The Flyer: The Prodigal Son

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Flyer

“What’s that fool doing?” said the driver of the work ute to his mate, “There’s barely a wave breaking out there.”

Sitting in the passenger seat of the car, his mate laughed. No other reply was necessary, they were both on the same wavelength, united in mockery.

Five minutes earlier the foolish surfer was alone in the windblown carpark, slipping into his steamer with considered movements. He then waxed an unridden mid-length while staring at its unfamiliar dimensions, before slipping a legrope through the plug and wrapping his left arm around the rail.

Between the girth of the mid-length, an expanse he wasn’t used to, and the stiff northerly wind grabbing at its bulk, he struggled to find an equilibrium. As the board lifted up and down a ute pulled into the carpark, its occupants eyeing him doubtfully. If they looked closer, they would’ve seen the surfer smiling. But smiling at what?

Walking off the black top onto the sand, the surfer made for the north end as he always did. There was little sense in studying the conditions; the guys in the ute weren’t the only ones who knew the surf was abysmal.

Paddling slowly from the creek mouth, it took time to find the sweet spot on the board as it bobbed with unexpected buoyancy. Paddling too was laborious, his left arm did most of the work as his right swung limply through the water while he wondered how Bethany Hamilton managed. Didn’t she surf Padang Padang a few years ago?

By the time he got out the back the ute had gone and the carpark was empty once more. It stayed that way for the next two hours. But if anyone did turn up, they too would’ve wondered what the surfer was doing, alone among foot-high windswell, sometimes paddling 500 metres to the south only to turn and paddle 500 metres back to the north, then sit on his board and stare at the horizon, or at the arc of the bay as it bent towards the point, maybe turn around and take in the surf club, the suburb behind it, and the escarpment behind that.

He caught a few waves. Tiny surges that barely accommodated his lopsided effort and caused more incongruous smiling.

The surfer had missed the best swells of the autumn, yet he was back in the water now. As the sun dropped behind the escarpment and street lights washed across the beach, the surfer made a solemn vow to himself: “No more jumping fucking mountain bikes.”

- Stu

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Comments

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 8:23am

Welcome back :-)

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 8:30am

Yep. You made it back and that’s all that matters. Congratulations- not a piss take.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 8:35am

Cheers. Ten weeks down. Not as quick as hoped but quicker than the doc's prognosis.

Though I'm still paddling in circles.

82shoes's picture
82shoes's picture
82shoes Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:00am

broke a wrist years ago one week before a surf holiday. Took the cast off so i could get in the water anyway and rode a booger a few times, got barreled more on that than i would have on my usual board .... I decided after that not to be judgemental about what others ride or achieve in the water as we don't always know the circumstances.
My current recovery has involved a SUP and a longboard as stepping stones to a midlength and hopefully my twin plus one, 12 months now ....
Enjoyed the article Stu, as always. Great to hear you're back

dastasha's picture
dastasha's picture
dastasha Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 9:02am

Whats wrong with me this morning?
Nice work Stu:)

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 9:04am

Better think up a good excuse for being late.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 9:15am

Ha ha! Awesome.

I was kinda thinking this story was leading to that. I need to remember the above myself when I drive away from less than stellar conditions.

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 9:24am

Awesome.

At the risk of being a pain in the ass.... would that have worked better in the first person? Coming from a place of love and respect!

flow's picture
flow's picture
flow Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 9:29am

Great stuff. I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. After back surgery in January, I went for a 10 minute paddle but not catching any waves. Felt pretty lame while in the water but felt surpringly stoked once back on land. I guess it's all about expectations.

kcw72's picture
kcw72's picture
kcw72 Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 9:39am

MTB VAL has first crash and gives it away. If only it was that easy to get rid of the VALS in the surf.....
good luck with the rehab

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 12:59pm

First crash? Hell no...

Gave myself whiplash last August, copped nine stitches in my lip last November, and needed X-Rays for a suspected spinal fracture in February.

VALhardy.

fuhrious's picture
fuhrious's picture
fuhrious Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:06am

I seriously wonder why it took an accident to get you on the board that you describe. May well be the universe talking to you Stu! Please tell me it was a performance twin.

malibudutchie's picture
malibudutchie's picture
malibudutchie Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:44am

Nice read Stu. Good to see you back mate. Nice and quiet (and cold) out there today for a bit more practice :)

H2O's picture
H2O's picture
H2O Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 11:05am

Mulga Bill salutes your comeback Stu.

Stunet’s Bicycle (with apologies to A.B. “Banjo” Paterson)

‘Twas Stuart Nettle from the Shire, that caught the cycling craze;
The thrill of mountain biking had consumed his thoughts for days;
To do the dread escarpment run became his favourite dream;
So he hurried off to town and brought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it though the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, “Excuse me, can you ride?”

