Another hamper-winning entry from our Write to Surf competition. ‘Salty’ scored writer, Mal Mule, over R6000 worth of gear from Billabong and appeared in Zigzag 38.6. The overall winner of Write To Surf will be announced in the next issue (more details below).
SALTY – by: Mal Mule
Sheez, but those were some good times hey, the late nineties and early noughties, back when my best friend Salty was at the pinnacle of professional surfing in South Africa.
Not even South Africa, the world! You see, Salty was sponsored by a US company and earning dollars! S’truth, he was making as much bucks as my parents were with none of the overheads. And not only was he flush, but he was generous, too. I mean just look at the pics of me from back then – branded sunglasses, branded boardies, branded T-shirts, branded backpack… That board under my arm? Salty bought it for me for my birthday. And where was that picture taken, The Cave in Plett? Salty drove us down for a ten-day jol. Best time of our lives! I don’t even think I owned a wallet in those days, and there was only ever one pair of footprints in the sand because Salty was most definitely carrying me.
In our final year of school Salty had an account at the tuck-shop, so I’d eat the sandwiches my mom made me for lunch on the bus ride to school and then just hit the front of the queue at break time and put in my requests. Hotdogs, pies, chips, cokes… Every term Salty would settle his account in cash and the stay-at-home moms that worked the tuckshop would just shake their heads at the extravagance of it all.
Now talking about money is vulgar, so I never actually asked how much he was making, but crises man, Salty was 16 years-old with a gold card, round the world tickets and so much sponsored tat that every time me or the rest of our entourage would stop at his house, which was often, we’d leave with something new. Because easy come, easy go, and like I said before, Salty was a generous oke.
And why shouldn’t he be, the guy was living the dream! Professional surfer – how’s that for an oxymoron, hey? But truth is stranger than fiction, and my best mate was one of the handful of very lucky 80s babies, dubbed the new school of South African surfing, who made a living off of riding a surfboard well.
Now these were the days when Jordy was just another kid with talent, before becoming the Superfreak, and he would find himself sharing the podium regularly with Salty. In fact it could’ve been any one of these young guns that made it big. Everyone had their favourite, and obviously I backed my boy hard. I’d tell anyone that was listening that Salty would be a world champion one day, mark my words… He’d paid his dues, proven himself locally and abroad, had covers and spreads in the mags and there was no doubting it, my boy was going to make it. It was all there, plain to see.
Like his peers, Salty got stickered up in primary school already, and then got a feel for success winning his fair share of the local junior tour. Hell man, Salty used to sleep in the spare room at his parents’ house because there were too many trophies in his bedroom. Big, bulky, hand-carved A-frame peaks and silver cups with little tarnished plaques engraved with the names of guys whose posters we had up on our wall. There were framed certificates, big checks, medals, team tracksuits, Springbok blazers, boat trips, photo shoots and signings at surf shops. John John Florence spent some time at Salty’s parents’ house, so did Jamie O’Brien, and these weren’t the famous surfers you know today, but just two kids whose parents’ houses Salty stayed at when he did Hawaii.
Come to think of it, the only accolade Salty never achieved was winning a rosette, probably because those are quite naff, but if a surf contest had awarded one, then Salty would’ve won it. No doubt about it.
At our school we all wore black blazers with white stripes, but not Salty, his was a glorious all-white affair that went perfectly with his head of thick white thatch. While we were all sitting in class trying to figure out what we were going to do with our lives, Salty knew that there was only one real option for him, a directive that came from the people who were busy grooming him for the big leagues – make the tour.
Salty did eventually make the tour – Top 44 in the world, baby! But before that was the whirlwind blur that was The Party Tour. Now the local tour was fun, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to shoot up and down that big smile that makes up South Africa’s coastline, it’s nice to make finals, it’s nice to compete against your friends every couple of weeks, it’s nice to win. But the World Qualifying Series, aka The Party Tour, man, that was where it was at.
Free from the constraints of school and parents and a shitty small town with no chicks and crap waves, Salty cruised the world with a crew of older surf legends and international heroes. He was making bucks from the round of 72 or something ridiculous like that. Yep, he had arrived.
Look, things were tough for me when Salty was away, and he was away often, but he would always return and when he did, well, let’s just say that we didn’t spend Salty’s money at the tuckshop anymore.
Eventually I left our little hamlet, moved to the big city, got a girlfriend, got her up the duff, then left her when Salty moved to the same town so that we could share one of the beachfront properties that he’d just bought.
But what goes up, must come down…
The phenom that is Jordy happened, and his prodigious talent sucked up the money that it cost to cover several of the old new-guard. The game changed, the surf industry went bang and Salty eventually kicked me out of his house. I don’t blame him, he had good reason to.
Looking back, this was not a sustainable lifestyle and our Disneyfied halcyon days did not properly prepare us for real life. Right now Salty is paddling in the backwash, fighting the chop left by professional surfing’s wake. Things will go offshore again, no doubt, but never the uncrowded perfection we experienced back when our lives were one long summer day that we thought would never end.
Today when I see Salty, which isn’t as often as either of us would like, he’s all, “Remember all those pies I bought you, buy me some beers, bru.” And I’m like, “Nooit hey, I’m skint, I had to ask my dad to pay my laaitie’s school fees again last month.” Because life is difficult without a benefactor.
But hey, at least we can think back to when we used to be kings, and without getting bitter at what coulda been, what shoulda been, it’s nice to remember that time when we had the whole world at Salty’s feet.
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.