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 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 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 Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 3:49pm

One of the best stories I’ve ever read on here . Cheers.

People are showing their stripes and I’m loving it.

GuySmiley's picture
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GuySmiley Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 3:49pm

a big thanks crg.

I focus's picture
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I focus Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 3:56pm

Next level Crg

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 4:16pm

Thank you, crg!

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 4:24pm

That was awesome CRG.

As an aside and i hope you don't mind, but is your friend in Half Moon bays initials BO?

keano's picture
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keano Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 4:30pm

Amazing thank you crg

stunet's picture
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stunet Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 5:50pm

Crg...mate, you've been posting for years, and then this. So often risk taking and braggadocio is a mask for something else. Great that you realised that when you did.

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 5:51pm

I’d love to sit down for a few beers and hear some of your tales crg. That was a wild little read. Epic stuff

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velocityjohnno Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 8:22pm

Wow crg. Profound.

I reckon I ran away like you mentioned, ran home, ran away, still running? Still experience fear in bigger waves though. I think surfing quite literally saved me as well, maybe I'll share the story one day.

Statler's picture
Statler's picture
Statler Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 9:49pm

CRG”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. “
Nice CRG I would change it to one sentence for lots of us "Surfing been my fear, my ego, my destruction, my awareness and now my sanity. " Make sure you trademark it before the WSL steals it

Statler's picture
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Statler Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 9:54pm

Early 90's Based at Nias after quitting a soul destroying job to just surf till the money ran out.

Upon arrival at Medan Airport in the morning I began the 14 hour small bus journey to Sibolga.
Many bus changes followed as every bus emptied to be shunted to another for the next leg, meeting happy locals and seeing locals living their lives in the middle of Sumatra was the highlight of the journey, friendly as all fuck, where the buses went I have no idea but the 14 hour trip cost less than a carton of bintangs and in hindsight it was great highlight, at the time it was crowded, hot and fucked, I got sent to the roof with the chickens and my boards at one point. Somewhere I used the most environmental sound sewerage system I have encountered shitting straight into the hungry mouth of pig from a raised bamboo platform.. I had rice and veg at that establishment, Pork was available.

Upon arrival at Sibolga it was time to await the opening of the Government Boat ticket office for the local ferry to teluk dalam that evening.

Finally I arrived at The epic Right Hander to be greeted by 1-2ft waves then days of small fun waves to 4ft for the first 2 weeks, eating seafood and rice drinking beer living the dream.

Then the run up to the full moon which did not disappoint with a great run of swell and perfect 4-8 ft waves for several days only to be followed by waves of consequence.

The night before had waves washing under the hut and strong winds, the morning revealed massive storm waves and no takers as the morning progressed it settled down to perfect surf able conditions, and 3 blokes out and lots of excuses on land.

Trepidation set in I quit my job to go and surf perfect waves I had a brand new 7'6 and extreme perfect uncrowded waves were now on offer

An hour of soul searching and numerous cigarettes watching the waves convinced myself I would regret this day if I did not even paddle out, fuck it i would go I would paddle back in if I lost the bottle to attempt it, at least i could see the power up close.

Hit the key hole watch and wait for another 30 minutes, reckon I have planned it right with the lull start paddling out only for the legrope to get grabbed on a coral head as its sucking back out, a perfect U of body and board, rip legrope off underwater grab board start paddling as the sets are on the horizon.

Seriously concerned now do I wash in or paddle as the current is still pulling out, Decision made i start stroking out legrope not attached no time, thinking i made the wrong decision as i just make it over the first set to be confronted by another, scrambling in fear I clear the next 4 waves, totally spent and Adrenalin depleted .

4 Blokes already out greet me they seem very comfortable cracking jokes about how everyone has disappeared today and welcome me to the line up.

They continued to get waves while I watched and scrambled when sets appeared and gave encouragement to someone who was totally out of their depth with the deer in the headlights look.

Until the time came one wave appeared its the same on any surf break anywhere, any size you just know that bloke is sitting in the prime position for it and it is his, FUCK, than the calls of GO GO.

Wishing the 7'6 was bigger I caught it out of fear and rode it straight no turning no nothing just low pig dog stance all the way to the shoulder. Further depletion of adrenaline,

Stupidly with a false sense of confidence of handling that wave I went back out when I should have gone in and talked myself up endlessly and enjoyed the endorphins the body had produced.

