Another hamper-winning entry into Write to Surf. ‘Moored in Mayotte’ scored writer, Rian Greeff, over R6000 worth of gear from Billabong and featured in Zigzag 39.3. The overall winner of Write To Surf will be announced in the next issue (more details below).
MOORED IN MAYOTTE – by: Rian Greeff
Two South African surfers walk into a French Comoro bar. The barman says something in French. They don’t understand so just reply by saying, “Surfing, wee wee.”
“Surfing, oui oui,” the barman responds and nods, pointing them in the direction of two French speaking patrons, a boogieboarder and a paddleskier, it would turn out.
It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s not. It’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And it gets better but it gets a lot worse too. For the sake of brevity though, I’ll compress this tale, and if you want the whole story you’ll need to read between the lines.
After two months of sailing from South Africa, across the Mozambique Channel, up the coast of Madagascar, and halfway back across the channel, we were anchored at the French administered island of Mayotte, part of the greater Comoros archipelago.
After getting severely skunked in southern Madagascar, we’d made a mad dash up the coast with the intention of going to East Africa to wait out the South Indian Ocean cyclone season and score waves. But first we were here, in Mayotte, and after not surfing for more than a month, we were desperate. We just wanted to surf, we didn’t care what.
The booger and goatboater assured us that there was a swell on the way, a big swell for that part of the world – 1.6 to 1.8 metres, according to Windguru. And, they assured us in broken English, if we headed out to the southern reef passes we were sure to score some waves. “With poo-er,” they said. “Like Saint-Leu in Reunion.”
“Reunion?” I replied. “Please bru, don’t tell me that surfing here is like Reunion.”
“Ah, non,” the goatboater replied wagging his index finger, sensing my concern. “No sharks here, only small reef sharks, no big bulldogs like Reunion. But oui, the waves are real poo-er (ah… power!) with big barrel.” He curled his fingers onto his palm to illustrate the point.
We were skeptical but it didn’t take much more to convince us. A plan was laid, and then there were hoots and the clinking of glasses echoing from the bar.
The bar was actually just a small white container, the yacht club apparently, from which they sold expensive beer in small cans. After going to the local supermarket to stock up on provisions including our own supply of the cheapest beer available (99 Euro cents), we had 24 lagers and a plan to sail south for the week to go surf the reefs. The perfect, poo-erful, French reef passes of Mayotte.
The booger and goatboater were joined by a soup boarder (SUP is pronounced ‘soup’ in French). They said the best waves were to be found at Passe Sada and Passe Bateux. They would be going on their own boat while Mikas and I took ours. And so it went: two sail boats, one French, one South African. Two surfers, a soup, a booger, and a windmill. The bad joke was just getting worse.
We ended up drinking most of our beer the same night, but that’s never stopped any stoke-starved surfer. By 5 o’clock the next morning, Mikas and I had pulled up the anchor and began making our way south. We were anchored off the town of Dzaoudzi in the north. The journey to our destination, the reef passes on the other side of the island, was in excess of 30 nautical miles – a whole day’s motoring if all went well.
Thank God it did and by 3 o’clock that afternoon we could see one of the waves, Passe Bateux, from a distance. We kept on motoring, right up to the furthest pass of them all: Passe Sada.
Our French connections weren’t exaggerating. Looking at the waves from the safety of the channel we could clearly see poo-erful barrels rolling along evenly as they hugged the pass. Rights on one side, lefts on the other. It was at least four to six-foot. We immediately dropped anchor, put the motor on the dingy and waxed up our boards.
As we approach the lineup though, a set suddenly reared up and exploded across the reef in a decidedly menacing way. Waves breaking on outer island reef passes break very differently from your local beachie or pointbreak, or even your slabby reefs like Kalk Bay or Cave Rock. This was a wave unlike any I had ever seen in my life before. This was the stuff of movies, the magazines, only better because there were no pros or cameras around – just me and my boet.
The French had yet to arrive. But, we schemed, we hadn’t sailed across the Mozambique Channel one and a half times over plus done another nine hours of motoring to watch empty waves roll by. Nooit, we were there to surf. Even if it killed us, which it looked like it might well do as the sets detonated across very shallow reef. Mikas jumped in first and started paddling towards the lineup. I said my prayers and followed suit.
The waves formed right on the edge of an oceanic drop-off. One moment you’d be floating in a couple of metres of water above a beautiful reef, abundant with sea life and next thing, you’d find yourself floating in open ocean. And the current was pulling – pulling us straight onto the reef and into the impact zone. To stay in position you had to keep paddling for dear life to make sure you stayed on that thin line between light green and deep, dark blue. By the time we had figured this out it was nearing 5 o’clock and starting to get dark.
Mikas took off on one of the smaller sets, a solid four footer and casually dragged his hand along the wall and tucked his head beneath the falling lip, scoring a quick little head dip. With the sun setting behind the breaking wave, I briefly saw my brother framed in a shining yellow sphere of falling crystal and bright ascending light. But I hardly had the time to be mesmerised by the scene. Suddenly a bigger – much bigger – set completely blocked out the horizon in front of me.
I paddled to the beat of my own frantically pumping heart. I tried to duckdive beneath the wave as it exploded on the reef, but it simply swallowed me alive. The force of the turbulence made me do at least three complete underwater rodeo-flips. Take that Jordy. I got bounced off the reef, but at least I wasn’t dragged across it. The wave finally let me up again, right in the path of its entire family of vicious set waves. Mommy set, daddy set, brother set, and even a granny and a grandpa set.
After taking the entire family on the head, I came up gasping for air, my lungs ready to explode, but also thanking God that my leash hadn’t snapped as I clung desperately to my board.
With the sun setting, there was only one thing left to do. I pulled myself straight on my board, took a few deep breaths, and paddled back out again. We didn’t sail all this way not to surf.
Launched in March last year, Write To Surf is Zag’s surf journo competition with some epic prizes up for grabs. We invited our readers to send in their surf stories to stand a chance to win a hamper from Billabong worth over R6000 every issue. The main prize, the winner of which we’ll be announcing in the next issue of Zigzag (Vol. 39 No. 4), is an all-expenses paid assignment for a major Zigzag feature. It could be somewhere tropical, it could be somewhere cold, all we’re promising is that it’ll be somewhere rad.
During the course of the competition we received dozens of epic entries, which you can check out here. Winning entries received the following hamper from Billabong:
1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Boardies; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; and 1 x Set of Kinetic Racing (KR) fins.