The peril of being yellow

Blowin's picture
Blowin started the topic in Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 12:52pm

Do you enjoy a stable life ?

Is the lineal record of your time on this Earth that of a speeding arrow unwavering in its course towards the bullseye ?

Mine sure as fuck isn’t. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Cycles of boom and bust , Good times and bad.

So it was that I found myself in the hole again. In a few short weeks I’d managed to transition from surfing daily and fit as a bull to several kilos overweight, soft and I hadn’t thrown the arms over in anger once. I wouldn’t be the first person to return from the perfect reefs of Indo to find sub-par East coast wind swell beach breaks as palatable as dogshit through the carpet. But it went further than that....family issues , raging bushfires and a little bite from the black dog which found me eating , drinking and indulging my great love of apathy as though it was paying dollars per disenchanted sigh.

And then I got an email from a generous bloke with an ace up his sleeve. Apparently his quiet, little honey- hole surf zone was about to pump . Suddenly my heart started to beat again , blood flowed to my bloated extremities with excitement. I wanted in .

Alas , it was my brother’s fiftieth birthday the day before he flew out , which would see him arrive without time to spare before the swell hit. I shrugged my shoulders again , wrote it off as more shit for the sandwich and got blotto pissed at an otherwise subdued party.

Again , I’m not sure about your own situation, but hangovers render me unruly , dysfunctional and prone to an even greater degree of erraticism than normal. I looked around at the post-celebrations and knew that if I didn’t get on a plane I’d be mired in this downward spiral clean through to the new year. Christmas ain’t the best time to quit your vices.

I called my mate ....I wanted in . With 6 hours to be on a plane in order to connect with him at the big smoke and then onwards it was a going concern.

Of course my plane was delayed 6 hours and my accommodation was closed when I arrived at midnight in Sydney and I narrowly avoided sleeping rough in a back alley. The next day I was pre-tired before our marathon journey even begun. Regardless, we caught up at the airport and settled into the adventure.

The final leg was a red eye with a mid-flight stopover and it was 6AM when we emerged into the 90 percent humidity , vivid colours and foreign scents of a third world provincial town. We grabbed a car with driver and set forth the few hours to the destination.

I’ve spent a bit of time in less developed countries and can confidently say that our home for the next week was at the very lower end of the socio-economic scale. People’s houses were neat and colourful, but the fact remained that the family who took us into their home didn’t have two cents to rub together. Holes in the doors , unpainted cinderblock walls and a rusty tin roof suspended over the bare slab floor. The lady of the house showed us our shared room with its single piss-stained mattress lying on the floor. No fan , no insulation and it was easily 50 degrees centigrade in there with the promise that it’d only get hotter at night when the meagre wind dropped to nothing.

Who gives a fuck ?

We were situated on the edge of a stunningly beautiful bay with a smattering of quality surf breaks and not a single surfer for hundreds , if not thousands, of kilometres.

Unfortunately , we had no transport when the driver returned to the town. Now , normally getting hold of a motorbike in this country is about as difficult as getting a cold sore at a car key party, but not this place. I mention this as I’m trying to stress the remoteness and difficulty operating in this part of the world. The man of the house arrived and we’ve immediately pegged him as having the charisma and initiative of a punctured football laying in the long grass. He didn’t disappoint. Our stuttered attempts to convey that we hoped he could procure us bikes led to a gap toothed grinned assurance that he was onto it . Or so we assumed was the outcome from our broken conversation in an approximation of his language....perhaps not as he disappeared for the next 10 hours and never mentioned motorbikes to us once on his return later that night.

At the time it didn’t phase us too hard as there were waves straight out front and we were keen to hit it and wash off the red-eye zombie state . Fun waves at a bowling offshore reef in the 4-6 foot range greeted us to break the cherry. I was struggling and praying not to get caught inside by the shifting peaks as I didn’t have the resources to swim in . Certainly enjoyed watching my mate get steamrolled by a rogue set though....

Back on shore and there’s another white man surfer on the beach. A likeable fella who came well prepared. His boards might not have made the trip due to airline ineptitude, but he was consoled by his esky full of ice , beers and locally unobtainable food items.

In the world of fishing, there’s a saying that 1 percent of the fishermen catch 99 percent of the fish. I reckon the same holds true for surfing. If there’s a million surfers in the world , there’s probably a cohort of 10,000 surfers who regularly score sets and uncrowded sessions at the worlds premium waves both famous and off the radar. Our mate with the esky would have been a 1 percenter I’d say. Tales of hollow , perfect barrels were never far away with this well travelled gentleman.

