A Christmas surfing fairytale…
On the first day things were good. The surf was small. Cold. Uninviting. But they had the holiday house for a full week. A week of no work, no kids, no interruptions.
They’d met later in life, two divorcees with their own families. Had bonded over a shared love of surfing. He was a life-long acolyte. She came to it more recently. This would be their first trip away together. It was a chance to surf, read, drink, eat, make love. Whatever. A chance to know each other better.
The place was an old timber surf shack. Wooden floors and comfy furniture and a tin roof for listening to the rain. A perfect view from the living room window across the windswept beach below. The Airbnb reviews were right. It was the ultimate coastal getaway.
“I love it,” she declared as they stood in the living room, bags still unpacked.
They both pulled out surfboards from their respective travel covers. Scraped the wax from the lining. Checked for any dings. Hers was an off the rack Firewire. Round nose and full rails. It did the job.
His was a new custom. A sleek shortboard, though it looked closer to a step up. White with a green pinline spray. Still had that smell of curing resin.
“This is an outline I’ve been working on with John – my shaper – for a while now,” he said as he ran his hands along the rails. “Pulled in tail, more volume through the chest for increased paddling power. Beaked nose. Perfect for the beachbreak barrels we should get here.”
He flipped it belly up, and ran his fingers along the faint concave down its middle.
“It’s so important to have a good relationship with your shaper. You’re getting a level of connection you don’t get with those off the shelf pop-outs like you’ve got.”
“Cool,” she said.
That night they drank wine and talked about the week ahead.
On the second day there was still no surf. But the sun was out. They had sex twice in the yellow morning light that flooded their bedroom. Then they had breakfast, got dressed, and explored the littoral trails that snaked along the coast
There were pandanus. Flame trees. Jasimine in bloom. She spotted a powerful owl sleeping in a low branch. Bellbirds chirped their staccato song.
“They say bellbirds are the sign of a dying ecosystem,” she said. “That’s sad.”
“I think it’s sad what’s happened to the WSL,” he said. Almost like he’d been waiting for the opportunity.
“Sorry, the what?” she asked.
“You know, WSL, World Surf League.”
“Oh yeah. Right.”
He continued on.
“Sure, competition surfing has always been a sell-out to a point. But the direction they’ve taken it in over the last five years, the way they’ve lost all of the best breaks, the fact all these pros are now retiring instead of still trying to win titles…”
He stopped on the trail and turned to her. Two triangles of sweat sat prominent under each arm of his shirt.
“It’s lost its relevance. Don’t you reckon?
She picked a dandelion from between her feet. Held it in front of her.
“Oh, yeah. For sure.” She blew the spores into the wind. “Definitely.”
On the third day the onshore was stronger. They looked at the surf. Tried to make out a recognisable bank. But it refused to conform.
Maybe it never would?
“The forecast isn’t looking great,” she said as she flashed her smartphone in front of him.
“Don’t listen to those idiots with their surflines and swellnets. You should learn to read a weather map yourself.”
She stared at him with a blank expression.
“It’s ok, he said. “I’ve consulted all the major models. GFS. CMC. ECMWF. NAVGEM. They’re all in agreeance.The wind will definitely slacken tomorrow, and that long range south swell should be filling in nicely.”
He turned to look back at the ocean. “You really should learn to read them.”
“Ok,” she said.
On the fourth day it was smaller, messier. He looked at his phone like it was some unknown artifact. There was no mention of his stillborn prediction.
She found a chest of old board games and card games in the spare bedroom of the house. Monopoly. Connect 4. Battleship. Countless more. She sprawled them all out over the wooden floors.
They opened a bottle of wine. And another. For a few hours things were good and fun and they forgot about the surf.
But after her fourth straight loss in Uno she found he had been putting two or even three cards down at once. She confronted him. Called him a cheat.
“It’s a dog eat dog world out there, babe,” he said. “I do what I need to get the W. Look at it like I’m teaching you a lesson: this is how things work in the real world.”
She sighed, and tried to feign a smile. To salvage something from this slowly disintegrating trip.
“Well I guess ‘you know’ better, don’t you? Uno?”
He looked at her with dead eyes. Did his little snort again. “What is that? Some type of joke?”
He put his hand inside her thigh. “I know something that’ll make you smile.”
“Don’t,” she said as she pushed it away. She felt the hot touch of sick in the back of her mouth. “I’ve had too much to drink. I’m going to bed.”
On the fifth day she woke up unrested. She thought maybe going out for breakfast would help.
They walked under gray skies to the local cafe. Sat down for an average, overpriced meal.
“Did you see the sign on that bathroom?” he asked as he finished his eggs. “It said ‘gender neutral space.’ How many fucken trannies are there going to be in this shit hole of a town?”
He called the waiter over for another coffee. She moved her pancakes around her plate.
“You know, I don’t think it’s very respectful to use a term like that,” she said
“What you just said.”
“What? Trannies” He snorted again. “Fuck ‘em! Do you know how soon it will be before they take over women’s surfing? Claiming world titles?”
He pointed his fork at her.
“Shouldn’t you care about that? As a woman?”
“I don’t think that’s correct at all-“
He pushed his plate out in disgust. The leftover eggs jiggled together in unison.
“You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you?”
“Who?” she asked. “Who are you talking about?
“Them,” he sneered.
She looked at him across the cafe table. His face looked longer than she first thought. His eyes were angrier.
On the sixth day they sat in silence while rain pelted the windows. At one point he mumbled something that could have been, ‘Matthew Perry died of a ketamine overdose.” But she had already stopped listening.
On the seventh day she awoke with the sunrise. The wind had swung offshore. The long awaited groundswell finally filled in. From the living room window she could see gold-feathered peaks stretched out along the beach, with only a handful of surfers on it.
It was what they’d been waiting for. Perfection.
Too bad for him.
She packed her bags quietly, while his snoring still echoed through the house. There wasn’t much to prepare and soon she was ready to leave.
As she walked out the door she saw his custom board with the pinline spray lying belly up on the living room floor, waiting patiently for its owner. Still unridden. A faint smile came across her face.
She took the rental car key from her purse, and stabbed three perfect holes under each of the board’s fins. They key slid through the soft fibreglass like butter.
“Fucking…kook,” she muttered under her breath, careful not to wake him.
If she raced she could still make the early flight.