I start paddling as fast as I can without splashing around too much. The feeling reconnected me with my childhood irrational fear of being in the deep end of the swimming pool.
You’re not scared of the water, you’re afraid of the unknown.“
Don’t look down, keep looking forward and keep moving those twigs you call arms. There’s safety in numbers, just reach the lads at the take-off spot and you’re in the clear”, I reassured myself.
Halfway there and I’m quickly heating up. I shouldn’t have worn the 4/3. I eased off the gas knowing if I try to keep up that sort of record pace for the whole session, my arms would end up turning to jelly very prematurely.
With the lads now within close range, I feel more comfortable and reach them pretty soon after. One of the guys yells out, “Hey mate, just letting you know we’re gonna head in. Not getting that many and it’s getting kind of late. You gonna stay out or head in too?” I’d only had one wave and it was a flogging, no way I was wrapping up my session like that. “No worries lads, I’m gonna stay out, wouldn’t mind just trying to get one decent one” I reply.
Gone, taking with them the safety of their presence. An involuntary solo sesh is upon me.
As I sit there alone, scanning each swell rolling through, I notice the wind slightly drop off and swing offshore. I’m in luck, it’s the beginning of the natural phenomenon much appreciated by surfers – The LAGO (late arvo glass off). The ocean cleaned up and the wind started to swing lightly offshore, meaning the absence of a chandelier falling through the barrels. An opportunity for a stand tall pit was now truly on the cards.
A set approaches and I feel the instinctive feeling to go. Learning from my mistake earlier, rather than paddling out and waiting for the wave to jack up, I immediately swing and start paddling in as hard as I can. Paddling feels like I’m battling with the opposite direction on an escalator. As the wave starts to pull me up the face; I grab the rails and jump to my feet. The bottom is dropping out faster than I can get down the face. I free-fall for a split second and then land.
I look up and see the golden afternoon light beaming through the lip as it throws over me, illuminating the emerald green tube I’m standing in. I stand there for a moment, truly present. Mouth wide open, eyes beaming in sheer awe of the beauty and energy I’m experiencing. The intense natural euphoria of this moment seems to slow your perception of time, gifting the chance to enjoy a completely unique experience for much longer compared to someone watching. All senses are in overdrive, absorbing and reacting all at the same moment. I come flying out of the tube hooting myself and kicked out into the channel. That’s what I came I here for.
I lay down on my board and start the paddle back out. My body suddenly jolts when a dorsal fin emerges just inside my peripheral vision. It’s just a dolphin, thank god.