AROAD trip to KwaZuluNatal last week yielded my first surf in six months. On the way, a friend mentioned the saying by Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: “Hunger is the best sauce in the world.”
Never mind hunger, my mini-mal session at a friend’s cottage near Umtwalume on the South Coast felt like I had imbibed a double shot of Ambrosia hand-delivered by Poseidon towed by a prancing dolphin.
Surfers may have grumbled at the poor quality of the dumping sand-churners. Not me. Some could have whined at the gritty, sand enema-inducing crunch of each onshore close-out. Not me.
I thirsted for the invigoration of each swirling maelstrom. Sometimes I just let myself flop loosely in the impact zone, lolling like swine in a smelly swamp.
The thrill of surfing engulfed me. I felt like a beginner entering the sea for the first time. I got three halfdecent waves. I felt a little wobbly. It was beautiful.
There was no choice in the enforced layoff. I needed a ACL arthroscopy at the end of January after my knee popped playing soccer. Water played a key role in my rehab, but not the ocean.
I could have body surfed. Friends urged me to. “It’s the only way for a surfer to stay connected to the sea,” they said. Instead of wading around my pool 120 times a day to get quads moving and joints warm, ocean rehab was the best.
I wasn’t interested. Maybe I lost my mojo. But it just felt good not to surf. It was a sabbatical. Occasional bouts of withdrawal were offset by many epic mountain bike rides when the initial six weeks of lame inaction lapsed.
John McCarthy of the Bomb Surf couldn’t understand my disconnect from surfing. But he’s perhaps the most fanatical surfer I have known. Cobus Joubert of WaWa Surfboards even gave me a handcrafted handgun to get me in the waves. He insisted.
But I didn’t venture into the sea. At all. Maybe we all need a rest from things. After the heat of the desert, when it saves your life, literally, what does water taste like? Gooood. My career lies tied to the act of surfing. I am on a forecasting treadmill, day in day out. When is the surf coming? Spike, what’s the surf like tomorrow? I converse with fanatical surfers all day long. I sell, create and publish adverts for the surfing industry.
I got so deeply embedded in my passion, it became work. Sometimes, it even felt like that Sunday night angst when boarding school starts again the next day.
My second surf in six months took place at Chintsa West near East London. Staying in this kiff backpackers in the bush called Buccaneers, with my son Tyler and daughter Ella, we found a break around the corner.
Reeling off a reef spit, some epic east swell righthanders tubed across the beach into a closeout. I upped my personal ante. The honeymoon was over. Let the proper surfing begin. Riding my Spider 6’ 8” pintail, I paddled out and got really good waves. Fast and hollow. The moves came back. The knee held up. In fact, my knee seemed stronger than ever. I could push my back foot around like I haven’t done in years.
The third surf was an quick evening session at Supers on a mini mal for a laugh. It was the worst Supers I have ever surfed, but nothing beats the sunset at that spot. Magical.
The last surf I have had was at Vic on the way back to Cape Town. The locals were mellow and a cooking 4-6’ south swell was lurching from the boil. I couldn’t resist, even though it was already 3pm and there was at least four hours of driving to go.
I can thank the young forestry student in the carpark, whose unbridled enthusiasm (don’t even walk down to have a look, just suit up and go!) got me the water in a flash.
Not only can I still surf, but I see surfing and its camaraderie in a completely fresh new light.
Being jaded is for grumpy old ballies.
SEEKING HELP: South African and Western Province longboard champion Simone Robb – the best woman longboard surfer in the country. Robb needs funds to represent South Africa at the ISA World Longboard championships in September.