Wandering Thoughts

May 15, 2010


Filed under: Surfing — terence @ 12:52 pm
Tags: ,

The tale of how I ended up organising surfing contests is a complicated one. By nature I’m not much of an organiser and, other than a brief phase as a teenager, contests don’t interest me. Organising them takes time too. Lots of it. Time which, to be honest, I’d sooner spend surfing myself.

Or, at least, the tale of how I ended up organising surfing contests should have been a complicated one, but it wasn’t: in reality I’m just no good at saying no. The club needed someone to run them. I got asked. I said yes.

And so I ended up at Riversdale on a summer’s day striding round, corralling potential judges, drawing up heat schedules, and explaining the rules. That morning, when we started the event, the surf had actually been pretty decent. We’d located ourselves about 50 metres south of the surf club, in front of a series of sand bars on which glassy waves peeled left and right. Head high sets maybe bigger. Which is about perfect size for Riversdale – if the waves get any larger the paddle out becomes a nightmare.

Inevitably the sea-breeze came up and the waves became messier as the day went on, but they held their size. Maybe even got a little bigger. It was a nice day to be at the beach too. Warm Wairarapa summer weather. The clubbies had their flags out, kids were swimming, two lifesavers in an IRB patrolled the beach. And we plowed on with the contest.

By mid-afternoon we were running the long-board ‘final’. Which was, in reality, just a mega-heat for the 6 longboarders who had shown up that morning. I gave them half an hour in the water. They needed it. It was low tide and the paddle out took even the better longboarders 10 minutes slogging out against windblown lines of white water. A couple of them struggled to get out at all. One overweight guy only made it through a triumph of will that should have seen him awarded first prize simply for tenacity.

Anyhow, eventually they all made it out the back and we started the heat. Which was when the head lifesaver came jogging down the beach towards is, beer belly bouncing under his yellow shirt, jandals kicking sand into the wind.

“Hey. You gotta get your surfers out of the water. The guys on the IRB radioed in to say they spotted a shark.”

He then turned on his heels and ran off to help in summoning the teenage swimmers to the beach.

“Shit. What do I do?”

Lars was nonplussed.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s probably just a dogfish. And, anyway, they’re only long boarders.”

The other judges were no more help.

“Uh dunno mate. Up to you.”

Such is the loneliness of leadership.

“Fuck – alright. We gotta get them out of the water. Hey. HHHHEEEEYYY!!!! Come in. COME IN. Shark!”

James started sounding the siren which we used to start and finish heats. And everyone began waving towels and t-shirts.

“Shark! Come in! Shark!”

It took them a while, but eventually the longboarders figured something was up and came crashing in through the white water. Gathering around me. With puffed and puzzled looks on their faces.

“Sorry guys. The lifeguards spotted a shark. I just thought it would be safer to get you out of the water.”

“Are you sure mate – we didn’t see anything.” The overweight guy looked particularly pained. All that wasted effort.

“Yes of course I’m sure. The water’s as murky as out there. I’m not surprised you didn’t see it.”

“There’s no sharks at Riversdale…”

“…it was probably just a dogfish.”

“I’m telling you. The lifeguard said it was a shark.”

And that was the moment the lifeguard chose to return.

“Just heard back from the guys on the boat. You can start your contest again. The shark’s only 2 foot long.”

“Two feet?”

“Two feet. The fin looked bigger but it’s tiny. Just a dogfish.”

“Oh, um, good news. Great, um back out into the water then guys(?).”

And so it was that the only casualty of the great Riversdale shark siting of 2005 was my already tenuous motivation to run surf contests. Eaten by a dogfish.


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