THIS (PAD­DLE-OUT) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - The Spot - HANK VAN IERSEL Re­view

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.

con­sid­ers orig­i­nal sub­mis­sions for This Life of 450-500 words. Work may be edited for clar­ity. Email: this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

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