Sleep that night was a farce.

The temperature escalated to untenable intensity. The mosquito nets that we’d rudimentarily hung in our tiredness and doused with 80 percent DEET hung lazily on our faces so that we were basically huffing the potent carcinogens of the repellent. Factor in long pants , long sleeved shirt , socks and a mewling baby located 3 feet away behind a rough sheet of thin plywood and it’s safe to say that it wasn’t pleasant or refreshing at all.

Dawn found me still groggy and with my mate amping to hit the main peak located deep in the middle of the bay. No coffee , no breakfast and I was struggle paddling my way in his wake as we made our way the few hundred metres to the wave. First takeoff and I didn’t even get to my feet . Second wave and I clumsily tried to come off the top when I should have pulled in. Of course when I surfaced after the flogging my board was in two pieces. And I started the long paddle to shore , eyeing off the various rivers flowing into this utterly remote bay. The water was dark and I knew that my frog kicking the back two feet of my board would surely attract attention from the denizens of the deepwater reefs I passed over . As the shards of broken fibre glass scratched bloody lines in my upper arms , with every stroke I was thinking .....bull shark ,tiger shark , bull shark , tiger shark as I slowly made my way to shore. My mate , being made of stern stuff , continued to surf the outside peak solo before the tide killed it and he relocated a half kilometre away to the deepwater ledge of the day before . The swell has jumped to a powerful 8 foot plus and his sub six foot board was no match for the shifty peaks on that wide playing field.

Old mate 1 percent briefly rode the peak on a board I’d lent him before he came in and announced that a spot around the corner should be firing. By now we’d finally located a single motorbike and we did a couple of runs down there, ferrying crew , till we were all paddling into as beautiful looking a lineup as I’d ever seen . The waves weren’t perfect. The swell seemed to be missing here a bit so it was only 2-3 feet of aquarium clear spinning walls. The water was so shallow and translucent that takeoffs were like looking at bare reef. A few fun ones and just starting to get into it for the first time since we arrived and my mates started screaming from the inside.

I’d caught the wave behind his but managed to pull off before the dry greedy section. Apparently he hadn’t been so lucky . With blood pouring down his face I initially thought he’d lost an eye . By the time I got to him we had drifted off the reef and into a rip where I tried to get him onto my board to assess his condition. Arm potentially broken , tiger claws from the reef over a fair bit of his body and a suspect looking wound next to his eye.

As I checked my mate then called out to Mr 1 percent, it dawned on me just how remote this place was. There was no one around besides ourselves, let alone anyone who spoke a word of English. As I tried to get him to shore with my bingo wing arms against the rip in order to avoid a little island I began to hope that he wasn’t badly hurt. Otherwise we were fucked.

Here’s a thing: Surfing is dangerous. Irrespective of how often you can go for a slash and return unharmed , fact is that shit can go horribly wrong at times. My missus ‘ s brother took the nose of a board up under his eye , i know people who have been attacked and killed by sharks , a young bloke in my street copped a board to the head and went to sleep that night only to never wake up. Cuts , broken limbs . Serious, serious injuries can happen at any time.

So we got to shore and mate has gone into a bit of shock . A blow to the head and pain from his injures causes him to want to start throwing up. We knew what had to be done . Three surfs and 36 hours into our adventure and we’ve patched him up and gotten the fuck out of there. Luckily Mr 1 percent spoke a bit of the local tongue and had the number of a driver in town who could drive out to pick us up. Mate had a pretty extensive first aid kit and so we got him sorted for the drive.

Of course , the driver turned up in his 5 seater SUV type deal with his missus and 4 of his kids .....as you do. So it was a slow drive to the only hospital available which was a military hospital. By the time we arrived to meet the recently graduated doctor ( 28 years old ) and his ancient equipment, we were on our way to pissed after several backwoods stop offs to locate beers. The shocks bottoming out relentlessly under the weight of 5 adults , 4 kids , 2 huge board bags and Mr 1 Percenters valuable and well packed esky. The driver ,all 110 kgs of him ,coming upon the knowledge that a car under that kind of load will not climb steep hills in third gear only by the time we had journeyed the many hours back to town.

Old mate got patched up . The Doctor learnt how to properly clean a coral cut before stitching by the illumination of a borrowed head light and certainly enjoyed when Mr 1 Percent named his prototypical , circa 1965 X Ray machine as “ Chernobyl “ due to its obvious safety deficiencies. Then we took a bunch of photos at the request of the soldiers who’d drifted onto the scene , found a hotel , old mate crashed and Mr 1 Percent and myself got thoroughly pissed over a delicious meal of chilli mud crabs and squid. A hilarious debriefing on our adventure before retiring for the night. Forgetting the promised dinner for Mate who’d had a single , small taco since dawn.

