13 January, 2015 13 January, 2015

A Death In The Family – by Dominic Riorden

Losing a surf buddy, one you’ve spent countless hours with at backline discussing things like life, is not a lekker thing. ‘A Death In The Family’ is Dominic Riorden’s entry into ‘Write to Surf‘ – our surf journo competition with some epic prizes up for grabs (see below for details).


A DEATH IN THE FAMILY – by: Dominic Riorden


I remember meeting most of my close friends for the first time. I remember meeting Hubbard – full on late 90s style, the dude had a kuif and was playing Nirvana on an acoustic guitar on the steps of the Cullen Bowles res at Rhodes the day before we started first year. I met Harris at a braai on the West Rand and remember thinking that Jozi people were so friendly because all they had to live for were braais and shopping centres. I remember meeting Rhino, in the Clanwilliam Hotel bar in the middle of a drunken climbing trip to the Cedarberg, and Streaky, in a barn in Swinburne, on another climbing trip. But I don’t remember where I first met Charles. I probably don’t remember because he’s a pretty mellow and quiet dude – the type of friend you’ve got no problem inviting in for a beer after a surf while your lady is cooking dinner, because you know he won’t dry hump the cat or feel up your lady while your back is turned. Lank polite, which you can’t say of some of your other mates.

At first, we’d go climbing occasionally or we’d run into each other, catch up and go our separate ways, not hanging out all that much. Then one day, after I hadn’t seen him in ages, I ran into him and he mentioned that he’d been surfing lots.


I’d just done my prodigal surfer thing and started surfing again and tuned him that we should go for a surf one of these days but not all that seriously, reckoning we’d probably have the same discussion every couple of months and never actually make a plan for surf.

But fully not even two days later, a text: “Dom, it’s looking good tomorrow morning – keen for a dawnie?”. Fuck it, I reckoned, I’m in. And why not? And over the next six months or so, Charles and I surfed a couple of times a week, mostly dawnies. Some days were good, some days were bad, but it was awesome to have a keen and reliable surf partner. And mellow dawnies mean you get a lot of time to talk about stuff because the surf doesn’t get good that often and Cape Town surf is cold, which means you end up floating in the middle of Table Bay trying to take your mind off the fact that you can’t feel your feet and your hands and your core temperature is dropping to foil blanket levels. So we talked about lots of stuff, because we had lots of stuff going on in our lives, momentous stuff if you’re in your early thirties and trying to figure out this whole adulthood thing. His boss was a dick. He hated his job. He quit his job. He was getting married. I did an abrupt about turn on marriage and decided to ask my girlfriend to marry me. I got invited to his wedding, but only after I’d told him I was going to ask my lady to marry me because he was all like, “I didn’t invite you because I reckoned you hated weddings and marriage and stuff”. Basically, it was good to have an objective buddy to talk about all the crazy shit going on.

But now I feel like a bit of a dick.


One morning, Charles told me that he was struggling to get a job in Cape Town, but he’d scored an awesome offer in Jozi. I’ve lived in Jozi. It wasn’t all that cool. I spent most of my life in traffic between Midrand where I worked and Emmarentia where I lived, and one day I broke down in manly sobs when I watched the highlights of the Billabong Pro on Supersport while I was sitting at my desk at work at 5:30am. It may have taken a few months, but my Citi Golf was metaphorically packed and ready for the drive back to Cape Town from that day on. But when Charles told me where his head was, I didn’t do the normal thing – which is to shout, “why the fuck would you do that?”

Instead, I tried to be positive about it because I could see the dude was sketching a bit about work and probably didn’t need another smug Capetonian preaching about how Cape Town is the best place in the world to live because everyone drinks beer made in a garage in Woodstock, or has sunnies made out of old skateboard decks and surfs Llands everyday with 400 of their closest mates. “It’s not that bad a place,” I told him. “You’re a couple of hours from Durbs and Mozambique, and did you see that Jordy vid in Moz, dude, you could get all over that on weekends…” So I may have helped sell it to the dude, which makes me feel bad because I was up there a few weeks ago and it’s a kak place to be a surfer. The psychic lebensraum that a view of the ocean gives you is replaced by endless neo-Tuscan townhouses and Northcliff Hill, and there’s smog and taxis and Sandton City, and Jozi people aren’t even that friendly anymore.


Losing a surf bud to Jozi, or London, or wherever landlocked, feels like a bit of a death in the family. You have to disengage slowly as part of the mutual grieving process. And it’s totally mutual. A wise man once said that pragmatism is the enemy of idealism and your bud knows he’s made a pragmatic decision. He’s put Career or Chicks or whatever ahead of surfing and he knows he’ll pay for it. But you don’t want to be the dude who drags him to the edge and causes him to chuck his career and his chick and go live in a van in the parking lot at Kommetjie, partially because the last thing Long Beach needs is another dude in the water. So you end up surreptitiously starting new Whatsapp surf report groups, not including your now dead-to-you bud, and for the first couple of weeks you stop posting your surf pics to Instagram. And when he asks if you’ve been getting any waves, you reply lank cautiously, like “yeah, been getting out a bit, but not too much, and the banks haven’t been great, hey and how’s the new job?” – desperately trying to change the subject but meanwhile you’re still buzzing from a two hour dawnie with just you and another bud out there, swapping  perfect head high rights and trying not to make the dude feel like he made a kak decision.

I snuck out for a dawnie this morning. It was good and I was out there alone for about an hour before I started getting cold. It was time to go to work and I paddled for my last wave, pulled my feet out of the Atlantic, rode it in and sat watching it for a while feeling the rays of sunshine and the onset of summer and thinking that this was about the best place in the world to be.

So Charles, if you’re reading this, I’ve been getting out a bit, but not too much, and the banks haven’t been all that great hey, and how’s the new job?

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 Comment

  1. Jasper
    13 January, 2015 at 7:59 am · Reply

    Thanks for this! It took me a year in Secunda to teach me not to take Cape Town for granted! Never again!

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