Freedom and Backcountry Surfing

tbasstreble11's picture
tbasstreble11 started the topic in Monday, 1 Aug 2016 at 9:26pm


Yesterday I came to articulate freedom for myself.

I am free to avoid the knock-off beers on a Friday afternoon. I am free to race the sunlight to look for a wave I was told about before an injury kept me out of the water for a few months.

I am free to surf again these last couple of weeks, after recovering from the recurrence of a knee injury in May. I am free to not go to a western doctor to be recommended surgery. I am free to allow my body to heal itself and to strengthen it by having an honest look at what I feed it and how I prepare and exercise it.

The signs are free to say, ‘TRACK CLOSED DUE TO whatever...’ and I am free to think, well, fuck signs. I am free to walk over slippery rocks for two kilometres between cliffs and oceans, and free to feel that this is a visceral and humanising experience.

I am free to pause when I get to where I’m going, to assess the most intimidating rock jump I’ve had to do in a long time to get out to the line-up. I’m free to start heading back, to the beach break in front of the car-park instead. Nobody asked me to come here, and nobody would mind.

There is hardly a break in the sets, and the bigger ones are washing thick over the shelf I need to cross to get to the bit you climb down to. I start thinking about sharks, still mulling over excuses not to do the jump and risk getting splattered across the reef. I’m bloody isolated, miles from anywhere, if my knee goes again here I’ll be fucked.

I’m free to know that patience is a virtue, and that Mother Nature has her rhythms. All this time I’ve stood here, stretching, and procrastinating, has begun to reveal some uniformity in the sets. Two smaller ones, then a medium one, then a solid one, followed by a trailing medium one, like an aftershock. A brief inhale by the ocean, before surging again.

It’s meditative, standing here in the cool south westerly and the slowly dying bake of the sun. I tune into the rhythm of the ocean and wait another full cycle of waves to see how long the inhale, the window of opportunity in which to jump, lasts. Where I need to be on the shelf when the trailing set smashes across it.

The rhythm absorbs me, eases me. I become clear headed about the moment - my trepidation is illogical, I’ve done plenty of rock jumps before, and even when I’ve had a mate to guide me I’ve always chosen the moment myself. Nothing sharpens your timing like the possibility of being smeared over/under a multidirectional reef with a natural washing machine at it’s side. So, patience. It’s not a jump I want to make twice.

I wander onto the shelf and near the bit you climb down to meet the surge, the point of no return. A combination of fear and intuition stops me, twice. Lucky, both times those instincts were followed by the two biggest sets of the cycle. It’s harder to see them coming in and judge the size from here. I’ve relaxed too much, now, overconfidence is a danger in itself to be aware of.

I count out the rest of the cycle I observed earlier, walk gently to the bit to climb down, shuffle to the edge, and with a ‘plop’ stroke my way out over as small a push of water I’ve seen hit the ledge so far.

I meet the two seasoned locals I could see from the cliff in the lineup with dry hair.

‘We were wondering if you were going to come or go?’

‘Just getting the feel of it, mate, I haven’t been here before… That’s a pretty heavy looking little entry there, eh?’

Laughter. ‘Yeah, it is actually. Worth it on a Friday arvo with three guys out though, eh?’ Smiles.

I’m foaming now i can see the pocket of the wave from this angle. Now I feel as liberated as I do. Now I remember what I’d missed about surfing. A couple of weeks ago, when I got my hair wet again, I’d thought it was the salty sea, just happy to be back in it. Now I realise it’s the invigoration of the challenges nature offers. To fear annihilation and embrace that fear. To know that I am completely free to not know those challenges, and feel dissatisfied, bored. Free seek those challenges and feel alive. To engage my body with my true environment.

The waves themselves were big and fast, and the way out was through an eight foot, dry-bottomed shore break. All that was secondary to the freedom of the rock walk and it’s moment of truth.

I told someone recently I didn’t watch television and they shook their head, and said ‘You’re a sheltered, sheltered man.’ I laughed. A vast proportion of the population’s lives revolves around television. It tells them what to buy, who to hate, who to idolise, whom as they can never be so virtuous, rich, enlightened, talented. They live, work and die in boxes, on blocks full of boxes, in cities full of blocks, and come home to garner their world view from a box. You’re free to live vicariously through box-world and think it’s a scary place.

Go into nature, at whatever level challenges you. If it’s walking though bush, up a hill, climbing over a fallen log, do that. You’ll see birds you’ve never seen before, hear their calls. If that’s not enough, seek more. Nature is your true environment and the backcountry has challenges galore. You’re free to accept them, or not.

You don’t need a guide, you don’t need to pay a fee to acknowledge your body and your environment, or their respective limitations. ‘The world’ won’t seem scary, or boring, or even very interesting when you’ve met with Mother Earth and had your mettle tested. You’ll respect nature and respect yourself. There’s no fee, it’s free. You are free.

T - 30.7.16