The next wave was not as perfect but i was in position the calls of GO GO did not allow me to hesitate, it jacked up unexpectedly I reached the bottom of the wave fully extended and could not correct when a bottom turn was needed and the explosion occurred.

I was shot to the bottom and was pinned on my back to the flat reef of Lagundri bay no movement no pressure whilst chaos raged above.

First thought was thinking gees this reef is perfectly flat it was like lying on your lounge room floor. Why didn't i check this out when it was 1 ft.

I had a 7'6 and a 10ft legrope pinned to the bottom just held there whilst the chaos occurred above me, could not move, then pressure started to release

I could move again started to try for the surface and got smashed backed down to that flat reef, chaos again as the next wave hit

Pressure release again needing oxygen shoot for surface, reach surface one breath and white water in the face, pummelled thrown like a rag doll

Surface again sucking breaths only concern.

Legrope dragging me down as the 7'6 has not surfaced reach down remove legrope,

Lull in waves

Where is the 7'6 I have been on the surface for at least 10-20 secs.... it pops up 5 metres away flat not nose first it rises flat.

The 10 foot legrope was never used again and I found my limit and a profound respect for the ocean and a reminder to relax in extreme situations.

mickseq's picture
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mickseq Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 10:00pm

great stories guys

simba's picture
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simba Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 10:30pm

crg.....mate stoked for you, isn't surfing great..seriously...the great leveller .....the one place you can go and all of the bullshit can fall away.Epic stories by all..thanks.

Patrick's picture
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Patrick Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 10:26pm

Yeah, keep em coming.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Saturday, 7 Dec 2019 at 10:49pm

Great story Statler.

Goes to show, we all have our cathartic or seminal moments in surfing. Surfing is a great healer and certainly a great leveller. Some people turn their backs on surfing, but I guarantee in those quiet times, the memories are never far away.

ps- i probably would have swerved the pork.

crg's picture
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crg Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 7:28am

Thanks everyone for the kind words.
Must admit I'm a little surprised at myself after re-reading my post, some generally unspoken thoughts there. Thanks to Blowin and others for their stories for the inspiration and thanks to Ben and Stu for these forums and online community where we feel welcome to come together and share these things.
Zen - not BO I was referencing in the story but he and his brother are some of my dearest friends.
If I could perhaps dedicate this story to the other legend mentioned in the WA part, who's connection to the saving power of the ocean wasn't strong enough to overcome his own battles. RIP dear brother. I miss you, ya crazy bastard.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 8:22am

Thank Huey for that , Crg.

It was doing my head in trying to picture Bill Oddie on the end of a crack pipe.

Seriously though, just reread your story and it’s pretty nuts . Glad you found solace up North , there’s definitely an indefiinable quality about the place that soothes the soul. Places have their own energy, some are good , some are bad and some are neutral. Just a matter of finding your zone. Personally, I find I’m pushing shit uphill trying to make life work in a place that doesn’t fit.

Again , cheers for letting us get a glimpse of your adventures.

factotum's picture
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factotum Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 12:36pm

Great reading CRG. And a great read of your own personal surf journey by yourself. Exploration, inside and out. Well done and all the best for the future in and out of the sea.

And good stuff, Island Bay. That island can certainly deliver the truly awesome - in the real sense of the word. Otherworldy swell jumps and the potential for real life n death stuff. There but for the grace of God and all that.

And long leggies, Statler. Faaark. But whaddya do? Sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. Horses for courses, I guess.

Keep on keeping on, crew.

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braudulio Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 10:33am

Started to jot down some notes on life defining sessions but then abandoned it for looking to much of a wank/look at me list. Then I started reflecting on the original theme of the thread. What about a surf when I both in equal parts should and shouldn't have paddle out?

Back to the early '00s, I am in my early 30's, recently married and living in a country in the southern part of Europe. We lived on the coast but a benign one outside of the bigger storms during winter, although there are some spots there that really light up under the right conditions. Anyway, it's a good hour and a half drive to the open coast and my go to spot, a right hand point that needs some period and size to even break and even then only on low tide. It's a colder months season spot and that particular season had been by far the best I'd experienced living there. Back to back roller-coaster of swell events, the troughs bottoming out at head high-ish and the peaks ... well. How big do you want to go?

