When surfing hits you in the guts it changes everything…
Dan Dob’s essay on the fundamental ordinariness of surfing was very good, much truth, but a little too neo-liberal in outlook, a little too every-man-is-a -rational-economic-actor-out-for-himself etc.
A little too dry, too grim. Mostly true.
(Read “I’m immune to the magic of dancing on water; the act of surfing holds no spiritual magic for me, no Shangri-La!” here)
But truth doesn’t sustain us, never has.
We need illusions.
Damn thing woke me up at two am, these words were there.
I offer them to you.
Modern middle-class humanity praises and holds dear the rational, the conscious decision, but far more than conscious thought it’s our animal mind that makes us what we are.
Derek Hynd’s missing fins made the ultimate statement about it: “Surfing is at the pinnacle of animal-based experiences and only a fool fully walks away”.
Defending surfing from the outside world is stupid – it needs more enemies, not less – it’s only here, among friends, that we feel we need to defend her honour.
Dandob is right to stick it to the carpet baggers and toothy flim-flammers whoring the dream, and right to insist most of the time it’s a splash and giggle and not much else.
I can’t stand by, though, and have my beloved desert traduced like some cheap Chinese piece of plastic. Can’t let the charge of nothing life-changing in it, no brotherhood and sisterhood, only rats chasing the same piece of cheese, stand unchallenged.
Surfing the desert changed my life. Before it, the half decadal knocks on the door of the middle-class had some hope of success.
When it was done, I was just too far out on a limb to get back.
One thing the town lacked, like much of Western Australia outside Perth, was women. A rumour circulated there was a foxy young doc in town and I cooked up a reason to visit her. To get hands on with a woman I suggested a small scar as being a possible skin cancer. She said, would you like me to cut it out and biopsy it. I said, yes. Foxy Doctor hacked a big gaping wound into my calf with a scalpel and then sewed me up. She was no plastic surgeon.
A year passed working the snapper boats, wet-lining out of Kalbarri. It was a good life for a surfer, unlike working crays we only fished when it was troughed out. Fish when it was flat, surf the rest of the time. There is a heavy left just south of town. I got into rotation for the sets.
One thing the town lacked, like much of Western Australia outside Perth, was women. The town pub was a sausage sizzle. A rumour circulated there was a foxy young doc in town and I cooked up a reason to visit her. To get hands on with a woman I suggested a small scar as being a possible skin cancer.
She said, would you like me to cut it out and biopsy it. I said, yes. Foxy Doctor hacked a big gaping wound into my calf with a scalpel and then sewed me up. She was no plastic surgeon.
Well, of course, the next trip out in the generalised hurley burley of life at sea the wound busted open and I now had something that looked like it could give birth to a small mammal on the side of my leg. And, my pal had arrived from the east coast and said, let’s go to Gnaraloo. Which we did. I quit my job with the best snapper fisherman in town, stocked up on wound dressings, bandages, plastic bags and electrical tape and we hit the road. Bush chooks, food, water.
We made pals in the desert, anyone who’s been there will.
The Australian male is not a well-loved figure in literature. Our finest writer, Tim Winton, loves to portray us as a particularly toxic masculine brew : sour, demented, petty, vindictive, provincial ; the worst kind of colonial scum. Of course, he excepts himself from such portrayal.
Hooked up with old buddies from previous trips.
Hard to see us all as desert rats chasing the same piece of cheese, but I guess we were.
The truth is a bit more complex. The Australian male is not a well-loved figure in literature. Our finest writer, Tim Winton, loves to portray us as a particularly toxic masculine brew : sour, demented, petty, vindictive, provincial ; the worst kind of colonial scum.
Of course, he excepts himself from such portrayal.
They ain’t the people I know.
The people I met are more like the ones Dostoevsky met in Siberian prison camps; about the finest,toughest timber grown in that land. I could not have a higher opinion of the non-sponsored Australian surfer.
We got what we came for. The night before the day of days me and Corey ate the cheek meat of a reef fish that bio-accumulated a neuro-toxin from a dinoflagellate that gave the ingestor intense hallucinations.
It seemed like a fun thing to do.
I crawled out of the tent at midnight sure the sun was midday-bright in the night sky. I passed out on the sand dunes and woke up to a ghost crab nibbling my eyelids. It was just on the wrong side of intense to be fun. In the morning the coast-line was under heavy bombardment.
Seven hours passed. Seven hours of eight-to-ten-foot Tombstones. Every desert rat was under the influence of the mull cookies my Byron pal produced.
Things were surreal.
Anyone who could spin and go and make the drop got the tube of a lifetime.
Corza was looking in, I was looking out, looking at him looking in. The bottom dropped out, then dropped again, an angry knuckle appeared in the tube. The board was skittering left and right on the foam ball and shockwave. A backdoor section protruded ahead and threw out a big crystalline chamber made of shattered glass fragments that refracted the sunlight. The wave developed an intense pressure chamber of air and water .
It spat, but not out but back at me. The spit hit my front hand so hard it made me strike myself in the face and the whole bottom of the wave opened up and sucked me down a trapdoor.
Was that 5,6 seconds? Half an hour? I came up and Corza was screaming.
I said, “Fuck!”
We all rode waves like that. Intense beyond imagination.
One of the benefits of camaraderie, according to Owl Chapman, is the increased chance of sexual congress.
“Give a wave. Share a smile. Make a friend,” he said. “You never know, he might have a good looking sister.”
I drove back to Perth with Corey. He had a good looking sister. Who thought it was a good idea to drop a tab and hit the city.
So we did, and hit it off.
I swear as God be my witness, all true.
And you could see how, it might change your life, this extended stay in Shangri-La. See how, at some point, the thought might cross your mind, “Maybe middle-class life ain’t my bag.”
How a preference for the tube over keeping up with the Joneses, the friends, the wild life and wild living might constrain once choices, for good or ill. How coming back into the world of home renovation and cooking shows may not be possible.
The working title for David Rensin’s Dora Biography was “The Point of No Return”, I think a much better descriptor of the life aquatic than the chosen title, “All for a Few Perfect Waves.”ˆ
Being shunted from the middle classes due to surfing.
Depressive, or anti-depressive? I say, anti-D.
Of course, it’s pathetic as well as appealing when people go too hard for too long and can’t wind their necks in for the sake of the kiddies.
End up living in vans, kids won’t talk to them etc etc.
I can’t be the only one here, surely, who’s been unwound by the magic of mighty desert toobs.