Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hitting Paydirt

"Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do
than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbour.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

The phrase "If you don't go, you'll never know" gets bandied around a lot, particularly in the "action sports" (I hate that label) arena. But in fairness there is a truth in there.
These days it's difficult to search out novel experiences; in almost every endeavour you can bet you bottom dollar that somebody else has already been there, done that and posted it on the interweb. But not always, and even if they have, that doesn't mean you can't come a close second. Surfing-wise, you'd struggle to find a rideable wave that's yet to be ridden because in the past 60 years surfers have scoured just about every nook on every coast and checked every kink in every reef. When they find a wave then sometimes they'll tell, but if it's good then they generally won't. But secrets out over time and so the surfing map slowly grows. It's nice to think though that there are still mystery spots out there, or fickle, rarely surfed stretches of coast that rarely see a wave and even more rarely see a surfer. It gives me hope that perfect, uncrowded waves are still out there if you can get the stars to align.

I have a bit of a thing these days with that faint possibility that I might find an as-yet un-surfed or un-named or unknown place to catch a wave. I scour maps, study swell charts, tear photos and articles out of newspapers and magazines and relentlessly pester friends or acquaintances for information on far flung coastlines.

Sometimes I hit paydirt.

So the past few years I've tried to follow up on some of my hunches and research and gone looking. Now, I'm not so devoted that I'd risk hauling my boards around on a surf trip with a high risk that I might not find any surf. I still want to catch waves. Instead I've tried to tie my inquisitive forays into slightly bigger trips, either as an aside or as part of an extended stopover on the way to or from a wave-rich destination. I guess if I had more time, more money, and a 4x4 then I'd be able to indulge my curiosity but alas this is the best I can manage.

In August of 2011 I headed back to Jeffreys Bay in South Africa to visit some friends and scratch my Supertubes itch. From there I had two choices: West to the cold Southern Atlantic and the cold, sharky left-handers that peel along the base of the sand dunes of Namibia, or East up the coast of the Indian Ocean to look for warm, equally sharky right-handers in Mozambique and up towards Tanzania.

From the images of the flawless right-handers rolling down tropical points above and below, you can see which option I chose. I have to admit that my decision was mainly down to my desire to surf in boardshorts and my preference for surfing on my forehand.
I'm not saying where these photos were taken, the only clue that I'll give is that they are on the East Coast of the African Continent. The few people whom I managed to prise information about surfing up here from warned me that I ought to take a good thick book with me because I was most likely to find a flat ocean devoid of swell, whipped up by strong winds and teeming with sharks. The stars aligned however and I lucked in, but there were still plenty of X's on my map that I didn't/couldn't make it to where I'm sure I might've found equally good waves but without the handful of other surfers that I ended up sharing the water with. Those other surfers weren't a bad thing though; despite my desire to find solo perfection, it's nice to reduce the odds when there're that many big grey fishies swimming around beneath you.

So next time you wonder whether or not there might be waves there, or have an extended stopover some place strange, or even just want to run the risk and go looking for adventure as well as waves, pack your board and do it. You might just hit paydirt too.

Go looky,
Get lucky.

Images, top to bottom:
  • Ponta
  • One of the handful of other surfers whom I shared waves with, doing a pro-lap up the point.
  • Local Lady on her way back from market.
  • Dawn launch, in lee of another point.
  • Well, it was offshore.
  • Well worth the risk.
  • Sunset swaying.
  • I dare you to pour some of this on your food.
  • Back beach barrels.
If any of you read The Surfer's Path then you may well have noticed that an article about wooden surfboard maker James Otter and mine's "The Storyboard" project has made it into print. It's in the Jan/Feb issue (#88) and we're dead stoked about it. The Storyboard exhibition is also due to go on display at the Scarlet luxury eco-hotel at Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall, for the rest of the winter and into Spring, please go check it out if you're in the area.

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