We have had a phenomenal amount of sand build-up over the past year or so. With the usual ebb and flow of summer erosion and winter deposit we received a huge amount of sand around the point, and when winter came and went it just stayed there and got bigger and fatter. This is ironic, as not very far down the coast other beaches are battling with huge erosion issues, and buildings are about to topple into the surf.
Meanwhile, our point is almost silted up to the extent that, on a low tide, we can just about walk out all the way to First Rock. This does two things. For one, it makes it a lot easier to paddle out when it’s pumping, since all you’ve got to do is wade out till you’re knee-deep, and then paddle hard for two seconds between sets. For another though, it makes the wave that breaks at the point lightning-fast and borderline lethal. Especially at the dead low tide. Where once we hugged the rock and got up close and personal with it, using its sucking down-draught to launch ourselves into waves, now we are sitting 50 metres away from it, if not more, and, if you’re unlucky, you’ll still be too deep…
Not surprisingly, therefore, there’s been carnage galore. Our mates have gotten knocked off one at a time. The Cork stacked it in knee-deep water, broke several ribs and copped his board in his face trying to stand up. He ended up in hospital with an impressive stretch of stitches across his face, less than an inch below his eye, on his cheekbone. It goes without saying that this has now earned him the nickname of Scarface. The Shredder, lone voice of shortboarding in a wilderness of longboards, and a man who any other day relishes a steep, sharp take-off like there’s no tomorrow, got slammed so hard on his arse it busted his tailbone, and he waddled off in search of a walking frame, and, potentially, a nice granny to go with it. Chief Switchfoot and myself smashed into the sandbank and demolished our shoulders. It got to the point where it became so tricky people started staying away, forfeiting our point for more forgiving breaks elsewhere. Well, who could ask for more. Bring it on.
Therefore there were only a few of us sitting a safe distance away from the point, watching the sky slowly lighten up with the sunrise and the brand new day. The Snake Catcher was holding forth on his new favourite topic.
… and it’s really important that you experience boredom.’
‘I’ve never been bored a second in my life,’ I said and shook my head, ‘I’d never run out of things to do in a million years.’
‘Hah!’ said the Snake Catcher triumphantly, ‘I feel very sorry for you!’
‘I don’t. Why?’
‘Because it helps you to prevent getting Alzheimers.’ The Snake Catcher nodded solemnly and tapped the side of his nose with one finger. ‘Believe me, I know.’
‘Know what to do to not get Alzheimers.’
The Snake Catcher looked at me sideways. ‘It’s dementia, mate.’
‘De- what? Never heard of it.’
‘Demen- … are you taking the piss?’
‘I wouldn’t dare.’ I snorted. ‘So what’s so good about being bored?’
‘It gives your brain’s dopamine receptors a break from being excited all the ti-’
We never got to hear what happened to his dopamine receptors. The wave of the day chose that moment to announce its presence, standing up in front of us like a monster from the deep with teeth in its eyes, and the Snake Catcher spun around and paddled onto it, dropping into the gaping hole with all the grace of an arthritic elephant on his way to the graveyard and long days of bingo and lattes.
The Snake Catcher disappeared out of view. I let the next one go past out of best practice, to avoid smashing into the back of his head should he stack it too close for comfort, and jumped on the last one of the set. The drop was deep and gratifying, and a solid wall stood up next to me. I climbed up to the top, had a look over the wall at the free world beyond, and slid back down again, when the roof started to curl over, and the prospect of a barrel became imminent. I was starting to plan how to make the most of it, when I looked down past my feet. The water was brown. It was gurgling and regurgitating and spitting up sand, rocks, shale, flint, broken shells, smashed fins and rusty barbed wire, and I had just enough time to think, really loud and echoing around the vast empty spaces of the inside of my head ‘Oh shiiiii-’ when the lip hit me in the head and the lights went out.
I spun around upside down three times in the washing machine, received a close shave and a Number One Top and Sides courtesy of The Mighty Sandbank, and finally landed flat on my face in a bed of seaweed and shark shit. With enormous cunning and great presence of mind I tucked into the foetal position and covered my head with my arms, and, looking up through the mad stream of bubbles above me, saw my board flash past me, razor-sharp fins brandished and a grim look of revenge and retribution etched into its profile. Maybe it didn’t like being stood on and trampled all over all the time. Maybe I should wash my feet occasionally, and show some respect.
The moment passed.
I carefully and slowly lifted up my head. The water was about a foot deep. Still brown. My board was still there, bobbing up and down innocuously and harmlessly, pointedly looking the other way, examining its fingernails and whistling out of tune.
I looked the other way. And did a double-take.
There was the Snake Catcher. Ankle deep in brown water, he was staggering around, punch drunk, knees buckling, legs shaking. His head, never very pleasant to look at at the best of times, was sticking out at a bizarre angle, and contrived to look pale and red at the same time. People were running from all sides, holding him up. I ran over. We put arms over shoulders, grabbed armpits, dragged him out of the water. Got him out of his wetsuit, bundled him into a car, and got him off to the hospital. They rolled their eyes when they saw us coming. Another Sunday morning, another foolhardy smashed-up surfer. Maybe we should get a membership.
They took one look at him, stuck him in an immobilisation collar, and laid him flat on a table under dire instructions to not make a move or it could, quite possibly, be the last one he’d ever make.
We were told he’d be waiting for the CT Scan specialist to arrive in three hours’ time, after which it would be another two hours before he’d learn whether he’d broken his neck while stacking it face-first into the sandbank. Then they kicked us out.
‘No visitors,’ they said. ‘It’s covid, sorry.’
‘But we’re next of kin,’ we lied.
‘Stiff shit. Piss off.’
And that was that.
We left, in the secure knowledge that, having to lie still on his back staring up at the ceiling for the next five hours straight, his brain would get a fantastic opportunity to experience a generous dose of boredom. We couldn’t wait to hear how great he thought it was.