Shap­ing up as an ar­che­typal au­tumn

The Northland Age - - Sport -

SO there he was, The Off­sider, with au­tumn seem­ingly ar­riv­ing right on cue last Fri­day. Fol­low­ing the pre­vi­ous week­end’s rain, the tem­per­a­tures had cooled no­tably in the evenings and morn­ings; a re­lief from the swel­ter­ing nights en­dured through­out Feb­ru­ary, while hav­ing the lo­cal club rugby kick off on the week­end added to an over­all feel­ing of change of sea­son.

The last month of sum­mer had cer­tainly de­liv­ered some great surf to both coasts. While The Off­sider never claimed to be an afi­cionado of the eastern breaks, it felt like it the sum­mer sea­son had never quite re­alised its usual po­ten­tial there.

He found it amus­ing to hear the weather dudes hedg­ing their bets as to what ex-trop­i­cal cy­clone Oma would bring to the ta­ble as she be­gan track­ing south for these shores re­cently. As one wiseacre put it in the com­ments sec­tion: “Wel­come to New Zealand where spec­u­lat­ing on un­ex­cep­tional weather pos­si­bil­i­ties is front page head­line news day af­ter day.”

Hard not to be cyn­i­cal over such an un­re­li­able science but Old Mate proved philo­soph­i­cal in com­par­ing these fore­casts to a psy­cho alert, like, you don’t know if they’ll end up on your doorstep or that of some­one on an­other street but best ad­vice is to keep the door locked just in case.

Oma cer­tainly de­liv­ered across the ditch where the size, power and hol­low­ness of the re­sul­tant swell saw many of the top pros and well-to-do lo­cals us­ing jet­skis to ac­cess the line-ups and beat the cur­rent to hook into some spec­tac­u­larly heavy bar­rels reel­ing across the var­i­ous su­per­banks on the Goldie which would never have been rid­den oth­er­wise.

On­line com­men­ta­tors were quick to be out­raged and voiced their dis­ap­proval by liken­ing the num­ber of of jet­skis to a cock­roach in­fes­ta­tion; some com­ing across as ut­terly im­ma­ture: “But we do su­per sick stuff like step-offs in the mid­dle of other surfers when its 4-foot cos the sweep is like re­ally strong, and we go fish­ing and wear sick T-shirts with our name on them, and we drink beer from shoes, ba­si­cally we are heaps cool and just mad like crazy aha­hah­haaa yeeeeew, Mad Hueys for life yo!”

Re­as­sur­ing to know that sit­u­a­tion wouldn’t be re­peated on his beloved points thanks to the ef­forts of the lo­cal board­rid­ers and com­mu­nity to ban the use of mo­torised as­sis­tance the mo­ment some­one starts pad­dling in.

Back here, and while there’d still been some very tidy waves out east in re­cent weeks, the red­headed sports­buster al­ways fared much bet­ter on the west side and was blessed for his faith with three days of clean groundswel­l of­fi­cially rep­re­sent­ing the last of the sum­mer wine early last week.

The swell had ar­rived at dawn on Sat­ur­day, grown slightly through­out the even­ing and next morn­ing only to jack on Sun­day af­ter­noon be­fore kick­ing in and pump­ing on Mon­day be­fore slowly fad­ing.

High­lights in­cluded be­ing washed on to and dry-docked on a rock while pad­dling out on one of the big­ger af­ter­noons, sheer as­ton­ish­ment upon waltz­ing up to the main break long af­ter dawn on the best morn­ing to find he was the first and only one there to pad­dle out in to a per­fect line-up, high-fiv­ing a tourist who had sprinted down to stand in the shore­break as The Off­sider raced past on a knee-high wave, and com­pen­sat­ing for some hideously awk­ward wipe­outs (any­one whose seen the sports­buster at his most grace­less would strug­gle to ac­cept this was the same per­son who wrote so au­thor­i­ta­tively on surf­ing mat­ters) by mak­ing some of the long­est, fastest walls he’d ever rid­den at the Far North point­break.

The best mo­ment of all came surf­ing the brand new swell in board­shorts at dawn over a shark­grey sea un­der an over­cast sky where the waves had barely enough power to drive Ex­cal­ibur — his bat­tered old long­board — along, but with the wa­ter and air tem­per­a­tures be­guil­ing and warm. He was walk­ing back around for an­other lap when a one-foot wave rose up in front of him and re­vealed a fish glid­ing along in­side the crest­ing lip. What ap­peared to be a clump of seaweed the size of his fist be­ing sucked up the face sud­denly shot to­wards the fish and en­gulfed it in ten­ta­cles be­fore plung­ing straight down to the seafloor as the wave closed out. One woke kraken, in­deed.

Re­gard­less of how un­pre­dictable a science weather fore­cast­ing still was in this day and age, The Off­sider was pleased with re­ports a timid El Nino pat­tern was in place. The abrupt change in tem­per­a­ture last week brought much cooler nights and dawns, al­though it could be the old false alarm with an­other heat­wave fore­cast to kick in this week. But he re­mained op­ti­mistic a per­fect In­dian Sum­mer re­plete with balmy days and clean, un­crowded waves on the points lay in store.

" . . . the red-headed sports­buster al­ways fared much bet­ter on the west side and was blessed for his faith with three days of clean groundswel­l . . . "

■ The Off­sider is Age sports­buster Fran­cis Mal­ley. Re­spond at [email protected]­landage.co.nz

There was plenty of op­por­tu­nity to catch good waves some­where in the Far North dur­ing the last month of sum­mer.

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