'Yes, yes, yes!' Nods Dr Snodgrass of the Hansie Cronje Sports Science Institute, near George, enthusiastically. 'Big wave surfers, much like base jumpers, hang gliders, half-pipe aerialists, solo mountain climbers, extreme snowboarders and other mullets like special ops soldiers and religious fundamentalists, suffer from over-stimulated adrenal functions, in comparison with the rest of us. Although this is nothing new, as a result of our increasingly cerebral lifestyles in the 21 st century, fear and the resulting adrenalin purge have almost been sanitized completely out of the advanced capitalist first world experience. The adrenal response is certainly not as common in human beings as it may have been in previous times where safety, security and comfort were not as readily assured as they are today.
'In many ways,' the good doctor continues, 'humans at the "pinnacle" of modern civilization have turned away from this "safety mechanism" as unpleasant and undesirable, much like sweating. The fact that certain peripheral characters
of society actively seek the adrenal response, or "thrill" as they like to call it, through some or other life threatening activity is in fact a regressive tendency. The heightened development of the adrenal mechanism can cause the behaviour of these, uh, "primitives" for want of a better word, to be perceived as anti-social within the mores of modern society.'
Patrons of the Rhodes House certainly do not behave like this. They respect authority. They acknowledge the privilege of being allowed to partake in the bacchanalian fanfare. Such rank, unbridled hedonism requires a certain type of decorum. This is the kind of club that winks knowingly. Guests do not get rowdy. They certainly do not have this much fun. They also do not often come bankrolled by a sponsor that supports the club, doles out the cash, rents out entire rooms and is very cosy with the management, thus emasculating the bouncers from inflicting pain on their party. Meathead has never been in this position before. The huge pneumatic drills on either side of his body are useless as the party degenerates into a righteous skop . Surfers have always known how to get loose, the whole lifestyle seems based on it. Earlier, there was a fashion show. Sophisticats oohed, tutted and almost feigned with delight as the darling creations were paraded down the catwalk stretched over perfect skinny thighs, tight butts and exposed boobs. The Brazilian and Kiwi big wave hellmen pushed their way through the seated crowd to take up positions on the floor, directly under the catwalk, looking straight up at the thighs, I mean lights. Trendoids scowled at their uncouth manner. The theme of the fashion show was mainly mini-skirts and lingerie. Proud veterans of every strip joint Cape Town has to offer, the boys were missing none of it.
And so another night of mayhem erupts around the surfers involved in Africa's yearly homage to surfing dangerously big waves. That's how the night had started. Just one of a litany of big nights, like a trail of empty beer bottles strewn across the three week waiting period. The big wave surfers making their presence felt in their own surreptitious way. Since then several bottles of vodka sweetened by the energetic Taurean elixir had been consumed. The bouncer bristled with his impotent rage as the noise from the VIP section started to crack the sophisticated fašade of his club. The place was fast degenerating into a frenzied shakedown. Meathead lurches towards the biggest man in the room, the Californian giant, and tells him to calm down. The giant is calm. Some of the local boys step into the fray and slur at the bouncer, telling him to be calm. Suddenly everyone is telling everyone to be calm. It's just one big laugh. The Hawaiian cackles insanely at the rising tension. The smell of fear activating his adrenal core. The bouncer, certainly not calm, folds his arms and steps back, involuntarily flexing his guns and scrumpling up his face like a sneezed-in tissue. He stands guard in the corner and chews his lips fiercely. His retreat signals for the party to pick-up a notch. People arbitrarily turn him by the shoulder and tell him to be calm. The dancefloor absorbs the space. The song is 'Mr Wendell' by Arrested Development. The floor is vibrating like an earthquake as everyone jumps up and down together. The party is on autopilot, looseness and light, lost in groove and amusement. Smiles all round. People are getting brave. A small guy, infused with rhythm, is taunting the bouncer with dance moves that get right up in his face. On the floor, butts are pinched, slapped and rubbed. Snogs ignite and turn into over-eager groping sessions on the leather couches. Messy polony sandwiches are about to be made. People whistle and whoop. Drinks are spilled, glasses broken, hugs are exchanged. The bouncer wants to kill everyone. One of the South Africans falls over. The Californian Giant hurls on the bar and the other South African, who can hardly stand, wins the tequila down-down session. The bouncer is forced to intervene again, when Kiwi and The Boy Wonder line-up all the couches into an impromptu catwalk and start doing the Zoolander routine, to wild hoots and crowd ululations.
