Happy New Year people and thank you so much for your support and kind words. It's such a human trait to fear and it takes not only personal courage but encouragement from friends, relatives and peers to overcome it. Look after yourselves and look after each other. See ya next year!!
It was New Year’s day 2004 and it was the first morning since we’d been staying at Rudy’s place that I had to wake him up rather than him disturbing my dreams. The bloke is a certified Grom for life. Dawn every morning he’d rattle the tent “Gaz, wake up Bru, it’s looking lekker”. Rudy and his family run a backpackers hostel on Ansteys beach and I was camped in the garden. I had to find him, it was looking slightly more than lekker to me and Cave rock was firing. For the previous week he’d mentored me on the shifty peaks right out front but today it had lined up and was shutting down in one pre-dawn slow motion closeout.
We walked South down the seafront, Rudy frothing not only on the waves but also the fact that today was traditionally the day everyone, and I mean everyone, comes to the beach with all their extended family, and barbecue all day long. I was finding it hard to concentrate on what he was saying. The butterflies in my stomach were trying to smash their way out and the voices in my head were asking me too many questions to keep up with. Of course everyone there knew Rudy and everyone there was asking him questions. If you mention Cave Rock to a Saffa they’ll name Rudy as the man. I felt privileged, fucking shit scared, but privileged.
Eventually we jump in the channel, there were definitely more watchers than takers but a few others were strapping leggies on as the sun started to peak over the horizon out to sea. I don’t even remember having to duck dive but in no time we were on the spot and Rudy, before I’d even had a chance to sit up on my board, was calling me into the rising darkness looming in front of us. My head said “you’re not ready” my heart said “boom boom” in rapidly increasing frequency and Rudy was saying, loudly, “go man, go”. I had no choice.
I made the drop, I made the turn and I got my line. I had every intention of gunning it for the shoulder and getting out as quick as possible but the wave had other ideas. It threw, massively, and without warning. The shoulder got further away and the wall I was dragging my hand along suddenly illuminated bright green, the lip that was behind my left shoulder was now in front of it and the view of the beach was framed in an oval. Then someone turned a power shower on behind me and as it hit my bare back and engulfed me I heard hoots.
Then it was sunny.
I kicked over the back and as I did so my knees turned to jelly, I didn’t so much drop back down on to my board as collapse. The hooter’s mouths were moving but I couldn’t hear them, my arms were paddling but I couldn’t feel them. Rudy was laughing and I couldn’t even speak. Never before had I felt the spit on my back. Never before had I been that deep (with my eyes open!). I stayed out but I don’t remember getting anymore waves, I don’t think my legs would have supported me. When I got to the beach it was like a scene from Milius’s masterpiece. Smoke shrouded the whole seafront and breathing was a struggle. My eyes were watering. The barbecues were being lit. The rest of the day? No idea.
Sometimes when I fall asleep, I twitch and I’m there.