YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS OUT TWICE : BY LUKE KENNEDY
It’s three days after the Quiksilver Pro final and I’m still on the Gold Coast. I’ve ignored work commitments, sidestepped a weekend bucks party back in Sydney and spent a night sleeping in the car. Why? Because the tardy swell that never really arrived for the Quiksilver Pro has finally shown up. For fourteen days of relative flatness I’ve listened to stories of surfers who hooked up with cyclone Marcia and enjoyed life-altering rides, and of course I’ve watched dozens of torturous clips to validate their glorious claims. I never got to make out with Marcia so I’ll be damned if I’m missing out this time.
Anticipation knows no equal as my rental swings past the point at Kirra. When a crisp green line swings into the big groyne and rifles down the line I’m like a dog with its head out the window and its paws on the wheel. The tide’s obviously too high for the wave’s cylindrical revelations, but the swell is most definitely here.
Minutes later I’m launching into the Snapper Rocks mosh-pit, jostling alongside half a thousand other surfers with flexible, Monday work schedules. At this point the wave can begin to feel like an elaborate feast that has been laid before you while your mouth is gaffataped and your wrists cuffed. Anticipation switches to self-interested anxiety. ‘Will I even get a taste?’ The Kirra teams challenge has been held the day before and as Davey Cathels blasts through a lip like a brick through a shop window, I’m dramatically reminded that some of the best surfers in the country are now competing for the wave of their lives. Not to mention a handful of CT surfers who have stayed on after the contest. To offset my growing doubts about lucking into a decent wave, I try to pretend that I’m part of some giant, aquatic rave. Of course I want my own tab of green room ecstasy, but if I tap into the collective stoke – the festival vibe – surely I can get off on the experience and enjoy someone else’s ride as much as my own?
Bohemian philosophies are fast forgotten when one finally bends my way. Suddenly I must become a performer in my own surfing fantasy. I’ve imagined this wave for days, rescheduled my life to be there for it and suddenly here I am – weaving my own dream. A hundred envious eyes are on me as I drop in at Snapper and slalom through the crowd, nearly colliding with a mal rider whose board seems like a battleship amongst a flotilla of yachts. After a desperate recovery I struggle to adjust to the wave’s speed as it throttles through little Mali. Then finally, at some point halfway down Rainbow Bay, I relax enough to enjoy the ride. The board glides effortlessly from top-to-bottom and for a few wonderful seconds I’m untouchable. By the time I kick off just past Greenmount I’ve become a kid at a Gold Coast theme park who is determined to keep chasing rides till they drop, no matter how bad the queue.
Three hours and many hard-won waves later, I wade sluggishly through the shallows – sun-fried, slack-limbed, fragile with hunger and never happier. After refuelling, I collapse beneath a Rainbow Bay pandanus palm alongside pensioners who smile with wrinkly kindness. I fall into an exhausted sleep, only to be woken by the sting of green ants. Cursing the poisonous army of insects I turn my attention to the ocean where relentless swell lines turn half-sleep to hypnosis. I watch on as a figure of effortless momentum beneath a mop of blonde streaks across a wave. John John Florence whips his slinky frame through a medley of lip-tickling turns, before shuttling towards blue sky in a nonchalant pirouette. The best guy in the world just danced across a grand stage and I didn’t pay a pretty penny to see it.
The tide is running out, Kirra might just reveal herself. There is nothing to do but shrug off the fatigue, paddle out and start drifting down Coolangatta’s two-mile miracle to the dream within a dream. Such things are possible if you are a surfer.