13 February, 2015 13 February, 2015

Addicted To It – by Marc Rogatschnig

We’ve all got our favourite spot. The one where we’ve clocked the most memorable sessions, our deepest pit, or most insane turn. Marc Rogatschnig writes about his in ‘Addicted To It’, his entry into ‘Write to Surf‘ – our surf journo competition with some epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see below for details).


ADDICTED TO IT – by: Marc Rogatschnig


It’s a surfers-only affliction. No one else has it and nobody else really gets it. It’s predictable too and happens every time we pull up anywhere near a breaking wave. We all seem to do it exactly the same way; it’s our tribe’s signature. We surfers all stare at the sea and automatically try to project ourselves into the bowels of any barrelling sandbank. We try to imagine a big backhand carve, or an off-the-lip hop off a racing section. No matter where we are, who we are with, board strapped on the roof or left behind, we have a hard-wired impulse to judge any wave as either ridable, smackable, surfable or avoidable.

In the beginning it’s about riding any wave. But that doesn’t last and it then becomes more about that wave, that break, and that moment, when a thousand-mile swell breaches a shoreline bank and feeds the buzz. It then becomes about that mythical wave we imagine in our heads and we convince ourselves that we are only one surf away from riding it. It’s an affliction for sure, an addiction no doubt, and the only way to tame it is to keep on searching. We can’t look at the sea in any other way and in the end all our radars home in on an elite set of spots.


It took me years to feel like I had graduated to surf the a-frame peaks in the Deep South. For a long time I didn’t even know it existed, and most people wanted to keep it that way. They called it Neptunes* or ‘the wave down the beach’ in code. The wave breaks across a shallow sandbar that is fed dune sand by the obliging South Easter day after day. The deepest pulses of ocean water push straight for the beach, unhindered and mustering bristling energy. That wave embodies the menace of fabled ocean beasts. It has both terrified and blessed me.

In September we raced down that winding road towards Neptunes, dodging dogs and ambling, bare-footed locals. Murray lives high on the hill and pieces together live images of the conditions all day long. It must be torture and for that very reason, as we bunny-hopped that final speedbump, we were oozing anticipation like thick sunblock gel. Our eyes swelled as we stared into the distance and took a hit of the good stuff that was washing endlessly against the long, broad beach. On days like that the parking lot is always shared by small clans of hooded neoprene chargers. They usually say very little and avoid eye contact to keep a lazy eye on the sets rolling in. Their steely silence is filled by the bubbling stoke of men who have spent their last 30 minutes walking through kilometres of sand and seaweed. The walk back from Neptunes is usually enough time to distil the essence of their surf. They clock the session highlights into an organic film reel – precious seconds for memory to savour. To them the waves were always bigger and better.


One cannot see the wave from the parking lot and the conditions offer few clues as to what waves await us down the beach. At Neptunes there is a precise combination of wind, water and a sculpted ocean floor that blast even the most unruly grom unexpectedly deep from a barrel. It’s a long walk into the unknown that already separates the tribe. For many it’s too much of a gamble, but the more you go there the more you realise the odds are stacked in favour of the two kilometre walk.

On that day, the skies were grey with the hangover of a passing cold front. Northerly winds had brought warm water to shore and ribbed the ocean all the way to the horizon with clean and bulky muscle. It was breathless and the eerie grey made the white spray look more like flying paint than the usually gale-blasted fans of water. There was a procession of men, heading there and heading back. The word epic was thrown about with random abandon. It made running there the only reasonable thing to do.

For a while we could only see the waves bending into the bank from the side. We looked straight into the guts of the waves. As we got closer we started seeing shiny black suits getting swallowed or spat out. My heart started pumping with an intoxicating mix of bliss and panic.


But those waves were only real when I was lying down, facing a collapsing mound of water on my paddle out. The pressure and frigid cold immediately reminded me that I was a guest in a place that was not safe, nor soft, nor forgiving. There was a brutal pummelling that the sea metered out with a ferocity that knocked my confidence down a notch or three. No matter what the day, no matter what the size of swell, Neptune always had a direct hand in subduing any and all naivety out there. He had a way of levelling you before you crack a nod to take a ride on his back. My arms ached and the muscles were squeezing a throttle around my neck. I was gasping for breath already.

Looking around it was clear it was in fact an epic day. The big wave posse were all out there. Leading the choreography of deep-barrel artistry and late take-off acrobatics was the broad smiling carpenter and his gruff lipped giant. Between them, they summed up the breadth of the mood that day. The wood worker, carving smooth lines with precision, and the general giant marshalling the traffic with a bark and bellow before gorging on the biggest sets himself.


The water at Neptunes murmured as it rubbed the seabed with its weight. Large pillows of air trapped by the swallowing sea exploded, sending shrapnel of spray meters into the air. The horizon warned of the next marching mounds. I floated and watched on, waiting as I held my breath and sat on the edge of countless cliffs of water. I was more spectator than player. Shafts of light were breaking through the clouds, spotlighting the old and new generation of talent. There were about 30 surfers sitting off the deserted beach, floating in an imaginary circle around that perfect peak. There was cheering, as well as the occasional groan. I was totally outgunned and out-gutsed. I knew from early on I would get just one chance and just one wave.

Then, after two hours, I spotted my wave. It snuck between the huddles of horizon watchers and folded in an unexpected angle past the main peak. It was my wave, a consolation gift rewarding my patience. I traced a line with my eyes to its highest point with a built-in GPS that all surfers perfect over time. I turned, unnoticed, and scratched the water with diving fists. I let my galloping hands tap the energy of that moving mass and eventually felt myself at its crest.


I pin-dropped down the stretched, green canvas of water. In that moment, I was only in the moment. Imagination met reality as the past hours of watching wave after wave and trying to feel the speed and sensation of riding them finally became real. Then for a few seconds there was nothing. And as that water hugged over me, like a hand slowly closing to a fist, it all went quiet, with just the bite of the lip piercing the water and closing the barrel. The bliss of a barrel-high.

By the time I stepped onto the tar again in the parking lot, I had breached back into reality. In my mind, my wave was much bigger than it really was; but that was what mattered. It was what always mattered. That wave was mine, only mine and always mine. But I only had it once and I wanted more. No wonder then that with such an adrenaline charged mark in my memory, it’s still so addictive.

Click here to check out all the entries so far >>
*Edited for sensitivity.


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. Greg Becker
    21 February, 2015 at 7:34 pm · Reply

    Now I wanna have a go, and where I am now, a ski slope is nearer… 🙁

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