”The biggest sin in the world would be if I lost my love for the ocean.” – Laird Hamilton
‘Here he comes, quick everyone in position! Nicole, go lower, you’re blocking his bum. Ok, smile.’ Whatever madness you’re picturing in your head right now is probably quite accurate apart from some necessary changes that I would quickly like to make. The first of which is that ‘his bum’ is covered by a full length wetsuit, the second is that this scene is taking place outside and the sun has just started to bake down on us from the crystal clear blue skies above and warm up the chilly morning air and lastly, the third, final and most important change is that directly in front of us is one of the worlds best stages for watching surfing. As each ocean swell begins to take on it’s form after having travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometers, it peels perfectly into the little East Coast town of Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. This little town happens to be home to one of the worlds best ride-hand waves known as Supertubes and is currently being ridden by arguably, the worlds best surfers.
We have chosen our viewing site for the event VERY carefully. Behind us are two solar powered showers for the surfers which obviously provides them with fresh water to rinse off after their salty surf. Directly in front of those showers was…well, us. Anna, my great partner in all forms of crimes, had the brilliant idea to sit in front of the showers and attempt to ‘take a ‘selfie’ with our only goal being to get the professional surfer in the background in the picture. You could call us ‘the silent stalkers’. It’s sad really.
For those of you who know little about the sport of surfing, allow me to briefly help you to put things in perspective. So, the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) tour consists of the worlds top female and male surfers who surf in events throughout the year in different locations around the world with likes of Australia, Fiji, Hawaii etc. Jeffrey’s Bay is an event that takes place on the male tour in our Winter when the swell is often at it’s biggest. It’s a highlight for most South African surfers and for some, allows us the opportunity to silently stalk the professionals and hurtle off any knowledge that we remotely know about them, then act all cool and pretend that we don’t care when we see them. Pfft, if only they knew 😉 Ok, I’m making my friends and I seem a little bit too stalkerish, we’re not that bad, I promise!
Since I was a tiny little baby tom-girl, I always seemed to enjoy the sensual feeling of muddy beach sand on my skin rather than any form of clothing that I ever got put into. I would play with my brother for hours on end covering all beach activities such as the common sandcastle building, hyperventilating in the cold water, tormenting every rock pool animal I found and of course, enjoying the odd fistful of sand that I stuck in my mouth, just to test whether this particular handful was edible or not. For my whole twenty two years of life we have always lived near the beach and I would watch my dad and brother surf while I sat on the beach. Eventually when my brother got a bigger wetsuit I got his hand-me-down old school short wetsuit, despite the fact that the water seemed near freezing, and started off learning to ride a wave and read the ocean on a second hand bodyboard. Thankfully I stopped being a shark biscuit and upgraded to my dad’s OLD surfboard called Faith, though we had little left in her. I would only surf our local break called Big Bay and even when the waves were cooking elsewhere, I would not budge from my decision that everyone I was with must surf Big Bay. Oh, the amount of times my brother must have wanted to kill me. After our surf we would go get hot chips from the wooden life saving house, all of which has now been destroyed for a housing development.
It is those sweet summer memories that keep me returning to the ocean and surfing. I affiliate surfing with family, fun, friends, roadtrips, lazy beach days and laid back holidays where you don’t wear anything besides slip slops for a week. Preferably with clothes! From a tiny baby tom-girl beach-lover, I continued to surf throughout school although my other sports rapidly took it’s place and soon, I had no time to surf between my demanding academic and sports schedule. Once I finished school, I worked in England for a year and surfing went on hold once again, although I exhausted every YouTube surfing video daily.
Once I started university I started surfing more than ever, quite often it took preference over lectures (this is when you pray that your parents aren’t reading this) and made the university team. It helped my cause that almost all of my friends are ocean lovers and a lot of them surfers, and so our travel adventures always involve long days at the beach whether it’s bodysurfing, tanning or even just observing.
I learnt that everybody, mostly everybody, has ‘their thing’. It’s yours, and it might be a lot of other people’s thing too, but it’s yours. Whether it is swimming, painting, sailing, climbing, reading or hell, even bodyboarding (I’ll let you off on this one) we are all caught up in our own little bubble and no matter where you are in the world or what lecture or lesson that you are in, your thoughts uncontrollably sway away from whatever course they were on and head straight for your warm and fuzzy happy place.
For me, it’s surfing. I love that no wave is exactly the same. I love that you are riding ocean energy that has travelled from all ends of the earth only to end up under your feet. I love the lifestyle associated with it. I love the surf culture, the fact that some people live to ride waves, that it gives you that adrenaline rush that replaces any synthetic high. (I admit that I love the fact that it probably has the most good looking people in one sport). But mostly, I love that the wave is a blank canvas with the surfer being the artist, enabling them to do with it what they desire, never having two finished products looking the same.
I’d love to know what ‘your thing’ is! Let me know how or when it started and what kept you coming back for more 🙂
For more photos from Jeffrey’s Bay, check out my instagram