The sea is no place for hu­mans. At least, it’s no place for me

Getaway (South Africa) - - Contents - Tyson Jopson

There’s a rea­son we grew legs and walked out of the sea, writes Tyson Jopson

Does this ever hap­pen to you? You’re at a din­ner party and every­body starts to bond over the things they dis­like the most. Like traf­fic, and Mon­days, and peo­ple who have con­ver­sa­tions in door­ways, and the ris­ing cost of be­ing a liv­ing, breath­ing hu­man. And then you chime in with your thing and the whole ta­ble stops and glares at you as if you just took money out of a char­ity col­lec­tion box. That hap­pens when I tell peo­ple I don’t like the beach. ‘You don’t like the beach!’ they’ll say. ‘What the hell is wrong with you? The beach is pure bliss!’ I just don’t like it. I don’t like the sandy bits weaselling their way into my home by cling­ing to every fi­brous thing they can find. And I es­pe­cially don’t care for the wa­tery bits. The wa­ter is a capri­cious, hos­tile place that will turn on you with­out re­morse. ‘But the ocean is life!’ they’ll say. ‘It’s where it all be­gan. If you don’t like the sea you don’t like life.’ ‘And now we live on the land. If it was so damn cosy in there why did we grow legs and leave?’ It’s usu­ally at this point, just be­fore cut­lery gets flung around, that we agree to dis­agree and I say, ‘The sea is sim­ply not for me.’ So, nat­u­rally, Get­away re­cently sent me to pho­to­graph a place that has oo­dles of it: Mozam­bique. The coun­try is prac­ti­cally one gi­ant beach. Just look at it on a map, stretched out be­side the ocean, long and lithe like a bel­liger­ent sun­bather hog­ging half of South­ern Africa’s coast­line. I was with our jour­nal­ist Wel­come Lishivha and a small group of cy­clists on an in­au­gu­ral fat­bike tour, roam­ing the beaches around Ponta do Ouro on over­sized rub­ber, stop­ping to snorkel to our heart’s con­tent (read the story on page 80). The cy­cling I was look­ing for­ward to. The be­ing out in the open ocean, not so much. But I brought with a wa­ter­proof hous­ing for my DSLR be­cause what’s a story about Mozam­bique with­out pho­tos of peo­ple en­joy­ing its wa­tery bounty? ‘How hard can tak­ing pho­tos un­der­wa­ter be?’ I thought, as I wrapped my cam­era in a sil­i­cone sheath while the others dropped their bi­cy­cles on the sand and sprinted for the ocean as if they were au­di­tion­ing for Bay­watch. I put on a mask, fins and fol­lowed them in. I quickly dis­cov­ered that tak­ing pho­tos in the ocean is ac­tu­ally much like tak­ing pho­tos on land. Ex­cept there’s no ground, you have no con­trol over your di­rec­tion and any­thing you bump into will ei­ther pierce you or cut you to rib­bons. Of course, when you’re in the ocean with a cam­era, ev­ery­one wants a shot of them­selves in it too. So you oblige and try to point it at them as they float and dive and shoot big spouts of wa­ter from their snorkels. And when they give you that hand sign that means ‘OK’ you can’t help but think they’re ac­tu­ally show­ing you how big the hole in your body is from the urchin that just spiked you while you were pin­balling be­tween rocks, both hands on cam­era, try­ing not to drown. ‘Did you get it?’ They say. And you smile and nod and swal­low more sea­wa­ter. ‘Got it.’ I didn’t got it. I didn’t got any of it. I might as well have just thrown my cam­era into a wash­ing ma­chine. The pho­tos were all just blurred blues, bub­bles and foam. And an up­side­down photo of this man’s back­side, who­ever he is, two flip­pers dan­gling from a pair of limbs that are clearly not made to be there. I’m go­ing to frame it and hang it on a wall and look at it any time some­one asks me to take my cam­era to the beach again.

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