I could feel his trepidation as I sat a few hundred meters away under the protective shade of a short coconut palm. I too had those exact feelings before paddling out at this spot for the first time almost a month ago. But I’d never be standing where he’s standing.
Another set approached the reef seemingly dredging the dark blues from where it was spawned in the storm ravaged open ocean, transporting them to this beautiful aquamarine place. The wave grew exponentially and darkened further before expelling itself onto the colourful reef only meters from where the surfer anxiously waited. A smarter man would have entered the safety of a deep water channel closer to the beach instead of defiantly staring this wave directly in the face.
I knew all too well the amazing power of this particular place. Two days previous, I was paddling into a glistening blue monster of perfection when disaster struck. A late takeoff sent me plummeting from twice my height onto the serrated coral shelf only 18 inches below the surface. The pressure from tens of tons of water driven by a long forgotten storm thousands of kilometres away turned my ankle bone into a wedge driving upwards splitting my fibula as it went, then trowed my limp body across the jagged reef like fleshy mortar. Instead of a four hour drive inland to a small a outpost village and their ill-equipped forgotten hospital, I opted for a tape cast expertly woven by my friend Adam which was slowly cutting off circulation to my foot as my leg continued to swell in the extreme tropical heat.
With a break in the waves, the surfer made an awkward dash across the remaining twenty meters of reef, gingerly looking for the flattest bits of dead coral to step on. Reaching the edge, he leapt off the shelf just as a meter high wall of whitewash tumbled towards him, dragging him back over the reef where he had just come. Paddling hard, he just squeaked over the ledge as the whitewash receded. Lumps of water reared up, but the surfer managed once again to avoid the clutches of the sea by diving deep enough below the surface of the wave. The next wave was bigger than the first and as I watched with bated breath, he dove again. A few seconds later, the wall of water feathered and pitched. Amidst the chaos, I could faintly see something in the lip of the wave - red board shorts.
- September 2010