A Decent Hour

Apparently there's an even better time to surf than the morning or evening. A reader finds time between the daily bookends.

Really? 

I’m supposed to fawn over the clumsy romanticism of surfing at some ungodly twilight hour just because it makes good copy? Please. It takes an ambitious author armed with a high grade poetic license to try and convince me that surfing on the cusp of darkness is anything but an outrageous betrayal of everything that is good about surfing. 

For a start, I’m not some hideous morlock who wants to creep around in the gloaming just to avoid humanity. Humans are social animals, we want to see and be seen by other surfers. And we are diurnal animals, not crepuscular. Not for me to be hiding around the fringes of society, skulking in the shadows and chasing crumbs like a church mouse. I wish to boldly walk the main stage with the lights shining brightly upon everything I do and say. That’s why I prefer to surf at the premium time of 10am till 2pm - give or take an hour or two. 

The sun appropriately high in the sky, the author - bottom left of picture with sensible headwear - wanders down to the local for a session

It’s not only for selfish reasons that I choose to surf the real Gentleman’s Hour. Surfers are The Chosen People. We are morally obliged to show leadership in the community, to provide a beacon of good health and strikingly good looks to inspire our less aesthetically blessed landlocked brethren. This is not achieved if we strut our stuff whilst they are still in bed sleeping off their box wine and KFC hangovers, nor whilst they’re crammed into public transport on their way home from their cubicle kennels. We need to be dancing aquatic whilst the sun shines directly down on our athletic grace like a giant celestial spotlight. 

Besides, overhead light showcases fine bone structure and abdominal definition. And it tans the skin. And provides delicious highlights to our just-so salt encrusted and wind-blown hair. 

None of which is possible if you’re scuttling around jump off rocks in the freezing pre-dawn, or trudging unappreciated up a twilight beach long after the plebs have bolted home to catch Bachelor In Paradise: Gold Digger Edition. 

Then there’s the fact that the dawn and dusk are too often heinously cold. As if surfing in a restrictive neoprene fetish suit isn’t bad enough, do we have to compound the horror by electing to surf when the glorious sun is providing its least warmth? Surfing is meant to be a joyful plunge into a bath-warm aquamarine dream, not the sporting equivalent of self-flagellation. No amount of hysterical waxing lyrical will ever truly euphemise the pain involved in abandoning the loving embrace of a naked women in a warm bed, in order to don a cold steamer just so you can cavort with a school of dead-eyed mullet in a head high swell on a cold winter morning, as an Antarctic-born offshore wind blows your testicles somewhere into your chest cavity. 

Uggghhh. 

Besides the revisionist approach our dawn and dusk devotees have taken to the awful reality of surfing at twilight, they’ve also been wayward with the truth regarding the time to find the best waves of the day. For sure, if you’re a perennial East Coaster on the ugly side of the sub-tropics, you probably do need to bust your gut getting in the water before the seabreeze turns your offshore knee-high slop into onshore knee-high slop. For those who surf in the lower latitudes of Australia and Indonesia, AKA The Right Kind of People, then the mornings can be a drag. Either the wind is too strong or not strong enough or it’s just plain chilly when a few hours more will be sun-kissed gold. 

By ten o’clock the winds are settling into a prettier pattern, laying down in the Nor’West or starting to puff offshore in Indo. Gone are the ribbed faces and generally seasick or unruly conditions. This is known as champagne hour for a reason and it’s when a better grade of person comes out to play. By lunchtime it’s blazing sun, burnished brown-muscled gentlemen and lithe bronzed women.

I know where I belong and where I’d rather be, and it’s not chattering my teeth to crooked nubs as I try to get my key into the car lock before I expire from post-surf hypothermia. 

No-one drinks champagne alone! Our author - 17th surfer from the right - celebrates the overhead sun with other proudly diurnal surfers

Look, I’m not just throwing shade on the dark side without any knowledge of what’s involved. I went for a dawn surf once. After a big post-surf afternoon on the beers and reefer around the campfire, my dawn patrolling mate, who routinely popped by in the pitch black of morning to grab me for a surf and was consistently rebuffed, finally wore me down and I committed to joining him in one of his ridiculous pre-pre-dawn surfs in a building swell out at a North West left the next morning.

