True commitment comes at a cost
“What a machine, that guy can paddle, unbelievable!” said Kevin O’Brian as Tyrell Johnson tore off at a tangent and hauled himself into yet another challenging wave.
Tyrell’s wave rate was making the rest of us look like we were looking for parking. Granted he was in baggies in sunny but chilly conditions. The only way you can stay warm without a wetsuit is to keep moving and lay out a high work rate.
The rest of us were in wetsuits, bless the man who invented neoprene, and we were pretty happy to wait till waves came to us as more of a gift and we did not have to work too hard for position or possession.
Tyrell was waiting for nothing to come to him, he was going and fetching waves even when the chase was late, hard and taxing. The fierce chase was translating into radical surfing.
He had just promised his wife Melissa he was going to catch a quick couple of waves and then they could head for home. She picked up her camera and documented the session.
I recall once being at Queensbury Point, surfing with recent convert at the time Foden Saunders who had laid aside bodyboarding for stand up surfing.
Bodyboarders by virtue of their equipment can manage some tight and violent situations. Besides, because they take some stick from stand up surfers for lying down they can sometimes overcompensate by going for overly gnarly waves.
A particularly angry wave stood up in front of Foden. Most of us would have been happy to let it pass and live to fight another day. Foden snatched up the gauntlet, turned round for the wave and began to paddle like blazes. He was badly positioned and even late in the order of things when the situation was looking very unplayable he was still going hard. Foden stood up and with fullness of measure in classic terminology he was properly “wiped out”.
Troy Benn and I were paddling out together from previous rides and we had front row seats for the entire show of watching Foden get smoked. Finally Foden surfaced after a heavy duty industrial cycle of spin and rinse and Troy shouted over to him “true commitment is rare my bro!”
We all had a good chuckle. Fortunately neither Foden nor his surfboard were injured. Tyrell was not so fortunate last weekend. After charging down some cover shot photos he took a brutal beating and came up with half a surfboard. A wave that can break a board in half can break you in half too. Luckily, Tyrell was unscathed but his surfboard paid the full price.
Commitment is a fine thing if you want to be a good surfer. There is a great story that describes the difference between commitment and involvement. It is like having eggs and bacon for breakfast. You see, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.
Tyrell Johnson is committed. By day he is an electrician in the family construction business and like his brothers, sister and family he knows how to knuckle down on site. Work hours are long and hard and surf hours are short and precious.
When Tyrell hits the water it is with pigsized commitment and he is hungry for action.
Whatever the ocean throws at him, he has the skills and brass to pull it off. At age 38 Tyrell has junior national colours behind him and three South African masters titles under his belt. The reason he does not yet have a world masters title is because for the past couple of years, world masters has been cancelled for lack of sponsors and international costs are getting out of hand.
I look forward to the day that world masters surfing is back on the calendar and I can assure you that Border/Buffalo City will contribute many surfers to this national team.
Tyrell Johnson will more than likely be in the team and mark my words, he will be a top contender for world gold. It could not happen to a nicer guy.
If you want to know why he paddles so fast, just take a look at his shoulders.