A Decent Hour
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.
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.
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.
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