I finally jump off. Perhaps I’ve ridden too far but it’s an easy paddle out. I sit up, let the next wave go, stretch my arms a little. Across the bay the sun reflects off the twenty or so windows of a guest house and casts an orange echo onto the smooth water. I let two or three waves go and then paddle for one. The wave doesn’t take immediately but despite my tired arms I make the three or four extra strokes to pop-up and off I go again.


When I get out back again I sense that someone is watching and look shorewards. On a lookout point of the Boardwalk stand a group that appears to be my family, though without glasses (my eyes are good for seeing a wave coming, everything farther that gets blurry) and in the fading light, I can’t be sure. But I have a strong sense that it’s them and I think how they’ve been witness to my surf journey – countless nose dives and missed waves and awkward crouches once up and endless endeavour and truncated rides because of my obstinance with the short board. As I watch the next wave come I know exactly when to start paddling and how to make those one or two extra strokes so that I’m up on the clean – I never for a moment think I won’t catch the wave. And now I’m riding the shoulder, weightless, clear water rushing towards me and then past.

The dusk has settled in further by the time I paddle out again – I look towards the main line-up, there are only a couple left (the SUPpers have left) and they’re not really getting waves. I feel a guilty satisfaction (ordinarily I will others to get waves) but today seems like vindication for all the time I’ve put into surfing. And the next time I surf I’ll probably get pounded so I enjoy the moment. I take another wave or two, it gets darker still. When I look back to the Boardwalk the group have gone. But they were my family, I’m sure, and they’ve seen enough. I take an ABF (absolute bloody final) wave (my third or fourth ABF) – this one chunkier, bigger, the ride faster. The water bulges on my right, smoother than before and bristling with more energy. I ride all the way in, jump off just before Christine’s fins hit the sand. Then, not looking back, I take the leash off and walk back through the dense dusk to the hire car.



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