Stoked that Zigzag published another of my dubious surf stories, SUP-Mageddon, in their online edition.
SUP-MAGEDDON (The Kook Diaries – Part II) – by: Melissa Volker
Wahine Wednesday. Sounds interesting right?
That’s what I thought.
But, really, I should have known better. After all, there’s that other Wednesday in surfing. You know. The one with Airwolf and no wahines or bikinis.
Anyway, the wahines were persistent. And the other Wednesday slipped my mind. So when they said, “C’mon, it’s girls and it’s a SUP lesson and it will get you out to backline.” What could I say? I’m scared?
So Wahine Wednesday dawned dead calm and raining. 15 degrees in Cape Town and I pulled on my bikini. A ghost of an offshore, at 2 to 3-foot, the Berg was perfect.
Perfect for wahines. Frank Solomon stayed at home.
Unfortunately things in the change room weren’t as smooth as the ocean, because, surprise! XOTB, the lovely host of Wahine Wednesday, has one of those flexible change rooms. Boys and Girls. All for one, one for all (but don’t y’all go rushing there now).
I know this because…Man in Change Room. Changing. Not because I saw any wobbly bits or anything, but because I know man-shoulders when I see them. I hit reverse and waited till he sauntered past, clad in neoprene, waving a confident “hi” as he went.
I crept back in and hauled on my own neoprene faster than Jay Moriarity fell down the face at Mavericks, then hurried out to catch up with the rest, grappling for the zip as I felt increasingly unsure of this life choice. The Shark Spotter flag waved at me, ragged and fluttery, reflecting my mood.
Where is the zip? I can’t find the zip. I flail at my behind.
“I think its inside out,” said the head wahine (when I later shared this with the husband he contemplated changing his surname).
I didn’t go back to the change room. Why would I? More men in there than on the shop floor.
Flustered and sweaty, but zipped, I was finally ready to choose a SUP. A man, who may or may not have been Shoulders-From-The-Change-Room, helped me with a board.
“I’ll have the biggest one you’ve got. Ten foot!” I reckoned if I rode the Titanic I might not even get wet.
Not really me. Hahaha. If only. That ass.
I lugged the beast across the road to the beach where we formed a circle, not for prayers of mercy, but for the Queen Wahine to introduce our guest coach, the board helper, who may or may not have been Shoulders-From-The-Change-Room, but who was now attaching a GoPro to the end of his paddle.
“It’s our privilege to have the SA Champ with us today, Justin Bing,” says the Queen.
I gulped in the face of such fame and talent.
Another earthling wahine knowingly nudged a friend and referred to a recent contest.
“He scored a perfect ten on Sunday.”
I eyed the angle of his shoulders. Was it him or wasn’t it? I wondered if perhaps I should leave while my dignity was still intact? A quiet retreat?
No chance. Not with a ten foot board. And besides, the champion had leaped into action on the sand, demonstrating all kinds of SUP skills and tricks that seemed like unattainable superpowers.
One gem of advice, however, did embed in my brain; “If you fall,” said Perfect Ten, “Never let the board be between you and the wave.”
I nodded sagely and followed the grim procession to the waterline. I decided not to mention any of my former dubious attempts at SUP/surf.
A surfer passed me on his way back to the beach. He must have smelled the terror.
“If you let go of the fear, the fear lets go of you,” he said with a smile (which was pretty nice, considering the squadron of SUPs about to take over the Berg, and the havoc SUPs cause in surfer headspace).
Not really us either, but hey, you know you like it.
I stuck with the Queen Wahine and she taught me a few more gems to add to Perfect Ten’s. I got through the shorebreak, the midbreak, the next midbreak and the one after that until finally I was, for the first time in my life, out at backline at Muizenberg. I bobbed over the swell, watching the wahines catch the little one to two-footers.
I kept a close eye on the fathoms below for fins and teeth, but eventually, with my widened stance (almost the splits on a ten foot SUP) I felt a surge of courage and paddled to catch An Actual Wave.
But the SUP Death Rattle (the sound of your feet as your run backwards off the rear of the board, having forgotten to switch to surf stance) was my fate and each one I scratched for yielded no ride. My return to the board was hasty, so as not to have my toes nibbled by Those Who Dwell Beneath.
Meanwhile, in and out of my vision swept Perfect Ten, GoPro glinting in the morning sun, paddle flashing, hips flexing, he was working those ankle bashers with aplomb.
Really him. Hips flexed. Paddle flashing. He is the business.
My bravery burgeoned and I paddled hard for a wave, switched to surf stance and I believed that this time I had it. But no, it was not to be; I fell, the SUP flipped and Perfect Ten paddled on by. Before I could right the board and look behind me I heard him say, “Oh look, here come real waves.”
I turned. A wall of water. An actual set. And my SUP. My 10-foot SUP. Between me and the wave. The gem of advice from the champion defied space and time in my brain. I contemplated my imminent demise and dived deep, covering my head with my elbows.
An almighty, bone crunching tug to my ankle told me the wave and SUP had passed.
I surfaced and tried to right the slippery SUP. But no. Wall of water number two had other ideas. Just before I was annihilated I saw, in my peripheral vision, The Champion, riding a wave, GoPro paddle and all. It was like a dying person’s last beautiful vision. I went under.
I surfaced with desperation. Each surge of surf echoed SHARK, shark, s h a r k… in my inner ear. I felt like I was ballet dancing on underwater pointed teeth. I scrambled to right that SUP while kicking gingerly, so not to attract the attention of the men in grey suits.
Too late. Another wave. I held my breath and channelled my inner mermaid.
I came up, ankle aching from the 10-foot anchor at the end of the leg rope, and this time I surfaced without a paddle. It must have been ripped from my grip.
I saw another huge wave rolling in while I finally managed to right the SUP. I was sure, in my panic, that I could not survive another pounding. Luckily for me, I watch Bondi Rescue every night, and since no one else was coming to rescue me, I decided to employ their techniques to rescue myself.
I lay on that SUP and caught the wave, the most exhilarating and simultaneously humiliating ride of my life. It’s a long trip from the impact zone to shore at Muizenberg and there is enough time to lay your cheek on the deck and shut your eyes and be thankful for life, the universe and everything, hiccup out a bit of sea water and re-tie your pony tail.
I stood in the shallows, catching my breath and holding myself back from fleeing the scene. A helpful surfer found an abandoned paddle and returned it to me, the stranded, the obvious, the one washed up with the kelp.
I watched the other wahines keep on trying and I thought if I gave up now I would never go back. It’s a long way back out. But Wednesday is for wahines, not Washed Up Losers. And. The champion person. Was I really going to fade in the face of such genius? So I paddled back out.
The wahines waved and encouraged, Perfect Ten caught a few more perfect rides, while I studiously avoided his GoPro (hoping against all hope that none of that footage goes to Kook Slams).
So, next time you have a Wednesday morning off and you’re out at the Berg, don’t diss all the Stand-Up Paddlers. We are not that bad (okay, maybe the old men who drop in on you are. They’re bad).
Look out for us, the wahines. Come and say hi. Save our lost paddles, cheer us with encouraging smiles. Except when you see the wahine on the enormous board, with a white knuckle grip on her paddle, and fear in her eyes. Wave at her from an extremely safe distance and take cover. Sup-Mageddon is about to be unleashed.
You can check out Zigzag’s Write to Surf HERE