I awoke later to the sound of my mate on his way out the point. Recalling my promise, I forced myself up, grabbed my head torch and surf gear and stumbled after him in the dark. He had a bit of a headstart and wasn’t to be seen. Assuming he’d already hit the water, I got into my steamer, negotiated the treacherous waist-high whitewash powering over the high-tide keyhole and soon found myself paddling wide of large lines of luminous whitewash steaming around an otherwise inky black lineup.

I soon realised that I was completely incapable of successfully riding any of the booming sets due to lack of light. It was probably only the fact that I was still semi-pissed that any of it seemed slightly normal. After catching a couple and getting resoundingly flogged, and with no sign of my mate, I decided to call it quits. I somehow made it back to shore in one piece, got changed and walked back to camp, cursing my mate and wondering where he disappeared to.

A few dramatic thoughts crossed my mind as to his whereabouts. Large, hungry fish were known to frequent those waters and they search for feed at dawn. There was no sign of him at my camp. Hopefully he’d just gone back to his place. I checked the time to see if I should start alerting others to his disappearance. My watch said it was 2am. My mate had never turned up, I’d just dreamt that he had and I’d just gone for a midnight paddle in some of the sharkiest waters you’ll ever come across. 

And that’s the last dawny I’ll ever go on. From now on it’s the blissful matinee session for me. Sunshine and smiles and life in the full sun as it was meant to be. Living large isn’t hard and I’ve got two rules to live by and guide me through a charmed life:

1) If palm trees don’t grow there, I don’t go there 

2) Surfing in the dark can kiss my arse. 

Now let’s get out there whilst everyone else settles in for lunch. Reckon you could rub a little sun block on my back, cobber?

// JOHN DORY

Comments

blackers's picture
blackers's picture
blackers Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 2:53pm

Ah, the Gentleman's hour. Cant argue, it's when I surf the most. Aiming for that change of shift, the gap in the crowd.

Howie66's picture
Howie66's picture
Howie66 Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 9:29am

Yep and I try and get it right before the light onshore afternoon sea breeze, just as it’s still workable and everyone has rushed down in the morning because the report told them that it’s swinging onshore, and most didn’t look that it’s only going to be 6 knots

Le_Reynard's picture
Le_Reynard's picture
Le_Reynard Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 3:16pm

+1 for a leisurely Matinee haha
Tho thanks to someone eating a bat, the crowds are rank nowadays. Tho still less than for the Dawny.

seeds's picture
seeds's picture
seeds Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 3:42pm

You already told that story Blowin (most of it anyway) None the less I enjoyed it.

rj-davey's picture
rj-davey's picture
rj-davey Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 4:01pm

Love it

old-dog's picture
old-dog's picture
old-dog Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 5:27pm

Sad but so true. Thanks for the laugh.

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 6:23pm

...Gentleman's hour, second only (by a whisker) to the late, late.

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 6:57pm

Haha brought a smile, BTW biggest Tiger I ever ran into and had a long look at a mate and myself was at said break mid morning.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 7:22pm

I know a few follicly challenged individuals and Rangas who don't like surfing in the middle of the day. So there are definitely some positives to it.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 8:08pm

What did Chopper Read say?

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story? Something like that anyway..

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 3:16pm

chopper did his bit to eradicate feral wabitts (rabbits not humans)

n!ck's picture
n!ck's picture
n!ck Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 8:30pm

Beautifully written… loved reading this.
2am “sleep walk” surf… hilarious.

I will stick to my mid morning go to time (or occasional evening glass off when conditions allow).

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 9:49pm

Any surf when the conditions are good and you are getting waves is terrific.

From back before it got ridiculously crowded, one of my enduring memories is surfing good Snapper/Rainbow in the late arvo when a walling section would pop up and then another and another, each one with a big red smile from the setting sun. Glorious.

But on the east coast, you can’t beat when there are early morning still conditions, the drone of traffic hasn’t started, you know most people are still in bed, a clean swell is rearing up on a good bank and there is the cathedral glory of sun shafts coming thru a backlit wave.

Goodwolf's picture
Goodwolf's picture
Goodwolf Monday, 10 Oct 2022 at 10:13pm

Definitely written by a clock fiddler. Any west coaster waiting till gentleman's hour is often left high and dry...

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 11:09am

Yeah, nah. Best surfs I’ve ever had at X were after the morning offshores have died and the early crew have had their fill. Most short-term visiting swell chasers can’t hold their water long enough to wait for champagne hour and they bolt out there at sun up when it’s wind-ribbed dogshit with blinding sun coming up the face. Combine this with a big effort the preceding afternoon convincing anyone who will listen that the spot up the road is going to be ON the next day and voila - glassy , empty goodness is yours to enjoy.

