Easter time: the first full moon after the March equinox, autumnal here in the southern hemisphere, vernal in the northern hemisphere. Once upon a time a long time ago someone thought it was a good idea to pick this time for a celebration, and now we’re stuck with it. We’ve got a mish-mash of traditions that blend together to make up modern Easter, and none of it makes any sense: a full moon and an equinox, a rabbit that lays chocolate eggs, some bloke from an obscure middle eastern desert that got nailed to a bit of wood for being a pain in the arse, and a word (from the proto-Germanic *austron-) that means “dawn”, ultimately derived from the notion of “east” (*aust- “east, towards the sunrise”), which is, fair enough, where the sun rises and therefore where the dawn comes from. The Proto-Indo-European root *aus-(1) means “to shine” and is also found in the word “aurora”, the Latin word for “dawn”; it is also the name of the Roman goddess of dawn whose job it was, presumably, to make sure that dawn actually happened and didn’t nick off to get up to no good.
So if we analyse the whole thing we get an event that basically evolves around the equinox, which is that time of year when the day and the night are the same length, and which happens twice a year: on 21 March and 23 September. It then incorporates a full moon, and includes a notion of dawn, which is, by definition, the rising of the sun. All up it makes for a pretty astronomically oriented celebration: we celebrate the rising of the sun at the full moon near the equinox. This is then covered in an overlay of christian bullshit, and, bafflingly, made entertaining and enjoyable by a rabbit, known far and wide for its propensity to fuck all day every day, an egg, symbol of fertility if ever there was one, or, alternatively, of the fact that the whole show is random rubbish that’s come out of an arse somewhere, and chocolate, which was famously banned by the catholic church in Mexico in the 19th century for being considered an aphrodisiac. It was thought that its ingestion induced people to go and have sex and actually enjoy themselves for a change, so naturally this was abhorrent to the christian church, who rightly viewed it as a serious distraction from the principal christian preoccupation of worshipping death and generally being miserable.
Stripping away all the miscellaneous rubbish leaves us with two important things: 1. the full moon, and 2. dawn. Two powerful and beautiful things that we, of course, could not possibly fail to interpret for our own nefarious purposes and put to good use. Since, as it so happens, Easter also coincides with nation-wide collective madness which conspires to send the national road death-toll rocketing sky-high and also, more importantly, fill up our favourite surf break with great droves of random blow-ins and punters, we resolved to, once again, savour the night time as a moment for catching great waves.
Full moon, day one: two of us turn up on our beach, dressed and primed for action. We gaze into the night, bathed in silver moonlight from one end of the bay to the other, and behold, at the high tide, not one wave within cooee. It was dead flat, not a ripple, not a drop of salt water seeming inclined to shake off its lethargy and spontaneously rise up into a rideable wave. We stuck it out for half an hour, getting very excited when, at the halfway mark, a freak rogue bit of white water turned up out of the blue and turned our heads; we started ripping of our shirts in deluded frenzy and sprinting for our cars, only to come to our senses five seconds later to realise that there was nothing in it, or, in truth, behind it. So we pulled the pin with a solemn vow to try again the next day.
Full moon day two: exact same bloody thing. Beach at 8.00 pm, as much moonlight as you could possibly hope to poke a stick at, and not a ghost of a wave. So, in frustration, rage and desperation, we agreed to try the next morning for size: coming out very, very early might get us what, obviously, going out very, very late wasn’t. Clearly there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.
So, full moon day three: four thirty at the beach, more than an hour before first light, and there’s three of us. We strike out and bathe in the moonlight, and we get waves and surf and carve and lap it up. Clouds drift across the moon, as is their wont in dirty old towns, and rain comes down hard, driving down the temperature quick smart. We get wet top and bottom, but we don’t care, and we catch heaps. When the first daylight zombies come out, dressed to the nines in all the latest fashion design wear, one of us leaves immediately, announcing that he doesn’t want to spoil such a beautiful experience with the taint of the crowds. Fair enough, and more power to him. However, we reckon we can go more of this, and we arrange to do it again the next day.
Full moon, day four: not really, by any stretch of the imagination, full moon anymore, but there’s still heaps of light in the old girl, and anyway we’re not fussy. We meet up at the beach at four thirty, and this time there’s four of us. Another one of the true blue crew has joined in, and we paddle out and catch waves under the brilliant silver light of the moon, the town a quiet jumble of lights across the bay. Peace and quiet, clear open skies, waves rolling in a-plenty. We lap it up and, like the day before, surf for two hours straight. We’re well pleased with ourselves, not to mention smug, self satisfied and insufferable, and we start to spread the word among our friends: come on out and carve the black under the silver. Most people laugh or shudder or scream or smile politely, or tell us we’re insane and how about we fuck off and leave them alone; but a few nod thoughtfully and determinedly and reckon they’ll have a crack at it. Emboldened by previous experience, and, quite likely, at this stage, by chronic sleep deprivation, we decide to up the ante and come out at four, a good hour and a half before the first whiff of daylight. We put the message out and retreat, passing out when we get home and accomplishing the sum total of bugger all during the day; but who cares.
Full moon, day five: we’ll just call it The Moon now. Nothing full about it anymore. Easter Saturday, and I pull into the carpark at 4.00 am. Predictably there’s no one there, so I go about my business quietly, getting my wetsuit on, waxing my board, whistling away contentedly to myself, waiting for at least one of the crew to turn up. I figured this was going to happen so I came prepared and brought a book, which I went to read on the dunny. In the dark. When I come out there’s a surprise: four of the crew have turned up, against all expectation, including a few which swore high and low they would never ever set foot in the water in the dark. And off we go, two of us head out first, soon joined by the other three, and in quick succession, another two. All of a sudden there’s seven of us out in the water, all hanging out, and catching and sharing waves, with the by now three quarter moon high above our heads, and, in the crispy clear windstill night, the southern cross hanging peacefully in the south, smiling down on us benevolently and indulgently, like a condescending underpaid childcare worker on a group of retarded children sticking dog shit in their mouths.
And it’s a party on the water, there’s no other word for it. Jokes are flying to and fro, there’s banter and comments, there’s stories and laughter, and there’s action when the walls of black water rise up silently behind us, we look for the tell-tale shadows inside of the shadows, and we paddle and glide and jump and ride onto the sparkling highway of the moon, with the light cutting and dividing and fragmenting the rolling slopes of water into a million diamonds of black and silver brilliance. Fantastic, breathtaking, beautiful, out-of-this-world.
And so we party on, we share waves, drop in on each other, egg each other on, scream and howl with laughter and generically, all of us grown men and women, behave like little kids lapping it up in a playground, with no thought, time or care for the world outside.
We surf our guts out for two hours, till our arms fall off, and then head in, exhausted, spent, exhilarated. Quite literally, dare I say it, over the moon.
We’ve got Easter Sunday and Easter Monday to go. Two more four-thirty sessions. Bring it on. What a life.