It’s the seventh day after the full moon and we’re on the longest stretch of moonlight surfing we’ve ever done. Again we’re out at 4.30, with a small crew of committed lunatics, and the moon is now struggling to make it to half full. Proving the old adage that something is not half empty but half full. Who’s ever said that the moon was half empty?
But we’re well used to it by now, and between the waning gibbous moon overhead, the steadfast Southern Cross in the south, and Venus the morning star in the east we’ve got plenty enough light to be getting on by. The sets are coming through nice and regular, but even though the waves are breaking beautifully I struggle to get on one, and go over the falls time and time again; and I’m into the washing machine arse over tit, losing my legrope and swimming after my board.
The others don’t seem to have any trouble and I watch them catch wave after wave. Don’t know what they know that I don’t. Five consecutive days of getting up at 3.00 am and then surfing for more than two hours may, potentially, who knows, have something to do with it. Then, suddenly, it’s my turn and I line myself up, paddle away in great style and start sliding down the slope of moving water, and, just when I’m about to make the jump up and take off, there right in front of me, no more than half a metre away, surfaces a fat black shape with a big triangular fin, shining black skin in shiny black water underneath a shiny black sky, with a blobby sucking sort of a noise, and cuts straight in front of me, left to right. I get a fright, as you would, jerk up my head for a second look, get smashed in the back of the head by the wave I just almost caught and lose my shit in a big way, face down arse up and blowing bubbles for the next half an hour turning cartwheels under water.
I stick my head out and spit out three litres of salt water, half a bucket of snot, a mouthful of seaweed and two teeth. I clamber back onto my board and return to Point Zero, Take-Off Point Central, and sure enough there’s a dolphin cutting laps around us. The others have seen him too and we’re all mystified and slightly taken aback. While they are common companions in the water and often share waves with us or cruise alongside us they don’t usually get quite that close. We can almost touch him at times. The air fills with the sound of people thinking out very loudly the things they don’t want anyone to say and don’t want to hear. Why is it here? Why is it doing laps around us, so close in we can hear the puffing and wheezing of its breath? Is it trying to warn us, or keep us safe from something out there in the black water …?
Who knows. We carefully avoid enunciating any words that start with s- or rhyme with dark. No need to invite misfortune. No one mentions the fisherman we had a yarn with on the beach just before wading out at 4.30, and his parting words ‘yous know there’s sharks out there, don’t yous’?
No we don’t. Ignorance is bliss, don’t you know.
Dawn creeps upon us slowly with a beautiful sunrise of burning orange and red, and a few more people come out. Eventually things pick up a little bit and I start to score some good rides. Things start to fill up a little bit and so we start to share rides, which is awesome fun anyway, a great laugh and a beautiful thing to do.
Then at one point there’s three of us sitting in the water, side by side, a girl to my left and a bloke to my right. A wall rises up behind us and we spin around like mad, shouting at each other to get on it, and we paddle our guts out, racing down the waterfall, making the drop and jumping up, and lo and behold there’s all three of us smack bang in the middle of the action, in perfect position, and we’re heading off down the alleyway of green glass a hundred miles an hour. We scream and laugh and howl with excitement and joy, cruising about 2–3 metres away from each other. Suddenly, wouldn’t you know it, my mate to my right shouts over his shoulder ‘cutback!’ and sure enough he swings wildly to the left, straight towards me. So I do the same thing, with a greatly enhanced degree of wildness of swinging, coupled with a far greater dose of erraticness than is strictly necessary, called for or advisable, and cutback myself, very pleased and proud of the fact that I actually know how to do it. I bin practisin’, ey.
However, my pleasure and pride don’t last very long because as I cutback to my left there’s my other friend, the girl, who was three metres behind me but is now heading straight at me on a full-blown head-on collision course. She screams
and I scream
and then I rip the world’s most beautiful right hand bottom turn and manage to point my board back into the other direction, back off to the right. Even so because of the closeness of the manoeuvre she has now fully caught up with me and her board pulls up right alongside of mine, and for a couple of seconds we’re running perfectly parallel to each other, with about three centimetres space between our boards, and I look down and have just enough time to think ‘this isn’t going right!’ when our boards fully catch up to each other, clash, and then, with both of us wobbling wildly out of control, her board slides under mine on the long side, so that my board now sits on top of hers with about a 4–5 cm overlap, lengthways. We stagger punch drunk, knock-kneed and shaking, and then, while still careering down this rolling wave, thundering onwards and downwards, she grabs my arm and I reach out and grab her shoulder, and we stabilise each other and for a few seconds ride connected like that, locked-in arm and shoulder, board on board, and we do not stack it. Unbelievably, after a few seconds we pull away and I turn a bit further to the right, and we have gotten away with it, and we’re catching up to our mate in front. By now he has lost momentum and has gotten too far ahead of the propelling force of the water, so he pulls off the back side, and then there’s two of us, still hooting down with bugger all gap between us, and then my bit of wave runs out of oompf and I slide off down the backside as well, and she runs off with the crest and doesn’t stop until she hits the beach halfway between woop-woop and the back of the black stump.
That run would have been at least 200 metres, collision and all. Absolutely amazing.