Sometimes it takes a bit of discipline to not rush out there but it’s definitely worth it. Have another coffee, sort your fishing tackle, whatever….just hold till you see the pack thin and the wind falter

I like the term clock fiddler though!

Ash's picture
Ash's picture
Ash Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 1:33pm

I'm a later in the morning punter, the rising sun on the east coast is a pterygium kick starter and enabler.
The last few surfs in Bali ( 2019 ) were at midday and what a difference that made. It's the same here, everyone is done by 12 and heading to the bakery.

doolybird's picture
doolybird's picture
doolybird Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 8:15am

Good article....I love my early....but almost pointless now....as you are usualy sharing it with many another person. Blackers was onto it.....the change of shift is the go. There's one mid morning and my favourite the one just after lunch and before school pickup (provided conditions hold out). I had many a surf at that time where its pretty much empty where as it was chokablok that morning.....

gunther's picture
gunther's picture
gunther Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 10:04am

Yep, 1 - 3pm is pretty heavenly if you can swing it.

doolybird's picture
doolybird's picture
doolybird Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 10:33am

Yup....its almost like fight club....never talk about it...hehehehe. Ive paddled out at 1ish to empty perfect waves, surfed like a crazy man initially thinkn its gonna get super crowded, realised its not, relaxed and enjoyed the solitude, gone in bout 3ish to a dozen or so guys paddling out. Its bemusing and awesome at the same time.....

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 10:55am

I'm just out the door to go check it now...

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Tuesday, 11 Oct 2022 at 3:34pm

Chopper paid Trent by the hour. Some of my bosses have been clock fiddlers. I say get it (surf) when you can.

josh.wright's picture
josh.wright's picture
josh.wright Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 12:03pm

The early (particularly of a weekend) is a frequently pointless endeavour in Sydney in this new post-lockdown world. It’s the busiest time in the water, by far. The late morning/early arvo session has kept me sane, even with the threat of the incoming sea breeze.

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 12:03pm

Lately i've been a convert for what we term the mid morning session as "the 10 o'clock kick".

The long weekend just gone was proof that mid morning sessions are indeed surfed with less to no crowd and much better conditions.

Wilhelm Scream's picture
Wilhelm Scream's picture
Wilhelm Scream Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 1:24pm
Barrel Daithwaite's picture
Barrel Daithwaite's picture
Barrel Daithwaite Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 4:54pm

I’m lucky to be pretty flexible most days so I’ll take whichever session I think will be best with wind/tide/swell.

Michael Adam's picture
Michael Adam's picture
Michael Adam Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 4:58pm

Sssshhhhh!!!
The only thing we learn from history is: We will never learn from history.
Shoosh!
Shutup!
Zip it!

Wilhelm Scream's picture
Wilhelm Scream's picture
Wilhelm Scream Wednesday, 12 Oct 2022 at 6:10pm

"Yibbida yibbida...THIS IS DIZZY STUFF, FOLKS."

Oldguy's picture
Oldguy's picture
Oldguy Friday, 14 Oct 2022 at 11:41am

Yup, that’s me. Did the dawn/dusk thing when I was young, now it’s time for gentlemens hours, followed by coffee, then a relaxing ale at dusk.

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam Saturday, 15 Oct 2022 at 11:42am

Good to know theres some others on the same late swing.
the earliest surf i got this year is about 10am, usually early afternoon is preferred . All the frothing surfers have gone in! this plan works in winter but summer it doesnt becos the seabreeze is in by 11am! this causes crowded lineups every morn in summer...

paul.benney's picture
paul.benney's picture
paul.benney Sunday, 16 Oct 2022 at 3:21am

Classic! Now retired l wander down to the beach mid-morning or mid-afternoon "No rush" to check out the surf with the knowledge that the tourists have gone and the lifeguards have packed up for the end of summer, with my mal under my arm and wetsuit in my wet bag l open up the SLSC where l pause outside to peruse the ocean and make a choice as to take the mal or a foamy and which bank shall l surf on! The joy of living in a seaside village and being now Autumn in Cornwall. Or as we say in Cornwall will do it Dreckly!!

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre Monday, 17 Oct 2022 at 3:57am

Worst time for winds (usually), nuclear strength UV. I have the benefit of time so sometimes I'll go out at midday if the tides are ideal, like the last couple of days and now I have a burnt noggin, not my face but where my hair is!

Midday surfs suck.