Anyway , this has all been just a prelude to the point of this story. It’s what happened next that matters most.

Come dawn the following day , Mr 1 Percent had already left on his arranged flight. Myself and Mate spent a couple of hours haranguing with his insurance and arranging flights out for him. This was near unendurable due to my overwhelming hangover. Still , we finally got him in a taxi on his way to the airport and several flights bound for home.

And I was left solo in this little provincial town at the outer rim of the empire. With another impending swell due to hit the quality reefs that we’d just fled.

I balked . Did I really want to surf on my own in the middle of bum fuck , nowhere ? Ride over tragically shallow coral and paddle out into the middle of remote bays to catch serious, hollow waves which we’d so far failed to negotiate without incident ?

Alone. Really , really alone. No backup , no one to pick up the pieces if the wheels fell off big time. The only potential aid would be in the form of a curious local , squatting beside my beached and ruined body , casually smoking a cigarette as he pondered the insecurity of life in these far flung regions. A place where a few months previous a fella had been dropped by cerebral malaria in the house next door. A place where the majority of children don’t survive.

Now I’ve got to let you know that I’m no real stranger to surfing remote and alone. I’ve ridden tombstones solo as the largest bait school I’ve ever seen has been demolished by highly visible and very large sharks just behind the break . I’ve paddled to reef passes in the middle of the pacific without company and surfed waves much larger than I’d intended to ride. Offshore islands with no one but myself to share waves with...but there has always been a feeling that if shit went wrong I could extricate myself somehow.

Not in this place.

So I sat in my dreary hotel room , skin greasy , the palor of a devastating hangover befuddling my mind and considered my options -

1/ Option requiring spine : Roll the dice and score potentially epic waves on little surfed breaks on my own amongst the Stone Age .

2/ Option not necessitating spine : Quit whilst I was ahead. Get the fuck out and go straight to another warm water option with great waves and potential of aid if things go South.

I decided to sleep on it, Texts from my mate encouraging me to stay on and surf.

It was the buzzing which woke me , not the bites , as a squadron of mosquitoes stabbed my soft flesh. I immediately thought of the incidence of malaria here which is amongst the highest in the world. And my mind was made up.

Get the fuck out. I booked the flights at midnight to leave the next morning. Then I DEETed the absolute shit out of that shithole room and drifted into the sleep of the content.

Daybreak found me questioning myself again. Vigour and confidence had returned with sleep and the removal of the hangover. Was I really abandoning pumping , empty waves with my tail between my legs ?

Yes . Yes I was . And I felt relieved , which was a bit unexpected. Thing is , I didn’t want to have a descending lip push my leg through my board and snap it like a twig as my friend did at Uluwatu ( carried by friends up the bamboo ladder ) and I didn’t want to land my arse on a reef a lose power in my legs as has happened to others . Others who had help. Not out there .

I thought about hardcore adventurers Timmy Turner ( near death cerebral malaria ) and his mate ( near death staph infection on brain) and thought , perhaps they are better men than me ? Maybe it’s just an age thing ? The tragic result of reduced testosterone production within the middle aged males wrinkly ball bag ? Would I have returned to that coast and taken the risk when I wore a younger man’s clothes , as Billy Joel put it ?

Too much soy ? Very high in oestrogen, apparently.

Maybe , maybe not. All I know is that it’ll haunt me forever. Then I come to the realisation that those waves are still there and they are still empty ( For now ! ) and that if I really was going to do it I’d be there right this second.

No , I’m done. I’m a deep shade of yellow and nothing can wash away the stain. I’ll return to that spot, but not without a couple of hardy partners.

Wonder if Mate and Mr 1 Percent could handle my snoring and shit talking enough to ever consider getting the band back together ?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 2:34pm
simba's picture
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simba commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 4:47pm

if getting old has taught me one thing its listen to your gut feeling.......so many times i havent and paid the price.

simba

flow's picture
flow's picture
flow commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 5:28pm

Good read. I think as you get older you do question things more. Maybe it's testosterone. I can definitely relate to pushing myself more when surfing with a mate or surfing with my brother.....whether that's rational or not. It probably is as it puts me in a better head space. As time goes there seems to be many other surfers (not just Slater) who continue to rip well into their late 40s.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 6:58pm

I enjoyed that.

As I get older maybe my priorities shift. More to lose so to speak should things go wrong.

