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bottom-turn-openShe’s a fickle mistress the sea. And like the worst of them, when you’ve had enough and are ready to walk away, she’ll draw you right back in, only deeper than before.

Tuesday night…
I’m pissed off, sitting by the fire as the weather closes in outside.

I’m done, finished wasting my time with this useless pursuit, tired of tilling the same stretches of open coastline looking for a wave to ride when I could be off doing something productive. I am done with the crowds, done with the people… I am over this.

The day had started well – a 4am alarm clock and the promise of waves. A thermos of coffee and a dark and damp open road stretching off into the distance amidst the glowing cats eyes. Through the empty city streets, out into the suburbs until the houses fade, the city recedes and yields to the open countryside, grey-green and thinly veiled in an early morning mist. The road will twist and turn until we see the bluff in the distance that marks the beginning of the point. The long winding left that, today, a Tuesday, should be pristine and empty. Another swig of coffee, roll the tracks on the iPod, shift into fifth then ease back and enjoy the rising sun.

This is how it should be, and this is how it is as we leave and drive, pulling into the sand car park sometime around 8am to see empty lines bending down the point: Empty and ours. So we paddle out, my visiting brother and I, to 5-foot left-hand walls without a soul in sight. For a half hour it’s poetry, and we can breath and smile. Until, like ants, the crowds come trailing from over the dunes. How many can there be on a Tuesday? Ten, 15 at best. But they keep coming… 20, 25, soon up to 30. By 9am I’m on the beach, cursing under my breath. It’s a known spot on a good swell called well in advance – I shouldn’t complain, I have no right, I am after all just another face in the crowd, another blot on someone else’s perfect morning. But it’s a Tuesday and we’re far from the city. And these are all city number plates. By lunchtime it’s over, I’m going home. 4am seems long ago.

It’s a long weekend and the charts look average at best. Boards are still lying where they fell last Tuesday, dumped on the garage floor with little ceremony, wetsuit still grubby with sand and grit. We’re off up the coast in search of a little isolation; some walking, fishing and to catch the West Coast in the flower season. We’re a bunch of friends and it’s more a social occasion than a surf trip and the difficulty we’ve had in finding a place to crash means that if there are waves, they’ll be busy. But it’s the West Coast, so we may as well sling a board in the car.

crashed-out-by-fireWe’re staying in a barn. No electricity, no frills but within earshot of the rolling waves that accompany us throughout the evening and into the night as we braai under the stars and drink too much wine. Stoking the fire and lying down to sleep, the silence punctuated by the soft crackling of wood and the odd rumble from the ocean outside, my mind starts to wander back to the surf.

Dawn comes early for some; the door latch creaks but it’s still too dark to make out the hands on my watch as friends come back in from a quick surf check. It’s cold; really cold. Where there were flames there are now only ashes and I pull the cover tight around my eyes – it’s Sunday, it’ll be rammed for sure. But there are waves, an empty dirt track running north and no-one in sight just yet. The lure of the virgin coastline is pulling me back in. This cold won’t keep me and soon I’ll be slumped in the car, heading back to the ocean. It’s too easy to give in, and I’m too weak to fight. What if…

empty-elandsSomething’s not right here. It’s a long weekend, sunny and it’s pumping. We may be on the West Coast, far from the city, but all the accommodation was booked, we saw trains of boards heading this way, and yet here we are, mid-morning, staring at an a-frame reef with nobody, not a soul in sight. It should be busy with unfamiliar faces. Where the hell is everyone? We pile in before we see a stranger. But three hours and nobody turns up, three hours and it’s just the six of us, wave after wave until one by one we trickle in, collapsing exhausted on the beach. The last 20 minutes I spend solo in the water, drinking in the solitude and gorging on waves. I don’t know where everyone is; what we’ve done to deserve these waves god knows, but we’re all lost in the pure joy of sharing empty, perfect waves together, on a Sunday far from home. Tuesday seems like an age ago. Today everything seems new and I don’t want to stop. I am, once again, under the ocean’s spell.

It was all too easy.

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