6 October, 2014 6 October, 2014

No Downside – by Gordon Vice

No crowds, no sharks, and no nukes…those were at the top of Gordon Vice’s wishlist in 2013 before the proverbial shit hit the fan. ‘No Downside’ is the title of his entry into ‘Write to Surf‘ – our surf journo competition with some epic prizes up for grabs (see below for details).


NO DOWNSIDE – by: Gordon Vice


Be careful what you wish for. We all have a wish-list; c’mon even you who say you couldn’t ask for more. You surely have thought, “What would make this day or place perfect?” For me it was – no crowds, no sharks, and no nukes. Here in J-Bay back in 2013 they seemed really important. Ten years later…not so much.

Darkness deprives sight but enhances the other senses. I smell wood smoke and damp earth. I hear leaves rustling in the offshore breeze and the thump and hiss of the ocean close by. I feel the cold air and floor as I stand at the back door. A twitch, a reflex, makes my hand reach out to switch on the porch light. Futile. There’s no power; we’ve had none since the sixth month of the civil war.


The National Electric Company kept hiking tariffs, promising new power stations, even threatening to build a nuclear power plant at Thyspunt. They increased their supply grid without increasing their output, at the same time no repairs or upgrades were being done. Then came blackouts and load shedding again. But now some cities were literally kept in the dark for political reasons – opposition strongholds were made to suffer. The new power struggle was about electrical power as big business started financing mercenaries to go in and occupy power stations and keep their factories running. So, no nukes happened.

Heard of a van that’s loaded with weapons
Packed up and ready to go.
Heard of some gravesites out by the highway
A place where nobody knows.
The sound of gunfire off in the distance
I’m getting used to it now.

– ‘Life During Wartime’ by Talking Heads.

The dawn light is enough for me to make my way down the track to the beach. Surf time.


Sitting in the line-up exactly where I want to sit I strain my ears to hear voices I know I will never hear again. To restore order in the land the ruling party instituted martial law and conscription. Yes, the call-up came back. Those that ignored it were rounded-up anyway in house raids that pressed all young able bodied men into national service. Those voices that would mock and chirp us ballies as we paddled past are what I really miss. War has thinned the crowds effectively. I can have any wave I want now, the spot is deserted, but it’s as lonely as the moon. Lifeless and empty, is this really what I was wishing for?

Bobbing out here I scan the shore and sky. Peaceful, calm, no threat no danger. Below the surface? Same thing as above. This beautiful blue ocean, ruffled by the breeze and reflecting golden flashes of sunlight hides no dangers. Not anymore; not since the cullings. Someone in state fisheries sold the seal colonies to Asian food factories, and after the seals were cleaned-out it wasn’t long before shark attacks became an almost daily occurrence. Might as well get rid of them too, they said, make soup. No sharks anymore. Wish list ticked, should make me happy, right? Be careful what you wish for is another way of saying “hey, appreciate what you’ve got. Make the most of all life gives you”.

* The views expressed in ‘Write to Surf’ entries are not necessarily those of Zigzag.
Click here to check out all the entries so far >>


Send your stories to calvin@zigzag.co.za. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. 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.

For the next three issues the Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Boardies; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1 x Set of Kinetic Racing (KR) fins. After which the hamper will get a shake-up with new product of equal value for the following three issues.



  1. surfer dude
    7 October, 2014 at 7:19 am · Reply

    wow really great story, with an important message well done Gordon

  2. Rian
    17 November, 2014 at 4:13 pm · Reply

    I blame the D.A, or was it the A.N.C… eish lets go surfing anyway – waves are cooking, no crowds and no sharks. No use in dwelling on the past and the good ol day’s now is there…

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