Also, it might be a fitness thing but I find myself swerving sessions that I wouldn't have even hesitated 20 years ago. Or at the very least, need some solid convincing. I used to feel guilty piking some big days but now not so much, I have a finely developed sense of self preservation.

Having said that, new years day early this year, everywhere was macking bu it was a beautiful all-day offshore. My good mate and i spent the whole day driving up and down the coast looking for somewhere to surf. We found lots of spectators, few if any takers. Add to that it was freezing, temps around zero. Around 2pm as the sun started its descent (yep, starts going down that early in winter) we talked each other into paddling out to this one spot that can handle pretty much any swell. Long long paddle out but pretty much a dry hair one until you move on to the reef. If it looked big from the land it was huge from the water. I haven't surfed surf that big in years- probs triple OH, 20ft faces as they say. So much water moving around. I was shitting myself. There were a total of four of us out and we were all pretty quiet, long lulls between sets, very long period but perfect.

I was on my step-up but still under gunned but had nothing else. My mate picked off one and stomped it, he had opened his account. I was out further and the next one to come had my name on it, now or never. I paddled and couldn't get into it (probs cause it was a half arsed paddle to begin with) and I watched plumes of spray peeling off the back down the line. Disgusted with myself I slapped myself in the face and ordered myself to go the next in addition to the other bad names I gave myself for being such a pussy. Horizon started to do that thing again as the next set marched in, again I'm in the zone. This time I fucking paddled and just this huge feathering surge of mother nature had me to my feet and dropping, almost in slow motion down down until I drew off the bottom and started the drive down the line. I wasn't pulling in, i was just gunning it to the channel but it's a long wave and then something clicked- I started surfing it! Off the bottom, top turning and fading back into the pocket, it was glorious, such a beautiful wave. Just a huge blank canvas. The wave backs off into deep water and the long paddle back out begins.

I only got about four waves that sesh and my mate probs three or four more before the sun went down behind the cliff and I got a long one back in. Freezing cold we dried off and spent the drive home excitedly recounting that sesh. Two days later, my mate got the plug of his board and practically the tail ripped out on another solid surf but nowehere near as big as the new years sesh. Lucky, because you don't want to lose your board at that previous spot.

I dunno why I started writing this- just wanted to share that sometimes when your head is screaming no, you just gotta go. That sesh was my most rewarding surf this year.

1173

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 7:05pm

Glad you did you mad bastard.

I focus's picture
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I focus commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 7:10pm

Thanks Zen

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 7:48pm

sounds like heaven Zen.

I had one like that at Kirra during TC Oma, not that big but mighty intense.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 8:48pm

Good post, felt like i was there.

Please Stunet give me an ignore button for Talking Turkey, Shatners Basoon, Dale Cooper, Factotum, Pupkin, and any new fake profile he decides to create.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 9:00pm

Yep. Ditto as ID.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Thursday, 5 Dec 2019 at 10:05pm

Classic .

simba's picture
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simba commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:54am

Come on facto ease up mate, i enjoyed Blowins story,it brought back a few memories of self doubt for me also.

simba

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:59am

OK, I've deleted two posts to keep thing back on track. Let's not allow this to devolve into a thread full of attacks.

Great story - been faced with similar decisions myself in the past, at the coast but also in the mountains. Certainly nothing overly extreme but I've never been one to push the limits too hard. I'm pretty sure I made the right decisions at the time too.

Solitude's picture
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Solitude commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 7:37am

Great read blowin. Thanks for sharing. For many of us it’s multifactorial: the increasing clarity/ awareness of our own mortality, acceptance of our abilities, past experiences. And yes often some of the wildness of our past has faded.
I’m much more aware of the importance and responsibility of staying healthy now having a family. Went to remote Indo this year (3 flight, car and boat remote). Banged my head on the reef at one point, nothing too serious but made me think hard about whether the risks outweigh the rewards.
I’d rather be in some emergency department in rural Australia than any hospital in rural Indonesia.

H2O's picture
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H2O commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 7:42am

Good yarn Blowin.
He who fights and runs away
Lives to fight another day.
As you said- its still there and so are you.

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GuySmiley commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 8:18am

A great story Blowin, thanks

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 9:32am

Unreal Blowin, thanks for sharing. I'm hesitant to solo surf at home, let alone in the middle of the 'stone age' . lol.

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 11:13am

Thanks for the story Blowin. Some stuff there we can all relate to; both with our surfing and life in general.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 8:51pm

Too right , Spuddups . Confidence can wax and wane without discernible reason. There’s a lot that can be done to maximise maintaining it though depending on the situation.

