After a week in Sydney visiting a sick Mum in hospital I was excited about getting back to my home beach today.
First impressions on checking out the break were hopeful rather than encouraging. Two to three foot looked fine after the dead flat I had left a week-ago. The howling off-shore, on the other hand, promised to make paddling hell. The day itself was dark, cold and drizzly. Oh well. It’s a lot better than no swell at all. In we go.
Brat on log
I have only been in the water for a few minutes when a nice little set wave by-passes the point and jacks up nicely for me… the smart one who is hovering a little way down the line. I paddle like hell to overcome the gale blowing in my face and drop down the face. Yahoo. Made it. Bottom turn. Head back to the top. Bugger. Some chunky little boy on a massive red mal drops in on me, cranks a nice bottom turn and sets a trim right in my path. No apology. No attempt to get off the wave. A pure, brazen, nasty, drop-in… and no more than twelve years old, too.
I paddle back to my spot in the line up and wait patiently for my turn. Five minutes later a nice little smaller wave heads my way with none of the point-dwelling log riders staking a claim so I turn and paddle for all I am worth. I cannot see a thing from the huge blobs of spray smashing into my face but I am just about to claim the wave when I hear an “oy” coming from my left. Bugger. I was sure I had the inside on this one. As it turned out, one of the local fish gang who stand on the bank yards deeper than the rest of us and hurl themselves into the pocket rather than paddling into position like the more ethical among us had grabbed my wave. “Bloody snake”, I hiss under my voice. I know it is not technically snaking and I know that these guys, technically, have right of way, but, to me, there is something just not fair about standing on the sand and thinking you can claim every wave without paddling for it.
I paddle back into my spot and consider moving further out towards the point or further down the line to avoid other unscrupulous ratbags in my vicinity. Na. Stay right here, I think. Wait your turn. Next one is yours.
Lurking on the shoulder
Some minutes later I spy a great looking bomb set heading my way. Maybe pushing four foot and not a soul anywhere near it. It’s come in from the North and by-passed the point and has my name right on it. I turn and paddle hard early and see a nice steep wall slipping in to my right. I start to drop and know that I am going to make the wave of the day. Just as I am screaming down the face of this pretty wave I spy a black fin not two metres to my right inside the wave. Attached to the fin is a big black body moving much faster than I am. My heart initially goes berserk and just as it dawns on me that the dropping-in intruder is just a dolphin and not a huge unfriendly fish with big teeth I catch a rail and end up upside down and being dragged along the sand. To make matters worse, I somehow manage to punch myself in the nose and when I bob back to the surface discover that I am bleeding heavily from my snoz.
I paddle back to my place in the line up. A fine looking smaller wave comes my way. A mal rider has already claimed it but the section just before me tends to shut down so I may still have a chance to claim the wave. I paddle in, set a trim and turn to see what has happened to the mal rider. The pesky, chunky, twelve-year old on the out-sized red mal has stormed through the shutting down section and has gotten back to the lip and is yowling at me to get off his wave. Oh. So, it’s okay to drop in on others but scream your bloody little head off if anyone even thinks of looking at your wave. I am tempted to cut back on him and tell him to shove it but go down the alternative path of gently slipping off the back of the wave.
Not sure about party waves
I paddle back to my spot. A passable little wave winds its way from the point and two blokes on planks (friends, I assume) are sharing the wave. I watch them closely. Party waves might be fun but multiple people on a wave can cause problems for people sitting in the line up not on the wave. There is also the chance that the wave will shut down for the party-boys and present itself to me. I turn and start to paddle… just in case. It looks like the pair are going to make it, so I stop paddling just as the wave jacks up in the shallower water of the bank and sends one of the blokes hurtling down on top of the other bloke. As I watch the pair thrashing around in a tangle of big boards, bodies and leg-ropes a neat little section passes me by and winds its way down the line.
I paddle back into my spot. Just one wave and I will get out. A nice little wave shunts in from the North. No-one on it. Its mine. I turn and paddle… hard. Again, my face is blasted by the wind, rain and spray but I don’t care. This is my wave. I take the drop and work my way back up to the lip. I cut back and get that joyous weightless feeling as my hips bring the board back into trim. I am a crap surfer but even crap surfers sometimes jag good waves. I glare down the line checking out the looming sections that I intend to try to bounce off. Then, straight out of the blue, party-boy number two drops in on top of me with his ten-foot blue mal nearly splitting me in half. I hit the bottom. I then head for the beach.
There is an old saying that even when the surf is crap it is still better to have gone for a surf than to have not gone for a surf. Hmmm. That is possibly true. But sometimes only marginally so. The trouble is no one respects a middle-aged guy on a six-foot foamy. No-one. Not dolphins. Not punky kids. Not agro, wave-stealing fish riders. Not even idiots who surf in pairs. No respect.