Was working freelance at the time and the work had dried up, as it usually did in the colder months, no one is that keen to work at sea close to the coast in the Atlantic in winter. I'd been surfing constantly all winter and was pretty match fit, confident and comfortable in up to double/triple overhead. Had been alternating riding my 7'0" and 7'6" for about 6 weeks straight and couldn't even remember what a short board was like when the swell in question came. Swell forecasting and in fact wave/wind data were sparse in that part of the world in those days, but I had an inside on a wave buoy nearby and good grasp of how the winds worked based on info from the nearest airport. The wife had headed off on a work trip, I had nothing pressing and the charts were lighting up the North Atlantic again. Green light for what could be swell of the season.

There was no rush to arrive that morning, low tide wasn't until lunchtime and the winds were forecast to be favourable all day. I didn't even check the wave buoy before leaving home. Mistake. The night before the wave heights had climbed above the threshold for my spot and given the colours of the charts I had no doubt would climb further. The road and carparking was only moderately crowded when I got there but there was a lot of people milling about and not much sign of wetsuits being put on nor boards being waxed. The first look at the lineup explained that. At first I thought, fuck it's maxing out there was so much whitewater. I'd never seen it max out, and in fact had been assured but a couple of locals that it never maxed out. You could ride it as big as you dared. I parked up and wandered down to see who was about. As I did a set rolled through. Not maxed out, just breaking way deeper and wider than I'd ever seen it. Size, well bigger than triple but hard to say more than that. Long muscular 18 second lines steaming down the point.

I found Steve, a Pommie expat mate who happily and unashamedly restricted his paddle outs to head high or less, he was shaking his head when he saw me. No one's been out, no one's going out was his opinion. We retired to the terrace of the beach front shack he was house-sitting for a brew and I carefully watched the next few sets roll through. I deep down knew I was going to give it a crack but spent the next 20 minutes mentally arm wrestling myself. According to Steve, the word was that the local big wave legend was away on the island already mentioned in this thread, no doubt surfing this same swell. So, unless there was a travelling surfer willing I couldn't think of anyone else who'd paddle out with me. That's what I think convinced me. Pure ego. If I didn't paddle out no one else was going to and if I did I'd be the only one. Ego built on low self esteem is a dangerous and fragile thing.

There were lots of stares as I made my way across the rocks to the harbour wall and the normal jump off spot. Easy peasy, off the wall out the harbour entrance and up the point. Most days a matter of ten minutes or so to the lineup, sometimes with dry hair. Familiarity, complacency. Another mistake. A mistimed jump and the sudden realisation that the entrance was sucking nearly dry between waves led to moments of pure terror as I copped a full set on the head desperately trying to avoid getting smashed back into the harbour wall. Luck and the prevailing current saw me back on the beach with no damage other than to the ego. More stares (less awe and more wtf) as I headed back across the rocks for a second go.

I stood out on that wall alone the second time for what seemed like a long time and realised not only was there no way out this way but a growing part of me didn't want to get out. Ego overrode self preservation again, I jumped anyway. Slightly better result, at least to start with. I cleared the harbour entrance but there was just way too much water moving. I was paddling hard into the gap between sets but there was just way too much distance to the deep water and the current was pushing the wrong way. Inevitably another, maybe 8 wave, set on the head and this time onto the rocks between the harbour and the beach. Not so lucky this time, after being bounced on the reef several times, bashed in the ribs by what was no doubt the rail of my 7'6" it let me go and I was in green water thinking paddle hard. A quick look at the board told me my day was over though, missing one side fin and the other only held on by tendrils of fibreglass. Once again back to the beach this time with my tail well and truly between my legs.

And that should have been that, there's no way I'm attempting another go with only a 7 footer. Except as I slink up the beach well aware of the stares (pity and derision now) I spot Steve on the terrace with a board. A big one. I sit down with him for another brew and some time to regroup. No one else has made any move to head out, although there's starting to be a fair crowd now. Forget the harbour, try the rip next to the rocks, the current should pull you out into the middle of the bay. It'll be a long paddle after but you've got a chance, maybe, was his advice. A broke-it-you-bought-it handshake and I was waxing up his 8'2", a board I'd never seen before let alone ridden.

Things were starting to get a bit surreal as I walked down the beach with that board under my arm. I wasn't particularly concerned about my ability to ride it at that point since I figured I wouldn't even get out. But something wanted me in that lineup that day because I actually got out pretty easy in the end. I paddled wide up the point trying to get a feel for the board.

