On Sunday I go to Albatross with Tanja in hopes to avoid the crowds. She tells me about a Raggie that lives in the gully we just paddled out in. They don’t attack people as a general rule but it does put my mind on sharks, which I’ve carefully blocked from my thoughts thus far. It has gotten bigger and mostly it is just closing out. I manage to experience my first taste of speedwobble on a wave, totally out of control and likely entertaining the parking lot peanut gallery. After conceding there are few surfable faces happening, we go in. I have a nap and then go down to the beach to study and film.
The waves are perfect. Maybe not by local standards but there is something so captivating about them. They are strong and fast and seem like a mirage. I am intimidated by their strength and the crowd and the lore of the place. I barely dare to mindsurf them. I hide behind my cameras, hoping the images they capture will help me process what I’ve seen. I watch, like a person who has never seen waves before, who has never surfed before, in a blank sort of awe.
And then, just like that, I go out for my first Supertubes session.
I borrow a board from Deon. He writes “I Live Here” on all of his boards and it reflects his enlightening perspectives on localism. He tapes over “Here” on this particular board and what remains becomes my mantra: “I Live”. My plan is just to see if I can get out properly, get a feel for the spot and then drift down to the more mellow Point.
Deon leads the way. We watch for the sets and go into the gully. The unfortunate thing about being in the gully is that you can no longer see the sets and, as warned, knowing the place is no guarantee for a clean paddle out. But we have committed and as the set comes, we must paddle into it.
The current swiftly sweeps us down the beach. I am not as quick a paddler and find myself trying to break through the waves and keep out of the way at the same time. Once I’ve made it out, I’m so far down and shaken that I just continue on my way towards Point. But Deon, after catching a wave past me, insists that I follow him back to the Supers peak and catch just one wave. “You’ve made it out, might as well”
He gives me the gift of encouragement and the privilege of paddling out with a local. I sit right up front with him. I have no business being there, yet it feels safer than scrapping around on the inside. As a set raises up, everyone strokes to get to the outside. Deon tells me to turn around and go. I can’t make myself do it. I’m still shell shocked from the paddle out and at this point, I’m just trying to stay safe. He tells me I must take one, even if it means wiping out, just to learn that I will be ok. So I take one and someone drops in on me. I take my wipeout and I am ok. A pack of dolphins cruises through the line up and for a moment I am happy to think about the ocean beyond its waves.
Another set pushes up on the horizon, bringing back the focus. Scratching out to sea with the masses, Deon says “Go” and this time I do. I spin the board around and commit, expecting doom and hoping for glory. The drop is late and I grab the rail. I surprise myself and disappoint those waiting for scraps on the shoulder. As instructed, I take the high line. The combination of the current and wave send me quickly down the beach through several sections that I was never sure I would make.
And now I understand the appeal. Paddling back out, I have to keep my face in the water to hide my grin. I don’t know if I can call that wave fun…exhilarating is the better word because it was just outside of my comfort zone. And I thought, “ok, I’ve had my supers wave, time to go down the beach”. But I wanted more.
What I got was a wipeout and a low body temperature. I go in and grab the cameras.