Everybody has to pay their dues some time or another. Whether you do so in small, regular installments or save it up for the mother of all beatings, like my friend Ando, pictured here, is neither here nor there. We’ve all gotta pay… [Photos taken by Tim Delaney, punishment taken by Paul Anderson.]
Every surfer falls off their board – that’s just the way it works. You come up, take a huge breath of salty air, get back on it and paddle back out to do it all over again. The point is that you realise you survived, so it’s ok to give it another go because taking that tumble wasn’t all that bad.
Wipeouts are the taxes of surfing.
The bigger the reward, the bigger the risk. Pulling into that massive barrel could be the best moment of your life, but the reason why it’s so mind-blowingly amazing is because most humans can’t do it every day, on every wave. There’s a fairly good chance that you won’t make it, which is part of what makes it so incredible when you do.
But Ando’s spill, pictured here, was a particularly nasty one; the kind you don’t forget in a hurry. I used to work for the guy; he’s a solid surfer from West Australia, he had a successful competitive career as a junior and is happily comfortable in big, heavy barreling surf.
Here, he’s about to get drilled by a chunk of water tripping over the reef at Lakey Peak in Sumbawa, Indonesia. The thing about Lakeys is that you have to try really hard to hit the reef. There must be a trench in the reef just in front of the peak, because it gets pretty deep. It’s the only place where I’ve consistently had to climb my leg rope to find “up” and get to the surface after catching rail and binning it; it just pushes you deep, holds you down there and rolls you around for a long time. My friends Al and Cynrig once climbed up each other in the race for the surface – Al got his head up and out of the water, inhaled and was then abruptly pulled back under by Cynrig who reached up from the blue depths and climbed his leg like a ladder.
Ando managed to hit the bottom pretty good on this one though. “I came up with my boardies shredded and hanging on round one ankle, pretty much nude, and looked down at my body just as all the little reef slices started to turn red. The guys who’d been sat watching on the old judging tower were already swimming out to get me…”
It would be easy, having heard that cautionary tale and seeing the pictorial run-up to it, to take the little wipeouts, settle for the comedy foot slips and the almost enjoyable trips over the falls on small waves. But then you’ll never find yourself stood tall in that cavern of moving ocean, and at the end of the day everybody wants a stand-up barrel. It’s the whole point of surfing.