As Dr Snodgrass explained, this is what can be expected when big wave surfers cut loose. Surfing and partying go hand in hand, like politicians and lying. Big wave surfers are, in general, different to the variety you'll find on the world championship tour. They don't earn as much money, they are not disco, they hardly see themselves as professionals and may not be the most dazzling performers in small waves, though some certainly are. What sets them apart is their ability to put themselves in harms way, and paddle into waves that constitute naval hazards. Mostly they are mullets. They deal with more mayhem in the water than most of us will in a lifetime. The amount of adrenalin that is generated pulling yourself head first over the ledge of a four storey wave, is incomparable to anything else, really. So you take a bunch of these over adrenalised, over testosteronised, alpha males, bring them halfway across the world. Isolate them, feed them, put them up, make them feel like celebrities and get them surfing everyday. You hype them up that the biggest waves ever are coming soon, and then you wait for nature to deliver. What you soon find is that these surfers charge the other aspects of their lives just as hard as they do big surf. Fear is a friend, their bodies call for adrenalin like alcoholics for that breakfast pint. When we start shaking they start waking.
It's 2am on a Tuesday morning when the call comes in from the Mexican, the self proclaimed Sexy-Mexi, letting me know over the din of a bar in full swing, that the Kiwi and his buddy, The Kiwi 2, had been arrested for drunken driving. I phone The Kiwi 2's phone and get to speak to an upset sounding policeman.
'Your friends are in jail. They resisted arrest and will be going before the magistrate in the morning. If you want to do anything for them, bring them some blankets because they are going to freeze tonight.' Click.
Rewind to a few hours earlier. The Kiwis are as pissed as they come, cleverly hitting the town in a branded van, just in case anyone didn't recognise them. Helps with pulling the chicks, for sure. Being intoxicated and a nutcase, the Kiwi starts doing technical driving manoeuvres like donuts and handbrake turns on the main drag. People peer out of windows, bars and busy sidewalk cafes to get a look at the commotion. The trouble only really starts when Kiwi realises he needs fuel. God knows how, he just happened to look down and saw the light blinking. Taking control of the situation, he zooms up to the Shell Garage at the top of the drag and performs a critical handbrake slide, very similar to a tail slide on a surfboard, into the garage, parking parallel to the pump with a loud screech. All in all a beautiful move, that would ensure the pump attendant's swift attention and admiration. Unfortunately filling up at the same time is the filth, the fuzz, the oh-fuck-I'm-busted! The cops quickly deduce that the Kiwis are not exactly sober and apprehend them. Being South African cops, they make the mistake of thinking that their hideous reputation for abuse precedes them. The cops merely throw the boys in the back of their own van and set off for the police station. En route Bad Cop decides he needs another cup of coffee and a quick donut. They stop at another all night quick shop and garage. Bad Cop leaves the two Kiwis in the unlocked car. Spotting their gap The Kiwi 2 screams, 'Run!'
As he runs The Kiwi 2 calls his South African sweetheart and tells her to come and rescue him. The phone starts ringing as the cops surround him. She answers just in time to hear the crack of pigstick on skull.
Two days, a preliminary court case and a few laughs later they're tow-surfing 30 feet of bone crushing water in a howling onshore. Would you expect any less?'If there is one single thing this whole episode teaches us,' offers Dr Snodgrass as he smoothes the traces of creamcheese into his goatee, 'it is simply to charge. And I'm not talking about plugging in your mobile phone here.' He laughs loudly at his own joke.