I woke from a God-awful dream. For a little while I just lay there, letting it melt away; leaving the place where anxieties shape reality and returning to the world where they only reflect it. The Southerly was blowing. Listening, I started to go over the plan, born of a mid-week weather map and argued ever since. A Tasman low, a west swell and a reef tucked in out of the wind. My doubts moved across the wind (too strong?), the swell (already gone?) the crowds (everyone knew), before settling on the real issue – my body.
I’d tried surfing three times since surgery and since the arthritis came back. Each effort a mixture of failure and success. In the water, (in the water!), but in aching joints, meaning I could only just get up, slow and awkward, often as not too late to my feet. This time though, I figured I had an almost solution, I’d started taking Methotrexate on Wednesdays, so as that the full force of the drug would be felt over the weekend. The difference wasn’t huge but it might be the enough to allow me to surf properly.
“Get up and give it a try,” I told myself.
Written now, after the fact, it seems simple enough. Give it a try, and if it doesn’t work, oh well. But as I drove along the weaving road the sea, with nervous internal chatter I managed to pull the problem apart and look at it a hundred ways.
At the ocean’s edge, my doubts were answered one at a time. The swell: small but a perfect size for me. The crowd, mostly just guys milling around in the car-park complaining that the swell wasn’t bigger. And the wind, strong, but ok.
I paddled out on my own, in the channel that ran between the point and the reef itself. Out the back, heart hammering and breathless as ever, I waited for a wave. Behind me, at the head of the valley that tilted down into the bay, a giant white windmill spun, turning the Southerly into electricity with patient sweeps of circling arms. Beyond it, the hurrying sky carried clouds and blue off into the north.
Eventually, a wave came my way and I set my own arms circling, trying to build speed to tap into the steepening slope. Paddling, paddling and then in an instant I had it and reflex took over. To my feet and this time, in time. Slow. Sore. But fast enough and free enough to have me up and off down the line. The swell steepened and walled up and I sped along the face, around the bend of the reef and into the bay, where I coasted over the shoulder and into deeper water.
Behind me, the windmill kept spiralling away. And out to sea another set of waves lifted the shimmering water, and I took protesting arms and constricted lungs and paddled out the back just as fast as I could. So I could catch another. So I could catch as many as possible. Making the most of the window I had.