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 ?

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Thursday, 2 Jan 2020 at 6:19pm

Unseasonably warm- water temp around 14℃ air temp around 8℃. I was in 5mil + booties and gloves. I was a bit too warm. The top pic i snapped as i drove away today, the bottom pic is what i rocked up to. I only surfed for an hour and a bit. Doesn't look it but lots of moving water out there, gotta stay on your toes.

Anyway, swell dropping, a certain breakwall up north should be epic tomorrow.