HIGH LINES

Cre­ativ­ity can de­fine surf­ing. Lee-Ann Cur­ren ex­presses her cre­ativ­ity on a trip to Africa.

Surf Girl - - – Snap Shot – - Words by Lee-Ann Cur­ren. • Pho­tos by Clau­dia Led­erer

Since the very be­gin­ning, surf­ing has been closely linked to art in ev­ery form – paint­ing, mu­sic, pho­tog­ra­phy and film. A lot of surfers ap­proach surf­ing more like art than a sport, be­cause cre­ativ­ity plays a big part in the way you ride a wave.

It takes years to re­fine style, the po­si­tion of the body, the lines you choose to take.

It is al­most like paint­ing and danc­ing at the same time. A sub­tle change can make move­ment flaw­less for a sec­ond, and that syn­chronic­ity with the mov­ing wa­ter is the best feel­ing in the world. It’s what makes surf­ing amaz­ing to film and pho­to­graph.

You can make a ref­er­ence to some­one in your surf­ing: for ex­am­ple mak­ing a ref­er­ence to Andy Irons by look­ing back at a bar­rel while com­ing out, to Tom Cur­ren by bot­tom turn­ing with your hand on the wa­ter and eyes to­wards the beach, etc. You can even make a state­ment with your surf­ing, like choos­ing to do a sim­ple high line where ev­ery­one else would hit the lip. Ev­ery­one has their own style that re­flects their per­son­al­ity and soul.

Some­times we run out of in­spi­ra­tion and we can get a lit­tle bored of do­ing the same turn on the same wave ev­ery day (which we are the only ones to blame for, be­cause surf­ing should never be bor­ing), so we try to get out of our com­fort zones by surf­ing dif­fer­ent boards or by trav­el­ling to re­mote places and surf­ing new breaks.

This is partly why I de­cided to head to Mozam­bique, with Clau­dia Led­erer doc­u­ment­ing the trip. I was in­vited by long­time friend Tammy Lee Smith, young South African surfer So­phie Bell, and her fam­ily and friends. The plan was to land in Dur­ban, meet ev­ery­one and get ready to leave for ‘Mozam’ two days later.

Part 1

Mozam

If surf­ing is an art, you could see this as an artists’ res­i­dency. The ad­ven­tur­ous Bell Fam­ily took us to one of the most spe­cial places on earth – a lit­tle bay, three hours north of the bor­der of Mozam­bique. We packed three 4x4’s with all kinds of boards, fish­ing equip­ment, a boat, a jet ski and two weeks worth of food and beers for 15 peo­ple, and we hit the road at 4am. The drive took us through an ele­phant re­serve on bumpy dirt roads, and we drove deep into the bush for a

few hours. It was as­ton­ish­ing to see ele­phants, gi­raffes and wild dogs through the win­dow.

When we fi­nally made it to Bella Rocha af­ter 8 hours of in­tense driv­ing, the swell was small but it was still clear that we had ar­rived in par­adise: the set up was per­fect, a point break, the jun­gle, and no one in sight. We jumped in the crys­tal blue wa­ter with fin­less boards, and slid­ing in the sun­set on gen­tle waves was a per­fect way to start the trip.

The place we stayed at was like a camp­site with dor­mi­to­ries and lit­tle cab­ins. When we got in from the surf the boys were set­ting up a ‘Braai’ (South African bar­be­cue) and get­ting the fish­ing gear ready for the next few days.

It was amaz­ing to get to know the Bell fam­ily and their friends. I feel like the key word to un­der­stand their vibe is YOLO (You Only Live Once). They were break­ing all the codes of what a usual fam­ily from the sub­urbs should be like. For the whole trip we did not see any of them be­ing self con­scious, sad or un­happy. They were fish­ing, surf­ing, drink­ing beers, then danc­ing and singing, ev­ery day.

The first morn­ing when we got to the beach it was hard to con­tain our ex­cite­ment. The swell had glassed off, it wasn’t big but re­ally clean – to me it looked like empty 3ft Snap­per. Af­ter a few waves I started to get used to the feel of this wave, adapt­ing to its power and shapes. It was like a skate park, en­abling us to per­fect some old moves and to learn new ones.

