12 May, 2014 12 May, 2014

The Legend of Nou-Ja – by Rian Greeff

This epic tale about the origin of surfing is an entry in our Write to Surf competition, which has some great prizes up for grabs (see below for details).


The Legend of Nou-Ja – by Rian Greeff

Ja, nee…” said Grandpa while taking a small sip of cough medicine. “A lot of people want to know where surfing started and how it all came about, but it’s no mystery really – we’ve always known.”

“Alaias? Pffft, please…” the old man continued while waving towards his asthma pump. “Some people say that it all started way down in the south.” Grandpa paused to cough, then farted and sneezed before settling in to tell this story properly.

“Are you kids listening?” he asked, testing his audience to assess their level of awareness. Satisfied with the results, he scratched his bulging tummy, folded his hands neatly and comfortably across himself, and finally began.


There in the south of South America, close to Cape Horn, on the coasts of Peru and Chile – where there are a lot of islands – that’s where it all started, they say. There where the winds are cold and harsh, and where the dark clouds move across the pale sky. The sea is as cold as ice and grey in colour, and the sound of millions of seabirds crying and screaming fills the air. This is home to the albatross, the penguin and the lazy sea lion. That’s where a few ous who knew of nothing else but the bitter cold and fishing from their caballito de totora’s became some of the first surfers.

A long time ago – more than a few thousand years – there were a couple of fishermen living there, who spent their days in fear of the wild and hairy underwater sea people that inhabited the same coast. From their canoes on the surface of the water, the fisherman could see the hairy people walking around on the bottom of the sea and living there right under the water. And if you looked really carefully, you could see and even judge individual differences between these hairy people with snake-like arms and ugly nose-less faces.

These hairy sea people would sometimes leave the poor ous alone and just allow them to fish and chill on their canoes, but on occasions these hairy sea people would gather in countless numbers and attack the fishermen in their canoes. They would capture the land-living people and take them back into the sea. Against their large numbers the land people could offer no resistance.


One day the sea people caught the brave young Nou-Ja. He was as strong as a hurricane, and with muscles as big as boulders he knew no fear. Five of the slippery nose-less creatures attacked him and with a single blow he hit three of them so hard that they sank slowly back into the grey sea they had emerged from. Angered, the sea people came upon him with even more aggression and numbers, so that before long they overpowered him and dragged him out of his horse of reeds and into the sea with them. But Nou-Ja didn’t go down easily and from the shore some people could see how Nou-Ja was fighting against those hairy sea people, there under the water in amongst the rocks.

That night the land people all mourned the passing of Nou-Ja and talked about his many brave and mighty feats and deeds. They related how he used to stand up and paddle upon his caballito de totora after a day of fishing and would come riding in on the back of the waves. But early the next morning Nou-Ja was there on the beach – he sommer came walking right out of the sea itself. He then told the others how he had fought against those hairy sea people. After he had slain a great amount of nose-less bottom dwellers with the aid of his bamboo paddle, he finally managed to get himself free and escaped into a cave.


It was an incredible cave of which the floor, walls and ceiling existed entirely of polished shells, pearls, silver and gold. There he found a beautiful maiden sitting alone, looking all pretty with nowhere to go. She began to question him and so he told her the story about his fight with the sea people and how they were a threat to him and the rest of the fisher folk living on the land. Hearing him tell this tale made the fair maid very sad and so she said to Nou-Ja, “There is only one way to free your people and put an end to all of this, and that is: The Great White Death!”

She gave him a big shell and said, “If you blow on this shell it will release the cold that stays beneath the seven great stars, and this will cause the sea people to settle where they should. There are too many people living that do not know what the sea people are doing. But whoever blows upon this shell – that person must die. I am telling you this so that you may have some time to think it through.”

This is the story that Nou-Ja told the people when he met them there on the beach. Many men, and even a few women and children offered to blow on the shell and make the necessary sacrifice of dying, since nobody wanted to lose such a great fighter as Nou-Ja. But Nou-Ja told his people to pack all their belongings onto canoes and head out towards the sea and the setting sun. “Don’t stop,” he said, “until the water is clear, bright and blue. Otherwise you too will perish and die.”


The land people loaded their boats and set their course for the promised land of clean, clear water and fun sunny days. Only Nou-Ja stayed behind. When he was sure that all the people had left and were far gone – he took the shell and blew his last breath upon it.

Now the entire landscape began to change, as the green trees turned white and a freezing wind began to howl driving a massive iceberg up against the shore and thereby separating the land and the sea. The hairy sea people then left the water and started sitting upon the rocks to get warm, thinking that they were now the new bosses of the land.  When they turned to go back into the sea however, they found the ocean to be frozen and ice-cold winds were cutting cruelly across it too. The Great White Death covered everything. They tried to hide among the rocks, but the terrible cold caused them to shrivel and shrink until they fumbled around on small awkward hands and feet – to this very day remaining that way…

“…and that is how the hairy sea people became common harbour seals – The End.” concluded Grandpa abruptly.


“But Grandpa,” a small voice was heard to enquire, “That doesn’t tell us anything about how surfing started – and it doesn’t even make sense.”

“Well boy,” said Grandpa, noticing that his medicinal container was now void of any more medicine, “Aren’t you a bit big to be listening to stories? And so what if it doesn’t make any sense just yet? Surely you didn’t expect to hear the whole story in one sitting – sheesh, besides it’s past your bed time. Now, Aloha and goodnight.”

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 www.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.


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