Toonalook Surfers United By Existential Threat
Friday 14th August. The often fractious Toona surf community has bonded in solidarity this morning, drawn together by a shared sense of foreboding as the prospect of a grave – though not entirely unexpected – menace looms on the horizon.
Much like the African Wildebeest sniffing the wind and knowing that within a few short weeks the life-giving rains will cease to fall, surfers in Toona carparks and lookouts have been dealt a sharp reminder that the sublime season of surf does not last forever.
Tragically, unlike the Wildebeest, who will simply take themselves thousands of kilometres across the Serengeti towards new pastures when the season dictates, the men and women of Toonalook – who’ve been squinting into nor’easterly-affected lineups for the last three consecutive mornings – know that before long they will be condemned to endure several months of grim, mediocre surf conditions, as the monster known as Spring emerges from its lair and takes a continuous shit – metaphorically speaking – on the entire East Coast of Australia.
Despite reassurances given to each other that there’s still “maybe a month or so left” where rideable surf might be the rule rather than the exception, the distinctly substandard conditions of the last few days has cast a pall of horror over surfers of all ages and abilities, as unwanted memories of October through February return vividly to the collective consciousness, eliciting an outpouring of grief, anger and confusion.
“It’s like Game of Thrones, but in reverse,” resident TV enthusiast Adrian Hanna told Ding Alley breathlessly. “As we all know, ‘Winter Is Coming’ is established in the first episode of Season One as the motto of House Stark – a warning that times of peace and prosperity never last, so make the most of those times of abundance, and use your time wisely, as all will eventually turn to ruin.
“Of course, the irony here is here it’s Spring that’s the season of doom, and instead of White Walkers, it’s an armada of bluebottles massing on the horizon.”
As Ding Alley made our excuses and left before Hanna issued his customary invite to come around and play Dungeons and Dragons, other surfers were seen consoling each other as the reality of the near future began to hit home.
During a mid-morning surf check, alpha local and self-proclaimed sheriff of Toonalook, Barry Cornell, was seen to drop to his knees and wail inconsolably to the heavens when a decidedly November-ish Toonalook Main Beach came into view as he rounded the path.
Friends of the hair-trigger kingpin say they knew Cornell was “close to the edge, emotionally”, after he posted several surprisingly candid poems on his Facebook account, one of which, 'Ode To A Lost Fucken Winta', a deeply introspective piece in which he calls into question his surfing commitment over recent months, is reproduced here:
Did I fucken surf enough?
A million fucken diamonds under winter fucken sun
Thought those days of fucken sparkle were fucken endless
Did I do all that could be fucken done?
Hush fucken now
What the fuck’s that I fucken hear?
That gate only rattles in a fucken Northerly
That caaarrnt of a season’s drawing fucken near
So you fucken caaarrnts out there
Fucken listen to Baz’s warning call
Make the most of the rest of fucken winta
Spring can go fuck itself. And fuck you all.
Startled and more than a little disturbed by the cracks appearing in the mental armour of Toonalook’s most robust surf warrior, we asked noted Toonalook psychologist Dr Petra Mills about the combined ‘double whammy’ effect of the surf season drawing to a close and the continuing COVID-19 crisis on the morale of the tight-knit town of Toona.
Dr Mills, fresh from an unsatisfying session at Toona’s main beach, let out a jagged peal of laughter.
“Not to belittle an unprecedented global pandemic that’s laying waste to health systems, casting us all into Dickensian poverty and tearing the fabric of societies apart at the core, but COVID’s a walk in the park compared to four or five months of pissweak windswells and relentless nor’easterlies that bleach the blue out of the sky and the sea, the same way our souls are stripped of the joy and wonder of being alive.
“By comparison, COVID, short term at least, well, life’s never been better for Toona’s residents – JobKeeper, JobSeeker, cashie jobs up the wazoo, the kind of localism even I can get behind. What’s not to love?
“But pretty much – and I say this as a happy, well-adjusted and successful young professional with a healthy range of hobbies and interests, a network of wonderful friends, a devoted, loving husband and two children I absolutely adore and cherish – if I could take a pill in a few weeks’ time that would render me comatose through until, some time, say, mid March 2021, I’d definitely take it.”
While most adult surfers of Toonalook have become hardened by years of exposure to the brutal seasonal cycle, and can take comfort, at least intellectually, that all things will pass and autumn will make its blessed return in 2021, perhaps the most vulnerable are the children. For them, the prospect of five months of shite represents an unfathomable eternity.
Of all the surfers Ding Alley contacted for this report, the most forlorn creature in all of Toonalook is young surfer Daniel Hughes, who declined to join his friends for an early session before school in clean head-high conditions last Monday morning, choosing instead to watch the much-publicised 'Rumble at The Ranch', touted as professional surfing’s exciting return to competition.
By the time Hughes, 13, emerged from his house in a state of bewildered disgust and raced to the beach to cleanse himself of the toxic experience, the wind had turned to the north-east and has remained stubbornly anchored to that bearing for the rest of the week.
Hughes has remained in his darkened bedroom ever since, vowing not to come out unless the wind swings back to the west, or certain heads roll at the WSL, “Whichever comes first but preferably both,” the brave lad whispered to us through the door.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Daniel at this time.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is two mates, illustrator David @maccatoons McArthur and writer Gra Murdoch. McArthur is the smooth natural footer Yin to Murdoch’s erratic goofyfoot Yang.