Stay fit and loose , eat well and look after your body and your chances are greatly enhanced whichever avenue of life you’re confronting I reckon. Mental, emotional or physical .

Easier said than done sometimes.

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Island Bay commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 12:18pm

Loved that, Blowin.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 12:50pm

Totally understand why Swellnet would delete a negative post in a thread like this, there is a time and a place for everything.

If someone spends a lot of time writing and sharing something like this that is just a surf related story, it's just common respect that it's off limits to bag or troll them, it really just about common decency and respect.

Countless other threads to be a bit more loose in.

Please Stunet give me an ignore button for Talking Turkey, Shatners Basoon, Dale Cooper, Factotum, Pupkin, and any new fake profile he decides to create.

peterb's picture
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peterb commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 2:23pm

Discussions about advancing (old) age and its infirmities are incomplete without the writer admitting to his own age. A forty-five year old may not have the same looming thoughts as, say, a sixty-five year old would.
(105)

Pops's picture
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Pops commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 1:47pm

Great read Blowin. Hope your mate healed up OK.

Reckon you'll go back there one day?

He who hesitates is lost

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 2:42pm

Sorry Pete- 52 in March.

I like chocolates.

1173

Patrick's picture
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Patrick commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 2:50pm

Great stuff Blowin and zen.

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 4:21pm

Just got back to reading zen's post. Onya Zen. Felt like I was there.

"I wasn't pulling in, i was just gunning it to the channel but it's a long wave and then something clicked- I started surfing it! Off the bottom, top turning and fading back into the pocket, it was glorious, such a beautiful wave. Just a huge blank canvas. The wave backs off into deep water and the long paddle back out begins."

Yep. Only a surfer knows the feeling.

Maybe like most passions in life you have to go hard or go home.

Or maybe, in the spirit of moderation for the nation from a mid age perspective;
Know your limits and drink responsibly.

And, Go with your gut on the day.

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P'tai commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 5:27pm

Blowin, thanks so much for sharing. Baring ones soul like that takes guts. You are definitely not a lesser man for making your choices. As was said above your are still here and so are those "waves". I parenthitised to include any pursuit, or just life in general.

Physical fitness and well been are the key. After 22 year of serving the nation training and surfing were the key to me keeping the black dog at bay. PTSD is definitely not a myth. Nor does it go away. It can be controlled, when I told my Phsyc I surfed, he said do that more and train to do it better.

I didn't realise what he was doing at first, but it was getting me into a place I love and the physical training releases the feel good hormone into your system so tis a win win.

Again thanks for sharing very bluntly.

Cheers.

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Island Bay commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 5:35pm

P'tai, feel free to share more of your story, if you feel ready and able to.

Cheers.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 5:37pm

My pleasure , mate.

I write this dross for myself first and foremost but it’s always cool to hear someone else gets what I’m trying to say.

Thanks for Serving the nation !

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linez commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:15pm

Awesome, gents. Real pleasure to read all round.

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keano commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:24pm

Great read Blowin, and Zen

love to see a whole thread here dedicated to this kind of sharing story.

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factotum commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 9:53pm

A safe space!

I like it!

Whaddya reckon, Sypkan?

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sypkan commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 10:56pm

safe space not required, everyone seems capable to interact nice enoughly

it's only the odd snarky bitch here and there that's incapable of playing nicely. incapable of reading context and grasping reality too it would seem

the crowd generally sorts that shit out itself, much like surfing...

I wish those posts weren't deleted though, that last one made you look like a particularly pathetic little man with issues

but I did enjoy it

in a schadenfreude kind of way...

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soggydog commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 11:25pm

Nice one, made we want to grab the passport and go.

wally's picture
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wally commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 11:27pm

Security experts say trust your intuition. If it’s telling you a situation is outside acceptable safety, trust it and act accordingly. You did the right thing, Blowin.

factotum's picture
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factotum commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 11:43pm

Hahaha Seppo, schadenfreude?!

Huh?

Good to see your spelling has improved at least, I s'pose.

In culture war, truth is the first casualty, hey?

One thing about you Sepp, you're always reliable... always reliably late to the party.

And always as reliably hypocritical as all get-the-fuck-out.

Like all self-proclaimed freedom warriors.

Now, howzabout some more censorship bingo? Eyes down for a full house.

