Passion Comes in Waves


You are from South Africa. You are are 31 years old. You have been surfing for 23 of those years. You are a good surfer. A few regional contests in your past. But University and then the kids burnt those dreams down. You probably weren’t good enough anyway. But you are still good enough to dominate the line-up of your home break. A goofy foot. You watch the WSL broadcasts religiously.

A streak of envy sears you every time you see Jordy Smith. Knowing that with a little sacrifice, a different path, some discipline, you might have been one. You wince at the thought that your wife actually had to give you permission for your first trip to Bali. A trip that you have dreamed of since you first saw images and video’s of it on Surfline. You had surfed hard for the last few weeks in Capetown, catching up with your talent, losing a few kg’s. Your wife hated you for it. Leaving the kids on the beach with friends and all. Practical strangers! She had said.

You feel young again as you mash your nose against the window to get your first look at the Bukit Peninsula. You booked your window on the right side of the aircraft for this very reason. Your cover your mouth against the condensation on the window and witness a miracle. Lines, white against blue, marching down the coast. Offshore winds tearing the top of what have to be perfect waves in the purest vision of surfing heaven you have ever gazed upon. You barely breath. Right before landing you see the dots out at the spots just south of the airport runway and this is when the fantasy becomes very real. This is when the panic to get out there before it is all over envelopes you. The landing is smooth. You are white knuckled with impatience. The airplane is taxi-ing way too slow.

Sweat runs everywhere. A sauna sweat as you and the taxi driver load your boards on the roof under an impossible sun in an impossible parking lot. You feel as if you will never get out. Never in time. Those waves are breaking right now. Hotel? He asks. Padang Padang, you say. The Balinese words that you have said and dreamed so many times have never sounded so real.

You could not have possibly been ready for it. The energy of the place. And you have not even unloaded your boards yet. Sweating in long pants and shoes you drag your boards to the gate. A stadium feeling. Complete with entry fees. You crane your neck at the temple overlook but you are staring directly into the diamond shards of the sun’s reflection of what has to be a hot sea. But you can smell it. Along with the Monkeys that have grabbed your sunglasses and are tugging at the zippers of your boardbag. Hell with the glasses. You start down the cave.

You have to calm down, but you cannot. A patient old woman cooking fried rice on the beach has said something to you. Ombak Basar. You have no idea what it means. You stash your board bag with her, rip into your trunks, slash on sunscreen, scrape some wax, put your fins in. You have never done it so fast. You give the old woman a pink rupiah bill to keep an eye on your stuff. She smiles.

Your leash has broken. You are awash in the scariest situation you have ever been in. Big, powerful, hollow waves hammer the dropping tide. You are gulping air after each detonation. Brown skinned surfers are getting dream rides scant feet away from you. You are fighting for your life. And if you make it…if you get in…you promise yourself you are going to slow the f*ck down.