“See here, young man,” said Stuart Net, “across all seven seas.
From Sunset Beach to Shipsterns Bluff, there’s none can ride like me.
I’m good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I’m not the one to talk – I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There’s nothing served up from the deep will dim my riding cred.
Point break or heaving slab I’ll ride till six times overhead.
But what I’ll stand, while wax will hold and leash and fins are tight:
I’ll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight.”

“Twas Stuart Nettle from the Shire, that sought his own abode,
That perched above Dead Man’s Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But ‘ere he’d gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man’s Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Stuart Net, as white as chalk, hung on for every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,

It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Stuart Net let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dean Man’s Creek.

‘Twas Stuart Nettle from the Shire, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, “I’ve had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I’ve ridden Chopes at twenty feet to win a five-quid bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I’ve encountered yet.
I’ll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it’s shaken all my nerve
To feel it dropping down the face then hit a step and swerve.
It’s safe at rest in Dead Man’s Creek, well leave it to expire;
A waxed up deck’s now good enough for Stuart from the Shire.”

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 12:05pm

Bravo. 10/10.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 2:03pm

That was nothing short of brilliant!

I'd be printing that out in some ye olde font and framing that.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 7:28pm

Hahaha unreal

Mcface's picture
Mcface's picture
Mcface Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 9:10am

This is golden H20!

Good luck with the recovery Stu. When you've been out of the water for so long, any opportunity to get back in will do, and as others have said makes you appreciate the less than stellar days - I think the whingers in the SEQ forecaster notes could take note of this one!

yvdreh's picture
yvdreh's picture
yvdreh Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 11:47am

Hahaha, love this. Good work mate.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 2:50pm

Absolutely brilliant! THIS is why I read the comments. Put this one up in the best of Swellnet 2021 at New Years...

Beautiful rhythm and abbreviation of words where necessary.

PS wonder if I could salvage the bike... maybe learn to ride...

Jono's picture
Jono's picture
Jono Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 6:03pm

Had this in book form as a kid, mum used to read it to me, haven't thought of it for decades. Cheers for that.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 11:33am

like it h2o.......one day it will rival Banjo.............

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 12:12pm

Top marks for the poem and the surfing comeback.

wiseautogas's picture
wiseautogas's picture
wiseautogas Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 1:10pm

quality wrote on par with ding alley without the expletives, way step above most posts on swellnet

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 4:17pm

Glad to hear you're back out amongst it Stu.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 4:55pm

Harden up Stu. Get back on that bike and take it to the limit you crusty demon.

Supafreak's picture
Supafreak's picture
Supafreak Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 5:34pm

F87-FA5-E7-41-EA-4-DDE-B8-FE-906-E6-FD1-CDC0

H2O's picture
H2O's picture
H2O Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 6:32pm

Thanks wiseautogas but no comparison really. Ding Alley is totally original material. My little effort was a adulterated cut and paste.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 7:56pm

Great news stunet.

Love your cut and pasted work H2O.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:18pm

Life is just one continual adulteration, so don't be too hard on yourself, H2O. 10 points.
Good to hear, Stu. Hopefully you'll catch a wave or three on your next foray into the briney.

slowman's picture
slowman's picture
slowman Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 8:18am

Welcome back to the brine. The longer you're around for, the more "comebacks" you'll be making! I related to those thoughts about Bethany Hamilton as I'd torn my suprasprinatus tendon in my shoulder a while back after an unexpected dismount onto some rocks (probably lucky they were covered in cunjie). I had one injury to my hip from cycling that kept on giving, 5 operations later it's finally perfect. Each one of those operations meant time out of the water - 2 were 12 month stints! Don't stop mountain biking either! You probably just need a newer better bike!

megzee's picture
megzee's picture
megzee Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 12:08pm

"You probably just need a newer better bike!"
Yep, one of those $11,000 models would do the trick.....
Mrs. Stu would be stoked....

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 2:53pm

Hey Stu, great to hear you are out on the board again! Don't sweat the midlength, they were/are a great small step back to the heights after injury. Get better and better every week :)

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 5:19pm

Welcome home, son. Feels good, doesn't it, no matter how pathetic the waves? Hope your wing heals now that you can paddle a little..

Those chaps in the ute would have ridiculed me this arvo. With my longboard just sold, I paddled out in 1ft longboard peelers - on my 8'6 gun. Trimmed and glided surprisingly well, but it ain't a log.

Tristo675's picture
Tristo675's picture
Tristo675 Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 8:57pm

I did my ankle and just got back in water today to film me mate first time in 5 weeks so good just to even be swimming around

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Tuesday, 29 Jun 2021 at 4:13pm

That was a finely crafted story, Stu. Kept the payoff till the last line. Being a little bit dense I hadn’t picked up on where it was going (or you can cut me some slack and say it was a practiced naïveté on my part).

You probably thought of half a dozen different ways to present that, but I think you picked the best one. Story tellers are the very heart of humanity.

Good luck on your recovery. I’ll be doing my best to recover some fitness, once I get going again, but mine is just due to not wanting to go out in ultra crowded surf. Indulgent of me, I know. Lockdown bringing new perspective.