A bloke I know was taking a quick holiday at a luxury golf resort that just happened to own its own private beach rimmed with an outer reef that had pretty good waves. Ninety-nine percent of the guests at the hotel were golf nutters (and the beach was off-limits to non-guests), so my mate, Grunter, figured that a quiet paddle with no-one else to nick any of the best waves might be a good idea.
The surf was not gigantic he said, but it was solid. Maybe around two meters. Maybe even a little bit bigger on the sets. The break itself was around three hundred meters off the beach, breaking on a scary shallow reef. Between you and me, a three-hundred-meter paddle to an unknown reef break, with all kinds of potentially nasty critters lurking in the deep, not to mention ferocious rips and currents that swirl around such reef breaks, when it is breaking at between six to eight foot, all by myself, is not what I consider the ideal way to spend a few hours. Still, Grunter is not me. Grunter is a water man. Grunter is not one to be intimidated by a bit of unfamiliar ocean. Certainly not one to be put off when the ocean is offering clean, large waves with no other punters around. It was a no brainer. Either lay by the pool, play a round of golf or surf on a private reef. The reef won. Obviously!
They were wondering whether it was okay for a semi-naked man to be wandering around the course
Grunter grabbed his stick, bade farewell to his lovely wife who was enjoying a bit of pool-side leisure, and headed for the small beach nestled between the cliffs and rock platforms where the outlet of a seemingly clean creek entered the vast ocean. As he strolled across the golf course (in nothing but his daggy old board shorts), taking the direct route to the beach, he nodded a greeting to a group of Japanese golfers in their long trousers, polo shirts and Mizuno caps. While he was wondering why they would be wasting such a perfect day playing golf, they were wondering whether it was okay for a semi-naked man to be wandering around the course.
Long paddles are rarely fun. This one, according to my mate, was even less fun than usual. Finding your way out to a reef across an unfamiliar close-out in a lagoon full of moving water was bloody hard work. He watched and waited 15 minutes or more trying to figure the place out while, all the while, quietly thinking to himself, is this a case of “a man’s got to know his limitations”.
He eventually made his way out where the surging ocean swells rose up from the deep water beyond and thundered across the shallow reef thus creating the waves he was about to play on. Finding the correct take off point took him some work, as well. One thing you don’t want to do at an unfamiliar place to is to take off too far inside and find yourself going “over the falls” onto a razor-sharp reef. It takes time, thoughtfulness and energy to paddle yourself into just the right spot, and the ocean currents and surging waters don’t make that job an easy one. After another ten minutes of hard-slog paddling Grunter was confident that he had found the place where he needed to be.
The swell hit the reef and jacked up to triple its original size!
Seemingly moments after he had settled into his chosen spot (after having looked back to shore to place his markers), he spied a dark blue lump of water heading his way. The swell hit the reef twenty meters to his left and jacked up to triple its original size. Already the wave was throwing out a thick lip that promised to turn into a thundering fat tube. Maybe he should have watched this first wave go through. Maybe he should have assessed how the bigger sets travel across the reef before chancing his hand. Maybe he should have left this thumping big beast to pass him by. Maybe. But he didn’t. Grunter is not one to knock back a challenge. He is certainly not one to refuse a beautiful barrel that is right there offering itself up to him. He turned his board towards the shore and paddled like a demon.
Moments later he felt that surge that a surfer feels when he knows that the wave has got him. He was passed the point of no return. Just a couple more paddles, he told himself, to guide his craft into the spot where he wants to be right in the pocket of the wave. He need not have bothered with such constructive thoughts. The wave had other ideas. As he reached out to paddle that next stroke, he felt open air beneath his hands… and open air beneath his board. Down he tumbled into the jaws of a ferociously closing out eight-foot wave. This could be nasty thought Grunter. A surfer can be smashed to smithereens if he or she is dumped onto a shallow, rock hard reef. He curled up into a ball to avoid the pummelling that he knew the next few moments would bring. Despite a few bumps and knocks (and a few seconds without air) Grunter popped back to the surface and thought to himself, well that was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. He was in one piece. He hadn’t drowned. He had no bad cuts or broken bones. He hadn’t been subjected to the dreaded next wave hold-down that often happens in situations like this. It’s all good, he thought. He was rooted, but he had survived.
The wipe-out had caused his leash to snap
Well, it wasn’t all good.
When he looked around for his board he discovered that the force of the wipe-out had caused his leash to snap and that his board had scuttled off somewhere with the wave. It got worse. What little was left of the disintegrated wave had managed to push Grunter’s board nearly all the way back to the beach.
Despite the beating he had already received Grunter wasn’t worried. For most of his life this bloke had gotten up around five o’clock either to have a pre-work surf or a pre-work ocean swim. He was well used to swimming large distances in open water and, while swimming three hundred meters across an unfamiliar lagoon was a pain in the arse (especially after a nasty caning), it was unlikely to kill him. After battling the currents and outgoing tide of the lagoon he eventually found himself on the beach totally buggered. He sat there for a few minutes to collect himself. He put his head between his knees and took several deep breaths. Eventually, sufficiently recovered, he jumped to his feet and looked up and down the lava rock platforms below the cliffs on either side of the beach for his runaway surfboard.
Strangely, he couldn’t see it anywhere. “Where is that fucker?”, he thought to himself. Climbing across the rock ledges, he was checking out every rocky crevasse or gap where his board could have become wedged. But it was nowhere. Grunter couldn’t believe it. He had had enough. The ocean had played enough tricks on him today and he wasn’t having any more of it. He climbed higher up the cliffs to get a better outlook. As a large set approach his eyes scanned the horizon, and in the orange glow of an approaching Indo sunset he caught a flicker of white light, off the glassy underside of his board. “Faaarck” he bellowed, initially relieved that he had finally spotted it but spewing when he realized that it was now 300 metres away and still travelling further out to sea!
His Basil Fawlty moment
Years later, Grunter sees what followed as his Basil Fawlty moment. Like a demented hotel manager who is whipping his broken down Morris 1100 with a branch from a tree, Grunter stood defiantly with his legs apart, looking skyward, shaking his fist at the heavens and screaming at the top of his voice, “Fuck you God, you caaaaaaaant, you want me to swim out there, and get my board … what the fuck have I done to you to deserve this you caaaaaant!” And so, it went on … the rant continuing at an ever-increasing volume, “you faaaarkin blah blah.”
Meanwhile, as this was all unfolding, up on the elevated 13th tee, four stylishly dressed, serious-looking Japanese golfers looked from one to the other in astonishment. Was this half naked old bloke performing some mystical surfer’s Indo sunset ritual or was he just tripping out on mushrooms. Maybe they should have reported the crazy old half-nude white fella when they had seen him on the course earlier! Fearing that their lives might be at risk they quickly took their shots and scuttled off down the thirteenth fairway.
So, the ferocious outgoing tide had swept Grunter’s board right back out to where it had started, and it was bobbing around happily at the place where the reef met the open ocean three hundred meters out to sea.
“Man’s got to know his limitations,” Grunter thought … well, fuck that!
Another three-hundred-meter swim later, followed by another three-hundred-meter paddle back again to the beach, Grunter found himself trudging back across the golf course and past the pool where his wife still lay enjoying the final sinking of the sun over the ocean. How was your surf, “Grant” she called?
“Great,” responded Grunter.