I almost get the first set on the head, all my normal references are useless. I scramble over it and the real size of the waves starts to sink in. I let the next set go, then the next. By the fourth set I am starting to panic, I'm way out of my league here. I let it go too, but by now I have a good idea of where I need to take off. Then the reality hit, I can't do this. It comes down to either I catch a wave in the next set or just go in.

The next set arrived and I let the first two waves go. The third one. I pulled together every ounce of my nearly 20 years surfing experience and lined that wave up. You and me I thought, and it wasn't courage or bravery or peer pressure that made me catch it. And it wasn't skill that let me ride it. It was simply that I had to. How big, well I don't really know. But I do know the drop took a day or two and when I put the 8'2" into the first bottom turn it felt like nowhere near enough fibreglass. I've got speed to burn but I've also left the turn too late and the best I can do is speed run to the channel. The thing starts to throw down the line and the size, shape, colour and sheer amount of water in motion are beautiful, frightening. Awe inspiring. I am on a survival line on that wave and certainly not anywhere near getting barrelled, that wave doesn't barrel anyway, but time slowed down just like getting pitted. My view was restricted to just the face of that wave and the rest of the planet disappeared. Then I was in the deep water past the end section. I'd just ridden easily the biggest wave of my life.

I only caught two more waves and none as big as the first. But by the third wave, like Zen, I am actually surfing it. Well, as best as 80kg of skinny on a 8'2" can. When I get back to the beach and head back up to Steve's terrace the stares are different, but I don't even notice them now. Am I feeling triumphant, proud, victorious? No, I'm too emotionally spent to feel much of anything. At most relief. Maybe.

I spent the rest of the day on the terrace, not saying much, just staring out at the ocean. I was changed.

No one else paddled out that day.

Well, that got a lot longer than I'd anticipated but like the others once I got going I couldn't stop.

Thanks for reading if you got this far, if you just skimmed down fair enough. I ain't no Hemmingway.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 10:46am

Thanks for reading?

I couldn't stop.

Great start to the day.

factotum's picture
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factotum Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 11:09am

Brilliant read. Great balance.

"Ego built on low self esteem is a dangerous and fragile thing."

The Short, Happy Life of Braudulio?


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GuySmiley Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 11:12am

I’m with you zen, I couldn’t stop reading.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 11:12am

Shit yeah !

simba's picture
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simba Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 11:32am

yeah mate Finnegan would be proud..well done on both surfing and writing.

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zenagain Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 12:14pm

CRG, cheers for getting back. The reason i asked is i grew up surfing the Goldie, went to uni there and moved away in my late 20's. I have a friend from Half Moon Bay too and your post sounded remarkably like a bloke I know.

I thought we might somehow know each other. Goldie was still a pretty small place twenty thirty years ago. Cheers anyway, i enjoyed reading your honest

crg's picture
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crg Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 3:17pm

I reckon we know each other Zen - GC, uni, that time, friends with BO, narrows it down to one of three people.

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thermalben Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 3:19pm

Bloody hell, we could publish a book with this stuff. Thanks everyone. Been a great weekend of storytelling.

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Rabbits68 Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 3:46pm

Truly amazing stories one and all. Thanks very much for sharing.

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zenagain Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 3:57pm

CRG, just to keep it cryptic- i'm actually Dan H. GUGC 92-95, lived in Broadie, surfed Burleigh a lot, Kirra/Snapper every now and then.

I was friends with 3 girls from Uni, one of whom i think may have been a girlfriend of yours- she's named after a fortified wine.

If so, we only knew each other pretty loosely. The travelling tales you told got me curious. I suppose ill put it out there- are you Col or a friend of his?

ps- Half Moon guy Brian O., he hitched a ride with me when i moved to FNQ.

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stunet Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 5:26pm

Considering all the allusions in this thread, I reckon the name of the girl/fortified wine has to be Madeira.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 6:04pm

It's almost like a rite of passage too have lived in Broadie.

I did Mermaid, Broadie and Surfers (aol beach side) late 90's through early 00's (Phillip ave in Broadie just near the cop shop)

They were good days though if small and light winds head to Straddie, if big enough head to Burleigh or the Alley or further south, and the rest of the time surf out front, then from Thursday through to Sunday hit the Playroom, Shark bar, The Edge or Surfers.

