"I look at guys walking down the beach with their new boards with forgiving rails, gentle rocker, subdued outlines. And I think to myself, they don't understand."
I rode my big board on the Point today. It was stormy, hot.
Summer weather. Dark clouds marched out to the horizon on the humid offshore breeze. The waves were only small but had a perfect angle. Little rights ran down the cobblestones almost to the keyhole.
Vulnerable learners pressed in against seasoned locals and chirping groms to get their slice.
I sat at the top of the pack, five metres further out, and had my pick.
I can do that on this board. I can do that because it’s my Point.
Let me tell you about this board though. She’s big. Fat. Brown and battered. It’s almost like she’s been shaped in reverse – a long narrow nose with hard rails that softens out into a fat ol’ ass. Less a tear drop then a honey blob.
She’s hard to paddle. Can’t turn for shit. Has an old school raised, fibreglass leash bridge that’s broken more feet than a Chinese slipper. But the roll-in-fade-to-bottom-turn, when one unlocks all the right elements, is better than any air reverse or cheese whiz.
When people ask me about the board I like to say, she’s ugly but she’s mine. And I pat her like a faithful dog.
That’s the secret, though. About this thing of ours. It shouldn’t be easy. Surfing is pain. Enlightenment through self-flagellation.
I look at guys walking down the beach with their new boards with forgiving rails, gentle rocker, subdued outlines. And I think to myself, they don’t understand.
That’s why I take any wave I want.
To hell with ‘em.
They just don’t understand.
Anyway I’m out on the Point and I see a guy with a board like mine. Big. Old. Ugly. Shit spray. A real dreadnought. I watch him get a couple, stalking the crowd, swooping in on his prey like a lion in the grass.
We paddle past each other and exchange a knowing nod. Krishna catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror.
It comes time for my last wave. I wait for something special. One stands up on the indicator. Not the biggest wave of the day, but I can see in its line that it’s going to run.
I swing and begin to paddle. The crowds part, like they know they should.
All except for one.
I see him turn and spin, too.
You can’t miss his board, even from a mile away. He drops in. On my wave.
Usually I’d be flicking my board at any interloper, aiming for their temple.
But not with this guy.
There’s something about him.
We ride the wave together, doing crossovers, bumping rails the whole time. Stern looks on our faces, eyes only down the line. But we vibe in each other’s presence. Connected on a different level.
Finally the wave closes out on the end section. We straighten out and I ride it in on my belly.
But not the guy.
Instead of heading for the key hole he rides his board up over the cobblestone rocks. I hear a crunch as he comes to a halt. He jumps off the board casually, confidently, like he’s done it a thousand times before.
That was great surfing, I say as we walk over the remaining rocks and up onto the sandy beach.
I like your board.
Oh, this old thing. It’s a piece of shit. He throws it to the sand. But I love it.
Sounds like mine! I say. I paid $50 for it at a garage sale.
I found mine on the side of the road.
Check this out. He flips his board over to reveal three mis-matched FCS fins, all barely screwed in.
Oh yeah? I show mine – a home-made quad set up with two of the fins missing.
What about this?
He pulls off the gaffa tape wrapped across the nose to reveal the entire top couple of inches is completely snapped off.
I show him the same tape holding together what’s left of my board’s swallow tail.
We both laugh.
Yeah man, I don’t care about this board at all, he says. Or any of my boards. The shitter the better. Watch this.
He looks around as if to make sure no one is watching, then pulls a pocket knife from his leash and starts stabbing holes in the board.
Bam. Bam. Bam.
Soon it looks like a piece of Swiss cheese. Bam!
I pick my board up and start punching it too. My knuckles quickly bloody, so that there’s little shards of fibreglass mottled into my skin.
I punch out the remaining fins.
The steady stream of people heading up and down the sandy point give us a wide berth, like a river diverting around an island.
To them we just look like two guys beating up their surfboards.
But they don’t understand.
There’s a crack of thunder in the distance. The air charges with electricity.
We both take a break, and breath the atmosphere in.
Enlightenment through self-flagellation, I say. It’s the only way.
Then the guy says, How about this?
From nowhere he pulls out a lighter and some gasoline. He pours it carefully over his board, from taped up nose to thrashed out tail.
And then he sets it alight.
For a second the flames don’t take, as if they’re hesitating. Held back by some invisible force.
But then, whoosh. Off they go.
Unreal, I say again, and I throw my board onto the flames too.
It lights up quickly in the hot offshore wind.
We sit back in the sand and watch the conflagration. The smoke carries back out across the line up. I can see the other surfers coughing and spluttering as the acrid fumes wash over them.
They don’t understand
A set rifles down the point unridden, the biggest of the day.
The gods must be pleased.
This is great, I say to the guy.
It’s so great, he responds.
This is what surfing is all about.
Then the clouds, so pregnant all afternoon, finally burst forth. We’re drenched in the downpour as the fire goes out.
The boards have burned down to a pulp now anyway. We bury what’s left of them in the sand.
Small shards still stick out, camouflaged in the yellow and brown morasse. Hopefully sharp enough to cut a foot open, or at least give someone a scare.
I nod to the guy and we go our separate ways. It feels strange walking back to the car in my board shorts with bloody knuckles and no board under my arm.
But that’s ok.
It was so good to meet this guy. So good to meet someone that finally understands.