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yorkessurfer commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 12:13am

I had my first realisation of my surfing limitations as a cocky 21 year old on my first trip to WA in 1992. I’d been hitting the West Coast of South Oz since I was 15 and was regularly surfing the biggest waves I could find (in the 6 to 8ft range) on my weekend warrior trips to Yorke Peninsula while doing my apprenticeship at Holden's in Adelaide‘s northern suburbs.

For a kid that grew up surfing Adelaide’s shitty beach breaks, driving for an hour each way to and from the Bronx like, land locked northern outskirts of Adelaide was akin to torture but scoring an apprenticeship at one of the automotive factories in the 80’s was highly sort after as they paid far above award rates.

After completing my four years of indentured service I bought a pop-top camper van, saved $10,000, and ditched work. I’d been putting in the hard yards since I was sixteen in a pair of greasy overalls while my mates were goofing off, smoking dope and surfing when they felt like it. My chance to start living the life I’d dreamed about was upon me.

I’d gotten to know a guy from trade school, Stewart King. He was a really good surfer and we’d had some epic surf trips together but shockingly he died a few months after finishing his apprenticeship.
He’d moved over to the Eyre Peninsula to follow his dream of surfing the best waves South Australia had to offer, and had scored a job in the fishing industry. Tragically he was cut down in his prime when a line snapped on a trawler towing a tuna pen owned by Olympic weight-lift gold medalist Dean Lukin. He was 20 years old.

It really shook a lot of people up, me included.

I met his brother Matt at the funeral. He had the reputation as an absolute charger and told me he was about to head off to work on Rottnest Island. He told me to look him up if I made it over there. So I had the opportunity to hang off his coat tails and hopefully surf the biggest waves of my life.

That winter I was in finally in WA. I parked my van at a mates house in Perth and jumped on the ferry out to the island. In those pre-mobile phone days somehow you just used to run into people when you travelled.
I spent several weeks out there couch surfing and sponging off Matt and his mates, surfing as much as possible, while they worked for the island resort. The trade off was that when they bailed on their jobs in spring we’d all head down south and use my camper van as a base to tackle the South West.

When we got down south we set up in the old Injidup campground. That place was notorious for backpackers, drifters, bum surfers and other layabouts. It was so much fun to camp there. The local council closed it not long after, another chink lost in the unrelenting evolution of the South West coastal strip from an underground utopia to the cashed up yuppie paradise it is today.

In those days you could actually surf places like North Point and get set waves even if you weren’t west coast surfing royalty or sponsored travelling pro. I had some hairy surfs with the boys and got some of the heaviest waves I’ve had in my life, even to this day. It blew me away how the locals were charging it. 12 year old kids were paddling out there at 6-8ft and pulling in.

Then a swell hit, a really big swell.

We checked out Margaret River, no one was out. It was clean and huge and hard to put a size on it. North Point too looked ridiculously heavy. I’d never seen Matt pull back, but at that point in time it was out of his league too.
We parked and watched some manic paddle out near Big Rock/ Cobblestones, somehow make it out the back in a lull, then get annihilated attempting to catch a wave. I thought he must of died but he was washed in somehow and appeared amongst the rocks inside with a broken board before walking slowly back to the car park. We quickly, sheepishly departed feeling pretty humbled. One of the boys commented “everywhere is too big and perfect” as we drove away.

Finally we pulled up at Yallingup and it looked smaller and surfable. It was sunny, glassy and waves were peeling in an empty lineup. Matt and the boys were keen but after what we’d seen earlier I wasn’t convinced. My take on it was it was bigger than it looked. Fuck they hung shit on me calling me a pussy saying it’s only 6 to 8 foot but I was adamant it wasn’t for me.

So they hit it and I watched. They weren’t out there long. I couldn’t really see much of what went down as it was just stacked mountains but once they were in the lineup I could see it was much bigger than they thought. They came in and looked pale like they’d seen the face of death and described padding over three eight foot waves before seeing a ten footer. Then they paddled over three ten footers and a twelve foot wave appeared. They paddled over three twelve foot waves and a huge fifteen foot plus clean up set of waves washed them all to the shore. That was the end of their surf.

I’ve since surfed waves in that 10-12 foot range a few times in Indonesia, South Oz and Victoria but only when I feel like it. I’ve had a dig but never considered myself a big wave surfer. I’ve enjoyed surfing bigger waves when I’m in the mood but I don’t care what anyone else says or how much shit they give me. I always remember that day and what happened.

I surf for myself.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 12:46am

Epic Yorkes, great post.

1173

factotum's picture
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factotum commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 2:06am

Now that was a bloody good read, Yorkes Surfer. Cheers.