Sucks that we can't be young forever.

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zenagain Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 6:17pm

Ha ha! All of the above Indo. Armrick and Second Ave. Indo, did you do happy hour at Swaggs in the Parkroyal hotel. Cheap jugs and they'd do platters of party pies and sausage rolls that the punters would smash as soon as they got out the door. Had a good darts comp too.

Btw Stu- Sherry.

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tiger Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 6:47pm

Only had a chance to read a couple, but some classic tales in here. And amazing the six degrees of separation that is swellnet. I too have done some time in HMB, way back in '97. Familiar with some of the local characters that are popping up on this thread! A little story I remember of my time there. Went to a beach party that was down in that stretch between Kelly Avenue and the town proper. Couple of kegs, and beer in those red plastic cups just like the seppos like to do. Some dude there with some decks, bit of a bush doof. Plenty of weed floating around, and Pete O pulled out a baggy of shrooms. We all ended up very sideways. Got the munchies bad and a bunch of us went up to the Mexican takeaway up the road to get a feed. They all convinced me that I had to go in and get the food. Sure enough the joint was packed and there was a massive line up. I was wigging out, right on the verge of losing my shit. Trying to remember what everyone wanted to order, trying not to make eye contact, just sensory overloading. I was right on the verge of just running out of there. But then looked around, and everyone in there were just a rag tag bunch of bent out of shape humans. Suddenly I felt at ease, like everyone in here's totally fucked up. These are my people!

Had a great time there, and some pretty good waves up and down the coast. But saw ore than a few times that seedy methy underbelly that seems to grip the NorCal region.

Crg maybe the character you were referring to in your story was IB?

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 7:27pm


Nah didn't do that one, was some good cheap places in Broadbeach to eat back then though i remember some places you could get a god roast for like $3, its all gone full upmarket now though, its like main beach real high end.

Okay you were further north near the oval, i did also live up wharf ave for a while just on the edge of Broadie and surfers, was actually living in like a resort/holiday units was pretty good had awesome gardens and pool and most units were holiday rentals so heaps of girls passing through and it rocked during schoolies.

Was on the dole for much of the time or just working part time, burnt myself out though living there, had lots of mates working in hospitality so they would be trying to get you out early in the week and then from Thursday onwards everyone else was parting and having no money wasn't an excuse there was always someone trying to get you smashed.

Speaking of comps i did win a pool comp in my first few weeks of moving to the Goldie and threw the $100 or so over the bar ($1 pots down stairs and $1.50 spirits upstairs) made a lot of new friends that night and had people shouting me drinks for weeks after that.

crg's picture
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crg Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 7:28pm

Six degrees alright.
Zen - not Colin but I know him through Tom S. I was technically at uni from 89-93 but you wouldn't have seen me there much. I think we crossed paths a few times. Brian was staying with me I think when he hitched that ride.
Indo - classic times and places. I lived in Brittania for over 20 years.
Tiger - sounds like an atypical Pete O evening, always sorting the boys. You would have ended up at Tres Mexican in town. Way too bright and crowded for your condition haha. Shoulda gone to dodgy El Gran Amigo, worse food but it would have been empty at least. And you got the initials right too...IB...the man.

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Westofthelake Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 7:35pm

Tuesday June 7th 2016. The NE swell had a day to settle back from the Monday peak. But it was still pumping. And for days it did.

I had become too ill for work but managed to miraculously drag myself to the beach. Solid 6 to 8 foot easy with bigger boomers and the tide going out. The Nor Wester was doing its thing and it was pretty bloody perfect. The thing is there was only 3 blokes out. Very soon it was just 2 boogie boarders, but they were still charging.

You can only watch for so long before you have to make a decision. I've got this day off (cough cough) and even though the surf might be perfect, it also very, very solid.

Looks around . Blokes been out, yep. Anyone putting on a wettie, nope. Boards being waxed, nope.
Going to be a very tough paddle out, yep.
Still pumping, hell yea!

I slowly get my shit in a pile, grabs board and gets into a quick convo with old mate who reinforces my decision to paddle out right in the corner, go straight till the end of the point, and then bee line it for take off zone. Oh and btw, good luck. Off I go with my Wayne Lynch 6'4" thruster thinking its too late to go home now.

