THIS (PADDLE-OUT) LIFE
On many an occasion in my mid-teens wild storms generated significant swell along the coast north of Wollongong, NSW, where I grew up and, when they did, a few friends and I would drive to Sandon Point to see if any serious waves were breaking.
As the name implies, it’s a rocky promontory jutting jaggedly into the sea, catching swells that roll in from the open ocean and splitting them into left and right-breaking waves that peel off along its stone-strewn foreshore.
Ragged tin and timber boat sheds have stood for several generations at its base.
It has to be said that Sandon Point was a tough precinct, a mostly housing commission area where fools were not easily tolerated and respect had to be earned, but the common denominator of surfing brought a mellowing appreciation of nature and the ocean to bear on the realities of life in a hard-scrabble community.
And now, as we original water lovers age and mature, new generations of boardriders are pulling on wetsuits and waxing up multi-finned slivers of surfboard to answer the call of the siren surf.
Saturday morning, blue ocean, blue sky, with a striking side slash of green escarpment arcing northwards.
No sign of the barrelling thunder of building-sized crashing waves for which Sandon Point is notorious. Just a gentle lapping of small rollers hitting the rocky foreshore with neatly trimmed white water. A light breeze softly ruffles the oil-slick calm of the ocean’s surface. Then a sudden splash of water like a large school of fish breaching; several hundred shiny, slick, wetsuited surfers are slapping the water to send off one of their own from this mortal realm to the next.
These people are united in one single wish: to pay their respects to a humble man who walked among them and who, by his simple humanity and generosity, made an impression for the good that touched their lives.
They say souls wrenched violently from life by accident or misadventure are doomed to roam the twilight zone between existence and nonexistence, but here on the water, with the stunning backdrop of a coastline he loved, the splashing of the water has surely opened an easy conduit for the peaceful transition of one soul to its deserved peace. As if on cue, further out to sea a migrating humpback whale lunges up and crashes down, sending a spray of foam skywards.
There is a tremendous good in people. To see it selflessly directed to noble thoughts of camaraderie and shared humanity is an inspiring and moving experience.
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