AT THE BEACH | Here’s to surfing the best waves in 2021 once lockdown lets us
“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear”. Buzzy Trent 1929 — 2006. Big wave pioneer Hawaii.
I am not sure that I understand the big wave thing. A 6-foot wave dumps more than enough energy on my head when I wipe out.
Keep in mind 1L = 1kg. A Checkers packet of water dumped on your head from a first floor balcony hits hard. A 20-foot wave will hit you harder than Os Durant in a dive tackle and must surely engage violence akin to a car crash. Think of a 2,500-litre Ecotank landing on your head. Who wants that?
I think the biggest and meanest waves I have ever surfed were 10-foot top to bottom barrels at Bruce’s Beauties after cyclone Domoina in January 1984. Beyond that I was never keen to paddle out. I have never surfed Cape Town’s Dungeons, Sunset or Crayfish Factory, or Hermanus, and at the tender age of 58 I am well aware that I never will.
I like Shaun Thompson’s famous quote when asked who the best surfer in the world was: “The guy who is having the most fun”. And Owl Chapman's outlook on Aloha and serendipity: “Share a smile, share a wave, say hello to the next guy; you never know — maybe he's got a nice sister!”
For me, my favourite takeaway from surfing is the health and vitality of it. I love it when my neck, arms, back, shoulders and core all feel a little tight after time in the water, rather than the general cellulite feeling of porridge in a Checkers packet.
“Why am I soft in the middle?” Paul Simon. If I can sing happy birthday and wash my hands in salt water for two hours while sliding down a few 4-foot steep-faced lines, I am all the healthier and that much happier.
Though it is not my cup of tea, I respect the guys who dedicate themselves to the athleticism of big wave training, gym time, breath-holding training and technique, psychological training, equipment management, climatology and oceanography study and travel and then tow into waves that look like mountains.
When I pulled into Jeffreys Bay Mentoors Plaza in December I was impressed to see the Mobius wave, a scale model sculpture fashioned out of concrete and steel in celebration of Garrett McNamara’s biggest wave ever ridden in the world, Nazare, Portugal, 2013.
Estimations of the wave vary from 78 to 100 feet. Impressive for a couple of reasons. Concrete is not easy to work with in this form — ferro cement.
The sculptor had some nous. The Mobius is an interesting mathematical concept, a one-sided figure, full ring with a 180º twist. A tweak on eternity. Very clever. And then the little stainless steel representation of McNamara streaking across the wave.
Down to the last detail; the little surfer figure is fashioned as a natural foot. True to the correct detail of left foot forward and his back to the wave as he escapes Armageddon at Nazare. I love that attention to detail and how the artist got the facts straight, not like Patrick Swayze paddling out in the movie Point Break and looking like a kook.
So I extend respect to JBay, Mentoors and sculptor unknown. A job well done in celebration and commemoration and a tip of the hat to surfing, an economic mainstay contribution to the backbone of Jeffreys Bay’s economy.
When it comes to big waves, SA is quite in the loop. Some years ago Mickey Duffus, Cass Collier and Ian Armstrong, team SA, won the big wave world championships at Mavericks USA. Grant “Twiggy” Baker, ex-Natal, is heralded the world over for his giant wave exploits and a number of times winner of biggest wave for the said year. Baker is honestly in the same league as McNamara.
South Africa does not stand in the shadows in this department. Our biggest waves are Dungeons and Tafelberg (and I am very happy I have never been out there). Red Bull have run a number of successful world events at Dungeons, Hout Bay, Cape Town.
Here at home in East London, our two biggest wave nutters are Nathan Gernetsky and Stuart “Solly” Fowles. Solly has had at least one session off the back of our western harbour breakwall and once upon a time he even thought cage fighting was fun. There is not a lot that scares him.
Go for it chaps, it's all yours. When the war is over, make mine a 4-footer at the back of Nahoon Reef. That will do just fine.
Here's hoping you get the waves you're looking for in 2021 when Covid lets us back in the water.
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