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GuySmiley commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 5:32am

Top read Yorkessurfer

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Spuddups commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 7:08am

Margs can humble the best of us. I rocked up there once in 97 and it looked about 6ft. The carpark was full and for some reason there were only two guys out. I was out there in a flash. Turns out it was 6-15ft and I had turned up during a lull. I spent the next hour or so paddling for the horizon dodging the sets. Finally a ten footer came to me and I went for it. I made it to the bottom then nosedived. I got washed all the way in to the beach. Humbled, but also a bit wiser. Meanwhile some guys turned up with full 9ft Hawaiian guns and proceeded to put on a clinic. I was pretty cock-sure at that age and I think it did me some good to be taken down a few pegs.

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Blowin commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 7:33am

Epic tales , gentlemen.

Cheers.

I focus's picture
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I focus commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 10:54am

Only seen Zens story missed Blowin's 1st browse, thanks also to Blowin that was a good read can relate to all.

Yes I have blinked a few times in my younger days in the SW and a few times paddled out wishing I hadn't, nearly drowned at Main Break taking a smaller one on a big day end section put me on the bottom and wouldn't let me up don't know why never happen ever before or after.

In the NW have walked away from a couple of remote fickle waves breaking perfection some where in the 8 to 10 plus range just gone yeah nah.

Its hard to explain the emotions of doing that as the question is asked of you and the regret this is my limit bullet proof youth meets reality.

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Island Bay commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 11:00am

'97, and still living in Denmark, so very limited proper surf. I'd go 2 or 3 months without anything, then be off to Indo for a month, or to my Atlantic island bolthole. Feast or famine, but for some reason I'd grown fond of bigger waves than I had any business attempting.

Rocked up on my Island paradise with two boards: 7'4 T and C reverse vee, and a 7'3 Maurice Cole reverse vee - both beautiful semi guns. The first day was a bit too west and had some sideshore lump, but it was 6ft and I was out there on the T and C. Got some good ones and surfed 2 hours without incident, and felt so happy being back in powerful waves.

Swell started building, and with the W direction getting out of the water at the slippery boat ramp got very tricky, and a game of patience. Finally shot in during a lull, only to get washed off and straight through a rock garden. Dings galore, incl my head, so off to the local medical clinic for a patch up.

Next morning, new NW swell, light offshores, and 6ft perfection at the next point up the coast. Grabbed the MC and hoofed it through the village to the 'beach' path. Met a mate who said he'd grab a board and join me.

Paddled out and already it was getting bigger, but got two waves. Starting feeling very iffy, as the swell was very powerful and long-period, and step-laddering. Soon it was 8ft+, and I was just scratching for one to go in on, but just couldn't catch one. Finally committed to one, but got nailed and rolled underwater for more than 200m, surfacing right in front of a big rockpile which divides the point and stops the down the line current.

Desperately tried to get around it, but as I did my legrope got caught underwater with no way in hell to get to the tab. Had heard that drowning was supposed to be peaceful, but this was hell, and I truly thought it was over when finally the leggie snapped.

Board and I washed up on the beach, scarred for life, and I limped back to the village.
The swell built all day, and by the afternoon it was 25ft+. Anyone's guess, really, just enormous. One of the biggest swells I've ever witnessed, and the most impressive rapid rise.

Swore to my girlfriend that that was it, never surfing here again! Repaired the MC and gave it to my good mate, then paddled out again on a clean 4-6ft day, and all was well again, but the memories stayed with me.

Eventually built up my skills and courage, and got some decent waves there on my 8'4, probably the pinnacle of my surfing life.

I'm old now (56), but slowly building up to riding some bigger waves again, and Spuddups will hold my hand at the local bombie when I'm ready. If I'm ready.

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simba commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 11:13am

Shades of William Finnegan IB......that place was the best part of his book.

simba

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freeride76 commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 11:54am

agreed.

I focus's picture
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I focus commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 12:42pm

Just read the book thought the same, a bloke I surf with is in the book only found out a couple of months ago.

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Island Bay commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 1:28pm

Bill Finnegan was there that year, and the next, I think. He had his little tape recorder and did interviews with a few of us on rainy days, and it feels like the Madeira chapter of Barbarian Days is boiled down from all those stories.

We definitely all had war stories of being in deep shit and very frightened.

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GuySmiley commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 1:31pm

I have to say I’m loving reading these tales, raw and honest. Great work guys.

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crg commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 2:45pm

My big wave journey has meandered to and fro, not so much with my physical abilities but my emotional state.