As a surfer you are evolv­ing in a mov­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and some­times you take off on a wave with a plan in mind, but you have to be ready to change it. You have to al­ways be ready to adapt and turn ev­ery sit­u­a­tion to your ad­van­tage. It goes the same with the way with travel.

Af­ter a week of surf­ing our heads off in fun 3ft waves, the swell was de­creas­ing and the wind started blow­ing on­shore. Tammy got hold of a friend in Port El­iz­a­beth who said there was a swell head­ing to­wards the South. So we de­cided to leave a few days early to go to Jef­freys Bay. We or­gan­ised a ride back with one of the cars and will­ingly jumped from a trop­i­cal par­adise to a crowded, cold-wa­ter, great white shark haven. Clau­dia had trou­ble un­der­stand­ing why we did that, but she fol­lowed along.

Part 2

J-Bay

J-Bay is the ul­ti­mate surf­ing can­vas. A wave that makes the con­cept of draw­ing lines gain all its mean­ing. Big per­fect green walls roll along the shores so fast that it is hard to keep up with its pace.

As you take off you kind of need to have a clear vi­sion of what the wave will do from start to end, to men­tally pick a per­fect line and surf with the right rhythm, other­wise you’ll get left be­hind the fast train.

It’s a fine bal­ance be­tween be­ing

“THE FIRST MORN­ING WHEN

WE GOT TO THE BEACH IT WAS HARD TO CON­TAIN OUR EX­CITE­MENT. THE SWELL HAD GLASSED OFF, IT WASN’T BIG BUT RE­ALLY CLEAN – TO ME IT LOOKED

LIKE EMPTY 3FT SNAP­PER.”

rad­i­cal and mak­ing the sec­tion smoothly.

The af­ter­noon we landed, once we’d got some food and sorted out ac­com­mo­da­tion, we still had a few hours be­fore sun­set. When we got to the beach we saw a few nice sets rolling through and felt the adrenaline rush even though we were tired from the trip. Ready to hit the wa­ter in no time, we pad­dled into the line-up and tried to po­litely wait for ev­ery­one out there to get a wave be­fore it was our turn. On the first few rides I had trou­ble go­ing fast enough, be­ing more used to cruis­ing on the rip balls of Mozam­bique.

Some­times I felt like surf­ing the fish helped me to get rid of the speed prob­lem. But then it was harder not to dig the rail at the end of a turn, be­cause it’s a hol­low wave. When things went smoothly it was the nicest feel­ing.

Surf­ing J-bay is like danc­ing salsa with a very ex­per­i­mented part­ner. It’s pretty hard not to mess it up. You try to not waste a sec­ond of the tube, and to carve down the face with­out los­ing speed to make the next sec­tion. A lot of the time I felt like I was tim­ing ev­ery­thing wrong, bar­rel dodg­ing, then rac­ing down the line when the wave would slow down, and cut­ting back when the wave would speed up again. Tammy was do­ing the dou­ble arm drag to make sure she wouldn’t miss a tube sec­tion, and that seemed to work pretty nicely. No mat­ter how we surfed the wave, we would pad­dle back up the point with the big­gest smile, mak­ing the most of ev­ery sec­ond surf­ing this iconic point.

Watch­ing wave-rid­ing artists like Derek Hynd or young style mas­ter Mikey Fe­bru­ary was very in­spir­ing out there. It takes years to learn to surf J-bay prop­erly but that is what makes it so fun. Af­ter three days I still felt like I was only start­ing to get my marks, but it was al­ready time for us to leave. Tammy was go­ing back to work and train­ing to surf big waves in the South African win­ter, and we left her the next day promis­ing we would ex­plore some of the Euro­pean Coast to­gether next Novem­ber.

When I think about this trip I can’t be­lieve how much surf­ing and good times we squeezed into two weeks. It is nice to think

I’ve got a bit of Bella Rocha, Mozam­bique and J-Bay, South Africa en­graved in my mind but also into my surf­ing. Like, maybe a spe­cific line learnt dur­ing this trip, or in­spi­ra­tion from the other peo­ple I surfed with, that sub-con­sciously changed my ap­proach for­ever.

Tammy Lee Smith, dou­ble arm drag, J Bay.

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