Waves of hunger
Here we go, it's another reader-contributed surf story to ease your way into the weekend. This is becoming something of a Friday arvo tradition; the last few weeks we've had Danny Carney playing foreign correspondent from a warung at Uluwatu, and today it's Cass Selwood dialling it in from Andalucia. I've also received another submission about finding perfection in the Lesser Sunda Islands which I'll post next Friday.
But back to Cass, who sometimes posts on Swellnet under the handle 'Surf Starved'. And just as owners come to resemble their pets, Cass is coming to emulate his handle - first in Australia, now in Andalucia...
Stuck in a 4 metre x 4 metre concrete oven with the blinds down and the local devil wind sending everyone outside out of their minds. What does the would-be surf writer write about when the Iberian summer is at its peak, there’s no wifi and the nearest surfable waves are on the webcast from J'Bay?
The forecast didn’t look all that bad when we first headed to Andalucia. An unseasonal couple of metres of swell and medium-strong offshores coincided with our first weekend here, making for all-time conditions at the local swell magnets. But I found myself staring from the sand without a board.
A scrambled tour to all the local surf shops uncovered fact number 1 about Spanish retail surf culture: there’s little or no trade in second hand boards through the bricks and mortar outlets. Seems everyone here’s still being offered the “buy it brand new” Kool Aid, just like last time I visited, but thankfully the rise of the Internet during the intervening years means these days not everybody’s drinking it.
Which brings us to fact number 2: you can get a decent second hand board online, as long as you can navigate the intricacies of phone calls and then face-to-face negotiations in a language that’s not your own. I managed it, but only just, and to be honest, I didn’t cover myself in glory. Where do you start when you don’t even know the basics like length (media), width (ancho), fins (quillas) and legrope (correa), let alone more specific terminology like “you’ve got the fins around the wrong way, and that one’s not even a centre fin, it’s just another sidebiter you’ve stuck in the middle”, “the grub screws on these plugs are fucked” or “mate, you’d be lucky to get even half of that for this boat”.
Your fins are on the wrong fucking way!
So I ended up buying a board off this bloke who, it turns out, lives just around the corner. I paid more than I probably should have, but after another circuit of the local surf bunkers to source a centre fin and new grub screws, I was ready for the next swell to hit our coastline. I should say “will hit”, because I bought the board two weeks ago and the day after that the Levante blew up from out of the east and the Atlantic went dead flat, with no sign of any meaningful change until autumn.
And that Levante really knows how to blow. Five days straight of hot, dry, dusty gales and you’re left red-eyed, twitchy and only a step from psychosis - which side of the line you’re on depends on the individual. After day three the swell forecast read 1.8m. Not bad, until you realise that it’s headed straight out to sea.
Not that I’m a stranger to the starvation diet, when it comes to surfing.
Things got bad there for a while after our first child was born. An inflamed paternal instinct meant I didn’t get my toes wet, let alone catch a wave, for almost a year. When I did finally get back in the water, not only had my fitness gone to shit, but it had been so long that even the muscle memory had faded and my arms could barely remember what to do when a wave came my way.
Slowly but surely, month by humiliating month, I worked my way back to a point where I felt I could almost call myself a surfer again. Then child two arrived.
Back you go!
Fact 3 about Spanish surf culture is a pretty obvious one, in hindsight: don’t plan a trip to the Iberian Peninsula that kicks off at the start of the northern summer and expect to surf. All throughout June the Spanish news, when it’s not obsessing about footballers’ off-field shenanigans, has a steel-eyed focus on the weather. The unprecedented heatwave roasting everywhere from Morocco to Scotland and sparking lethal wildfires in the eucalyptus-infested woodlands of Portugal has sapped Spain’s water reserves, with most storages sitting at around 55% capacity.
To be honest, the heat’s really only an inconvenience to those of us who have just arrived from South Australia at the end of summer. It’s a bit more of a “same today and tomorrow as it was yesterday” kind of situation. But for a surfer, a stationary blocking high has the same implications whether it’s centred over the Flinders Ranges or the Bay of Biscay - i.e. no fucking waves.
No hay puta ola!
You bastards back home are no help either. Just shut up about your “5m SW Southern Ocean swell” and your “East Coast pumping for weeks”. I don’t want to know. Those last couple of super fun days at Boulders before we jetted out are but a faint memory now, although the rib injury I picked up from a mistimed late takeoff is still niggling, thanks very much.
For now, there’s a bottle of rum in the cabinet that the previous occupant of this glorified Weber Q left behind. I’ve never been much of a fan, but as the summer solstice fades into the distance and the Levante shows no sign of easing, I think me and Ron* are going to get to know each other a bit better. Unless Huey throws me a fucking bone and sends some lines towards Cadiz, pronto.
*Rum in Spanish