As a young kid I used to love body surfing dumping shorey's and the bigger (a relative 3ft was considered huge!) the better. In the transition to riding a surfboard, initially big waves used to scare me. I clearly remember getting dumped through that beginners phase and connecting to the similarity of getting smashed bodysurfing. I changed from fearful to fearless. I used to love getting worked, and this feeling stayed with me for years and fuelled my desire for bigger, heavier waves.

Growing up on the Goldie, things topped out about 8ft, but back then there was no jetski assist so it was more an issue of getting out, timing your rock jump and dealing with the current. It was more of an endurance battle and your ability to read the ocean. My first real slap around in years occurred at Burleigh Cove. Super heavy and shallow on a dead low tide, solid 8ft, lots of closeouts, 2ft thick lips and hard packed sand. Pile driven, hip then head into the sand, minor blackout, seeing stars and pressed underwater like a rag doll, struggling to reach the surface and the first feeling of fear in years. Washed in, tail between the legs into the carpark. An hour or so of feeling sorry for myself, a quick feed and the fear subsides, the bravado returns. Second session, the tide has filled a touch, the swell settled and it's an all time session which renders the pounding a decent memory. If anything it galvanises my confidence.

I need a bigger challenge. I don't yet know I'm trying to fill a void. I don't yet understand my destructive pattern and search for feeling after an abusive childhood.
I hit the road at 18, south to Ulladulla with a mate. To us it's an innocent road trip. In reality it's the start of my escape away from reality, from adulthood.

Six weeks in, we've had solid Golf Course and other surrounding spots. I'm hooked on the power, the difference of reefs to beachies. My mate not so much, I drop him at the airport to return to his girlfriend. Me, I'm off across the bottom of Aus to the South West. Memorable moments from the Great Ocean road, across both peninsulas to touch base in Yallingup.

I'm surf fit, young, cocky and mentally separated from 3 months solo across the desert. I'm introduced to a few local crew by contacts there. I earn a few stripes, some trust, and then I'm introduced to The Womb. It's heavy, nasty but I'm into it. No chance I'm not in front of the assembled crew. A who's who. Leftovers and in betweeners intially, some lickings but some good ones. Not through merit or respect earned, I luck into a major set, I go, I get annihilated. Fractured ribs, punctured lung, bruised internal organs and a hospital stint. Painkillers. Again I'm introduced to something I won't handle.

Time off in the city, I'm shown the town by a local legend who is equal parts charismatic and insane. He takes me far beyond my limits and a short time later I'm a messy cocktail of opioids, alcohol and mental health issues. I'm escaping further into my own prison. There's no place to go but the North West.

Paradise. Insane waves. Plenty of opportunity to self destruct under the guise of hard charging. But something unusual happens. The desert takes over. Clarity. I have a wonderful time, the manic need for bigger and better dissipates. I love the place. It heals. I don't know it yet but I feel love for myself here. For the first time. I sit wide of the reef, I don't chip away at the pecking order, and I'm content.

The money runs out and it's a return home to the Goldie but I can't take it. I shift base to Byron Bay and begin the endless routine of work, save, travel. I'm stable, happy with life, maybe 10 years of, work anywhere through summer, home for Autumn, Indo/NW for winter, save through Spring and then maybe Hawaii. I love big waves, but it's measured, safe and enjoyable.

And then another series of big shifts, an ugly relationship break down, a poor business venture with a "friend" and somehow I find myself stuck in London trying to earn ££'s quickly to recoup lost funds. Mood darkens, negative patterns return and a random impulse decision ends me in Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco to visit a friend. We party, I meet the local crew, again fall in with a local underground legend. This time it's meth, black tar and Mavericks. I'm trying to be a hero. I'm actually trying to die. The high point is the low point. I surf the biggest wave of my life, I've never been more close to ending it. Un-fathomable risks and stupidity. A silent cry for help. I return for three more years. I can't complete the task. I don't die and the demons subside.

I eventually get help, I find answers, I implement changes and gradually I become healthy and find true happiness and love, firstly for myself and now with my beautiful young family.

I'm not so sure why and where this post has come from. I've always been fascinated by my journey in life and its correlation to surfing and surfing big waves. It feels good to just let all that pour out. Surfing has saved my life. It's been the parallel along all my ups and downs. It's always been there and always will. When the swell is up now, I don't actually think of my ability, fitness or fear. I feel how I am. Sometimes I'll charge, other times I'll sit and watch. Big waves are my clearest barometer of self. They've been my fear, my ego, my destruction, my awareness and now my sanity.

Pretty fucking amazing really.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

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thermalben commented Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 2:52pm

What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing crg.