I do love a short story and had reason to revisit this one recently and dammit if I’m not gonna do my bit to have it more widely consumed.
Author is Sunshine Coast surfer and writer Gary Young. First published in White Horses Magazine (Morrison Media) and ‘re-published’ here with permission.
By Gary Young
I can’t say I’ve ever been an angry surfer. I just can’t seem to find it in me to unload in the line up or persecute people whether they deserve it or not. That’s not to say I’ve never been angry while I’ve been surfing but I just don’t do the water slapping, board punching thing.
Everyone knows one though.
There’s always that guy with the scowl on his face that growls and mutters and curses as he stuffs another take off and howls accusations of drop ins at the guy 20 yards past the section he was never getting around. I ain’t he, and to be honest it would take something pretty monumental to rile me in the water which is why I was so surprised at myself when I very nearly lost it.
It wasn’t big, it wasn’t even crowded. It was clean 2’ and sunny and the little bank in the right of the bay had groomed itself into a perfect ruler edged 60 yard long sand sculpture at just the right angle to the dominant swell. Every third wave would hold up and peel at just the right speed to fly along it. And every other surfer in the water was at the other end of the bay chasing shifty peaks. Me and that little bar had a perfect synchronicity going on; I didn’t even have to sit on my board, just one arm paddle back out in time to meet that third wave again and again, spin and go. Not too many turns, it was a bit quick, but lovely speed blurs and a warm fuzzy feeling, until two blokes on long boards started paddling towards me.
You can tell a novice before they’ve even caught a wave. That legs apart, chin on the deck paddle gives it away instantly, which went some way to allaying my fears of a premature end to my selfish wave hoggery. In fact what happened was, instead of paddling up and joining me where I could potentially paddle rings around them and still get the pick, they sat halfway down the bar.
And they started paddling for anything. Whether I was on it or not.
They never actually caught anything, they just paddled, a lot.
They were a father and son combo and they had unwittingly changed the whole cadence of my slide.
Not being an angry surfer, I took all this in my stride. Occasionally I could go around the small section they’d pushed over and sometimes I could get around behind them. As I said they weren’t actually catching any. Until on the set of the day, at least a foot bigger than anything else that had come through that afternoon, with me absolutely fanging it down the line fins humming. The old fella starts paddling, and, yep he got it. To be fair, it got him. So I’m bearing down on him at Mach 6 and here he is hanging onto his rails bouncing down the face with that wide eyed open mouthed look of terror/excitement on his face and the string of expletives are bubbling up my throat on a tide of boiling rage, I’ve turned hard so as not to spear him and am now riding parallel with him straight at the beach fiery eyes burning down on him ready to explode…
He took one hand off his rail, reached across and grabbed the ankle of my front foot, he looked up at me and across his face was the biggest Cheshire cat smile I have ever seen. Without that grin diminishing one little bit he let out a huge ‘whoooooohoooooo’ and I swear to God I nearly died laughing.