North v South

If there’s one thing that’s harder than learning to surf, it’s learning to surf with a gale force wind blinding you with a white salty froth, while surrounded by a hundred or so other people all desperate to claw onto a single, mediocre wave. Throw in a cacophony of suicidal swimmers all desperate for their 15 minutes of fame on the local reality rescue show and you have post-winter Bondi.

This could be you:

bondi rescue

After clambering onto the windswept remnants of a left and hurtling, sightless, towards the beach, quicker than Sebastian Vettel disobeying team orders, (Disclaimer: May not have actually been going that fast) I quickly lost the desire to end up as one of those people who spend their Saturday being patched up by the lifeguards in front of television cameras. Instead I made my way to the smaller but quieter north end of the beach with my large blue log.

It’s a soft board, the source of much derision from the majority of the surfing population. But if you’re on the eastern suburbs’ least exclusive beach foamies grant you access to the restricted north end where their hard topped boards are banned once the crowds arrive.

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It’s an odd rule and seemingly not publicized anywhere, which means confused tourists on their new acquisitions struggle to understand why they’re being yelled at by the life guards once the clocks change. It seems to apply at Tamarama as well and even changing the fins on a softie will get you thrown back in at the deep end.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to surf the south more, but I have no hustle and trying to dodge beginners on their out of control epoxies or competing with the advanced 23 year olds, who leap, gazelle-like, onto the glassy surface, is not an option. Maybe I should form an inept surfer crew to block waves and take over one of the banks. We could be like Patrick Swayze in Point Break. Except instead of going to parties and ripping it up in pursuit of the perfect wave, we stand up using our knees and don’t need to rob banks because we have good jobs and live in quite nice houses.

The reality is I’m often flying solo in Bondi (I live there and am lazy) so instead I spend a moderately successful hour out manoevering complete novices and small children (#winning) but getting constantly shoved around by the wind. The most memorable moment comes as I stand at the top of the wave point the board down and don’t  go anywhere. The wind props me up on top of the water, like Jesus, but without the 5000 fish. I wonder, briefly if that’s how he did it, before I fall of the back in slow motion. The wave blissfully careens off without me. What, I am convinced, must be a mini-tornado is just a fleeting stutter for the blunt force of the ocean.

Still at least I get to be suspended mid air on my own, and don’t have five other people all tying to squeeze into one, tiny, take-off point.

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(disclaimer: um or not)

Surfing is a strange sport, out of the water I’ll obsessively proselytize its merits to any one who will listen. But in it, I want solitude, away from other people and their constant babble.

It’s for this reason I’m glad the working holiday visa tourists,  flounder, legs spread on newly purchased, short boards, they have no chance of riding at the other end of the beach. I’m glad the majority ignore the advice to get something bigger and easier, because they don’t want to look like….well they don’t want to look like a woman in her mid thirties, learning to surf, rather smugly, on her own.

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