Wednesday, December 6, 2006

FIFTY............what the hell??

Some time has passed since my Dad shot this photo, I think I was 9 and had been surfing a few months. Taken on South Beach in Durban, South Africa.

Maybe in retrospect it was the ugliest board in history. The top was a white deck with orange cloth spots, the bottom a white and green resin swirl. A large hatchet fin anchored the tail. It's width forced me to carry it with two arms wrapped around it, or on top of my head, "Endless Summer" style. It was shaped for kneeboarding (4'10") but it was considered perfect for a kid my size to be a stand up board.

"WaveMaster by Baron Stander" read the label and those boardshorts came from the small cramped shop he ran just off Point Road. That place smelled as cool and as exotic as the freshly glassed boards standing against the walls, shiny and sleek like blades.

I remember vaguely the first attempts I made at surfing. The time spent in crumbly beach break, the pearling and going over the falls, the swim in. Soon enough these memories seem to have gone from the chaos that crappy surf represents to the glassier and windless days with their more defined peaks and walls. In the months ahead I moved north along the Golden Mile as the beach front is known as. The south end of town is often the last to get swell and as you cruise up to the north, the waves get bigger and more challenging.

I ended up surfing at North Beach and after the swimmers took over I surfed the next beach to the south, Dairy. North belonged to swimmers after 8a.m. and then surfers could return after 5p.m., every day we got boosted grudgingly from the water. Often in primo conditions. Like lemmings we congregated on the rock jetty in the late afternoon, in anticipation of the flags being dropped on the lifegaurd towers, signalling the end of the lifies shift. In a reversal of fortunes we now became the invaders of the lineup and the bodysurfers left the waves less than happy with our presence.

For 41 years now I have been following this path of paddling out and turning, trying to catch a band of energy that breaks briefly and then dissipates, vanishing from sight but it's watery remains joining remnants of other waves, to carry me back out to the line up I have just left. Besides the sheer joy of good waves, it has been the constant uplifting of my spirits through any conditions where I have found surfing's true value in my life. That kid in the picture started doing something that through all the shifts in his life he managed to stay with.

Tonight I had the last surf of my 40's, it was a fun peaky evening sessions with head high rights. Way speedy with a minus tide approaching, the fish responded by leaping sections and on a bigger set wave I managed to slam the brakes on the board and get covered up before releasing again and sliding over the back of the wave.

My last ride in the darkening also threw a lip over my head and then a slap on the shoulder to tilt me gracelessly off the board, leaving me swimming in the water, as if I was 9 and just learning how to ride a wave.......................

1 comment:

twin said...


happy birthday, cute boy.