It was going really good untill mid way through the bee line, but at this point there was no turning back. By the time I made it out the back I was totally rooted and quietly uneasy. The two boogers had gone in, the water was fricking freezing and the first wave that I thought worth a look came and went as it just grinded perfectly down the line. The power and speed of longer period waves is unforgettable.

I was on my own desperately wishing I wasn't on my own. Sure there was people on the beach which provided some consolation, but the bottom line is that it's an intense environment and all you really have is your own self belief as to what you can and can't cope with. Focus.

It seemed like forever as swells pushed in everwhere. The swell had more E today than NE and the thing is that there was no one set take off spot. You really had to be in the right spot at t h e right time. I eventually caught one. But it wasn't 'the one' so I flicked off early to avoid getting caught inside.

Back out the back. How can I be out here by myself? If this was the weekend there'd be at least 30 blokes out!. Having drunk the cup of fear and excitement f o r long enough, and since there was no sign of anyone coming out, I eventually picked a cracka and surfed it as best I could riding the foamy to shore.

I reckon I spent half an hour assessing/procrastinating, half an hour paddling, half an hour waiting, and about 60 secs surfing.

Next time I am going to adjust those times.
Hopefully with a little help from my friends.
May the next time be sooner rather than later.

Thanks for the sharing and inspiration.

From the car park that day.

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braudulio Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 7:37pm

Thanks guys, much appreciated. Took me a long time to finally hit the 'Comment' button.

Am four months into rehab post op on a busted ACL. I copied JJF and Eugene copied me. This thread's got me thinking that whilst I don't have a footage collection to curate JJF style (no one in their right mind would watch it anyway) I do have a bunch of stories that I think I'd like to tell.

Let's see if the time finds me.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 7:43pm

v. enjoyable reads gents.

I lived in that block of holiday units in Wharf Rd Indo.

also Enderly Ave closer to Surfers. Just a stumble from the Gold coast nightclubs.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 10:01pm

Wicked Westo- i've had days like that when i couldn't even get one. It only takes one though and that can keep you going for weeks.

CRG, i knew Tom quite well back then- we definitely would have crossed paths at some stage.

Glad to hear your doing well. I fell out of touch with pretty much everyone years ago.

Agreed- this has been a great thread.

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stunet Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 8:21pm

@WOTL, this one was taken the same day at a beach with lots of south exposure so the east swell had turned it into a long, left pointbreak. Really hard to get out, ended up getting plucked out of danger by Predator on his ski, but worth it.

It hasn't been anywhere near as good since.

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 9:12pm

Unreal Stu.

Word was that the next 3 days were solid gold, slowly dropping swell, but clean and pretty much perfect. Unfortunately I had to attend to the day job.

And yep, haven't seen it this good since.

tiger's picture
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tiger Sunday, 8 Dec 2019 at 10:08pm

Tres it was crg! Smashed many a post surf burrito there! Didn't mind the one at el Granada either! Last time I saw Brian was the year the billabong pro was at Caba. I actually ran into Curt. M down there watching it, and gave him a lift back up the Goldy and caught up with Brian there where they were staying. Recollections are a bit vague, I think their car had been nicked?

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rooftop Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 11:56pm

Great thread, guys. The stories, the writing, and also the courage to share what you have.

morg's picture
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morg Thursday, 12 Dec 2019 at 10:53pm

Thanks for bearing your souls and sharing interesting tales.

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P'tai Friday, 13 Dec 2019 at 5:04pm

@stunet I lived behind the apple pie shop at the top of the hill at that time. Surfed with the Predator regularly.

Craig's picture
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Craig Thursday, 2 Jan 2020 at 4:50pm

From Zen..

Pre and post shots of the spot Zen wrote about above..

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 2 Jan 2020 at 5:03pm


zenagain's picture
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zenagain Thursday, 2 Jan 2020 at 5:07pm

Cheers Craig.

Almost a year to the day. Pumped last new years day and yesterday too big- i piked.

Today more manageable but still well overhead. Takes a good 30-40 min paddle out there and same back. Only three of us out there. 2020 opens with waves. Hope everyone else is getting some.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Thursday, 2 Jan 2020 at 5:08pm

ps- i'm gonna make some life changes. It was hard work for this old fella.

I focus's picture
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I focus Thursday, 2 Jan 2020 at 5:49pm

Nice looking wave, right hander as well how about the water temp below 14 degrees?