For every rad surfing memory we clock-up, there’s a nosedive or a caught rail thrown into the collection that we often choose to forget. Brendon Booth-Jones writes about this in ‘Every Man and His Dog’, which is his entry into Write To Surf – Zag’s surf journo competition with epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see details below).
EVERY MAN AND HIS DOG – by Brendon Booth-Jones
When we think about our own surfing experiences, the beauty of personal reflection tends to erase all the nose-dives, bogged rails and other embarrassing moments, as well as the nervous pre-surf jitters, self-doubt and frustrations that are part and parcel of being a surfer. We remember the good times and the stoke, along with a highlight reel of our best rides seen through the rose-tinted ego of our mind’s eye. But if you dig a little deeper, you uncover a far wider spectrum of emotions experienced every time we paddle out into a crowded Saturday morning line-up or stroke into the wave of the day in front of our peers.
Picture it with me:
It’s Saturday morning. You’ve checked the forecast and you know your local beachie is going to be firing. You’ve had a long week at the office and you’re frothing to get in the brine. You’re up before first light, gulping coffee so hot it leaves your tongue furry and white. You’re driving down through the neighbourhoods you grew up in. Every park bench and corner shop is etched with a memory from grommethood. You pull into the car park and nostalgia is quickly dissipated by an army of butterflies in your gut. You hear the hoots and see the set marching in, blue-green corduroy lines feathering gracefully on their path into the lineup. You suit up hastily, exchanging pleasantries with the usual suspects. The nervous excitement builds as you run down the path to the beach. An A-frame splits the peak and peels off. There’s an awkward scramble of rubber-clad bodies of all shapes and sizes. Every man and his dog are out this morning and it’s barely 7:00am.
You put on your leash, do a few half-arsed stretches, hurry in, and climb aboard your trusty 6’2″. You huff and puff a little, feel the stiffness in your shoulders, curse that week’s after work beers and ciggies. You get into the lineup and you’re dishing out a few solemn nods. You get a couple nods and grunts in return. The tension is palpable. The butterflies swirl with increased vigour as you hunt your first wave. You find an inside runner, get your feet in the wax. It’s nothing memorable but now the nerves are gone. You’re calm and focussed. The overcast morning chill clears and the African sun shines proudly in the powder-blue sky. A toddler shrieks with delight at the water’s edge.
You take your place in the line-up and see an old mate from high school.
“There’s a few fun one’s hey,” you suggest.
“Ya bru,” he replies, nodding his weather-beaten head. “But this bladdy crowd is a nightmare. Too many weekend warriors these days hey.”
Some young pro snakes the waiting pack and there are grumbles of discontent. But no-one speaks up. He’s throwing fins like it’s nobody’s business.
“No respect anymore,” says a walrus-like older man on an SUP. A wave comes through and he drops in on a 12 year-old girl riding a boogie board.
You get a couple good ones in quick succession and that ego is in full bloom now. You paddle around with a little more swagger.
“Yeah okes,” you think as you glide past a couple of fidgety groms. “You saw my rooster-tail.”
But then you take off on a close-out and get caught inside for a solid ten minutes, duck-diving wave after wave. Agitation starts to build. Another set looms and you take another six waves on the head. Frustration is really starting to simmer under the surface. But now there is a lull and you sweep through the aerated water like a Boeing through a bank of clouds. You get out the back and chill for a couples of minutes to catch your breath. You start to relax a little, look to the beach. A small white dog chases a big brown dog up and down the golden stretch. A long-haired teen emerges from behind a plume of smoke.
And then another set rolls in. You scratch out and clear the first one. You look back and a little smug laugh bubbles up inside you as you see half the mob get caught unawares. The smirk that curls on your lips lasts only a split second though. The next wave looks like its going to run, and you’re in position. Your heart starts clapping and your focus heightens. You line yourself up and stroke in…but you get ahead of yourself. Your mind is already racing down the line before you’ve even bottom-turned. Your rail catches and you nosedive, followed by that almost infinite moment of horror as the water rushes up your suit leg and you face-plant like a burning comet in front of your childhood local hero (he’s approaching 40 now, but he still shreds).
You don’t want to come up. Nobody hears your silent aqua-scream beneath the surface. You emerge and climb back on your board, trying to look unfazed but feeling the 30 pairs of eyes, like daggers at your back. This surf has gone from bad to worse and the hordes are still arriving en masse.
You drift inside a bit, confidence rattled. You’re feeling sorry for yourself. Just then a juicy-looking insider pops up out of nowhere. You’re in the perfect spot and there’s no-one else in position. You turn and go, jumping to your feet. After a slight airdrop your fins catch perfectly and you bottom turn. You look up and see the whole wall bending out, curving. You duck slightly as the lip lurches over you. You’re locked-in and you have the vision. Your fingertips drag instinctively through the slow motion turquoise chamber. You’re subconsciously aware of droplets of water, suspended like an iridescent whisper before you. You see a couple of guys on the shoulder and hear their hoots. 1—2—3—! You’re shot out like leaving a dark tunnel and emerge into the dazzling sunlight. Your endorphins are going beserk. You’ve got a smile on your dial and your weekend is made.
Later, over beers, you’ll tell your mates what an epic session it was. One for the memory bank.
Click here to check out all the published stories from our Write To Surf competition.
Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. At the end of the year, we will select and send one aspirant journalist from the competition on an all expenses paid assignment for a major feature in Zigzag. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity. Please note: Prize hampers will only be delivered within South Africa.
The Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Hoodie; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 2 x Da Kine traction pads.