The surf tourists come, the surf tourists go. But I stay in the hammock, eternal. The stoned rock of Gibraltar. A-swingin' in the riggin'. And the longer you stay the easier it gets to assuage those feelings that maybe you should be doing something more worthwhile with your one short life than sitting here perched on the edge of the 3 rd world waiting for waves. And as these feelings of missing the lifeboat perplex the surfguide, they, like time, and the flat spell, soon pass.
And when the waves arrive the slow rot, hammock born, weed inspired 3 rd world dissatisfaction blues evaporate and disperse quicker than a puff of smoke from a burning coconut husk on the morning offshore. Because the waves are serious here, bra. Heaving, hoossing blue walls of unfurling tropical ocean. Flawless. Hollow and shallow. Shallow onto sandbars, or shallow onto rock, and oh so shallow on the coral reef. You're also a good hour and a half away from the most rudimentary, 3 rd world medical attention. A good day's travel from any kind of evacuation. And so you approach the arrival of a dik new swell with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Throughout the flat passage, it's all the surftourists can talk about. And they hound you with endless questions:
'When's the next swell coming, surfguide?'
'How big is that going to be?'
'When's it going to pick up?'
'Isn't there somewhere else that picks up more swell?'
'Will it be offshore?'
'Do you think there's a wave at that other spot?'
'How much are the beers, again?'
'How many Rands is that?'
'What does 'cochon' mean in English?'
'Can we ghoen the chick who makes up our room?'
'Do you have a fin key?'
'Can I borrow your other board?'
'Where can I get some weed?'
'Dance monkey dance!'
Questions that the surfguide can only answer with a shrug, an 'eh' and a thousand yard stare out over the horizon. You got to wait and see. The surfguide wakes up in the morning, scratches his itchy bollos and scans the horizon for bumps and lumps. And then, after days of searching through the binoculars for some hint of a bump. There can be no mistake. You can't miss it. Stacked, huge dark blue lines flashing white as they implode on the horizon. The low incessant rumble, rising and falling. Like thunder. Like a dragon snoring, far out to sea. The surftourists start to froth like Eno. There is a frenzy of board waxing, leash tying, fin placement and replacement. Some stretching, some deep breathing. People are practically jogging on the spot. Apprehension and excitement. You're not so sure you're having fun. The waves, the waves, the waves are here.
Just another day in paradise.
Living in a wooden bungalow for months, no electricity, no running water. Washing with a bucket of cold water, eating fish for lunch and supper. You soon get used to the simple life. Drinking litres of local beer (every bottle tastes different) and dancing to cheesy pop songs on the beach. You get accustomed to the rhythm of the rural fishing village. Start to dig the rituals. The morning coffee watching the daily exodus of fishing boats, white sails puffed proud on the morning offshore. Wooden dug outs, stabilised by an outrigger and powered by a sail made from sewn together sacks and steered from the back with a huge wooden paddle. Sailing back on the afternoon cross-shore with their daily haul. They eat it all here. Shark, octopus and everything in between, even turtle and dolphin. Visiting tourists yelp and screech. 'Not the dolphin!' The locals just look bemused. Time and energy is their currency. The ocean is their supermarket. The beach their toilet. And you, big rich white man. Come all this way to play your ocean game. While they must sail the pirogue far out to sea and catch fish. Amazingly there's little envy or animosity. Big smiles and friendly, calm conversations. How was your day?
Ca va toujours they reply. Always good. How was your day.
And it's not like you can say to this dude who spent the whole day trying to entice some fish onto his line so his family can eat, 'Ag man the waves were a little small, it was frustrating, the wind got on it...'
So you just answer Ca va toujours .
The young men playing dominoes on the beach, for money, to buy rum and cigarettes. The day's fishing is done. Strains of the local cheesy pop drift on the breeze and out to sea. Children run up and ask for cadeau - presents or stylo - pens. When none are forthcoming they settle for a photograph. Smile. Stand over there. Don't push. Here you go, take a look. They laugh, giggle and guffaw at their image on the back of the camera.
Merci m'sieu they chime through unbrushed teeth.
With the waves, the mood lifts. The morning's careful-careful approach soon turns to grab rail hell drops, skegs skimming over the shallow ledge. Moments spent sliding down the face and into the instance. The still moments of surfing. The blue ether. Caverns made of water and suspended in time. Muscle fatigue turns it to stoke. Stoke fuels the banter. Heroics are relived over cold beers and rum. Fried fish and rice.
The waves come, the waves go. Taking the surftourists with them, like flotsam on the tide of my experience.