Not all information contained therein necessarily accurate…
There was a time when man used paper products to convey information, as archaic as that sounds now.
In a surf traveler’s stash of essentials, an ugly orange, perfunctorily font typefaced “guide” was in everyone’s backpack.
It was called The Surf Report and it took traveling somewhere to realize how much bullshit it contained, but information was not accessible and at least it gave us some info to explore beyond.
Personally scribbled, the added texts beyond the margins of the original report were gold.
We guarded these “secrets” like they were actually secret. Technically, they were our secrets.
It was on a trip to an unfamiliar stretch of New South Wales coastline that I remember scanning the dog-eared copy yet again for that region.
I had driven past or through this stretch a dozen times without even stopping for petrol. We considered Newie a “drive through town” which we now use to condescend the mid-west US as we fly over.
The drive from Coffs (I used to love that left off the headland just north of town) to Sydney was not urgent, our flight did not leave for another two days. Redhead Beach was the call, we saw a glimmer of waves before dusk, the wind was good and the nearby cabins were cheap as dirt.
We had two boxes of beers to dust and one joint left from the Hippy girl at Nimbin who got me fucked up on mushy tea a few weeks earlier.
My bro handled the booking while I scoured The Surf Report for info on the area.
We were given the key to our abode and my smiling friend cracked the first beer as he sarcastically asked if I had learned anything?
We made fun of each other, laughed and got wasted and the normal protocol of deciding who got the lone bed was decided in his favor.
I pulled out the tattered Report and began a thorough reading for items I missed during my last thorough reading.
One defining section of the Report was “Hazards”.
Sure, pretty obvious. Sharks, sharp rocks, blah blah blah, but the shit that always freaked me out was the small critters.
Snakes specifically and in this issue, Spiders.
The list of Spiders of concern was lengthy. The weed had had its effect and I began to obsess over the brown funnel web spider description.
Suddenly, I dropped the flashlight that I was reading by and picked it up light first shining the battery powered illumination onto the ceiling briefly, then again and again.
The ceiling of this fucking rental was almost completely covered in Spider webs.
My buddy is soundly passed out and now I’m off the floor and setting up my sleeping bag on the kitchen table. Which seemed a good plan, yet closer to the intricately spun hunting ground above my head.
You’ve know the phrase, sleeping with one eye open?
I think it was more romanticized in its historic sense. Clint Eastwood taking a nap while the local inbreds surrounded him for a gunfight he would win anyway.
Not this time, just a mid-twenties surfer freaking out over deadly spiders in cave of spiders.
“What the fuck is wrong Hip, you didn’t get any sleep?”
I was outside well before light and he had awoken to piss. I was still clutching that fucking Orange report in my hand, too scared to let it go although I had the thing memorized.
“We’re sleeping in a spider’s den… well, you were sleeping.”
He looked up to the spot that I pointed to.
“Holy fuck, that is a curtain of webs.”
He grabbed the report and read the warnings. His eyes opened as he scanned his bed and the proximity to the A-frame ceiling close to the wall next to the bed.
Surf looked very fun and I quickly forgot the long night. North-ish direction of the swell was sweeping lefts south and there were cross current rights on offer too.
I made a mental note to revise The Surf Report to exclude another stay at the cabin and to note the good beachbreak.
We were laughing about our good fortune as the fisherman parked around us groused about a poor morning’s luck finding lunch.
You know that feeling, being so happy when others are fucking angry.
Like Malibu ’83 when I’m skipping back to Topanga and my parked car while huge surf and mudslides ruined people’s homes.
Or surfing through fires while all the residents evacuate and it’s pumping.
I remember a hurricane forcing mass evacuations and the San Jose River mouth dialing as good as it gets. Man, that was a good day, long before the new harbor ruined the iconic break.
Three-hundred yard tubes. Chicken-skin pinch-worthy.
Anyway, on this day, the fishermen were the grumpy locals and we were the elated tourists.
I got into the car, both side windows were rolled down all night and I turned on the ignition to defrost the front window screen as it was time to say au revoir to the disgruntled oldies packing away their tackle boxes.
As the Holden sputtered to life, directly in front of my window emerged an enormous spider caught under the screen and flushed by the defrost cycle.
The massive Spider crawled right toward my driver side window with a speed and agility I had never experienced.
My buddy roared and I climbed over him to “escape” out the passenger side.
The car lurched to a stop as I let go of the clutch.
The Fisho’s had the laugh of their lives as the mood tables had turned.
One grabbed a broken branch and invited the spider to the nearby brush as we caught our breath. We had barely escaped death it seemed.
“Mate, what are you guys so scared of?”
I handed The Surf Report to him, opened to the small paragraph on the brown recluse.
He read the passage to his crew and they all fell about laughing.
Apparently, the brown recluse was not the spider “attacking” me and was diminutive of size and rarely seen round those parts according to the oldies.
We tried to look cool pulling away, but the boys waved to us with more jeer than cheer.
We arrived in Narrabeen and got a proper room that night.
That peak was going off, but crowded as fuck with a very capable crew owning it. We surfed the beach park as I had on trips before and it was so much fucking fun.
Somewhere, in a box of discarded school papers and report cards in my Mom’s attic laid a plethora of Surf Reports, each customized in my own hand writing.
When she died, I never thought to look for the collection.