Steve Pike

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

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