Saturday, 16 June 2018

Le singe sur mon dos *

* The monkey on my back

Wow, we’ve been out island hopping up the west coast of Grande Terre for three weeks, and now we’re sailing back into Noumea to restock the pantry.  We went north with the expectation of finding some “family friendly surf”, as it was pitched to us back in Oz.
Okay - obviously this is not me.  But you can understand why Miles, sitting in the tender half a kilometre away, might have thought it was me. This is at Tenia Rights on the one awesome day that it was working.
Here’s my take on all things concerning les vagues here in New Cal:
*You sit on your surfboard a ridiculous distance from land.  The nearest dry surface is the tender, anchored an awfully long paddle from where you’re sitting, and the next closest dry surface is Pandion, anchored so far away you sometimes lose her against the backdrop of the mountains.  In case I haven’t made this perfectly clear, you’re sitting in the middle of the ocean.
*Unless it’s le weekend, the only other people who are in the surf are related to you, so that comforting feeling you get when somebody else joins you in the surf and decreases your chance of being eaten by a shark is conspicuously absent, because you’re quite fond of everybody in the line-up.
*There are sharks. Yesterday at Tenia Lefts, I’d just paddled back to the tender while Milo and Budi stayed out to catch one more wave, when I saw a long brown shape in the water, a swish and splash, and then a GEYSER of blood spurt through the air.  I made the international sign for Shark! at Milo (hand on top of the head, eyes like Beaker from the Muppets), frantically pulled in the anchor and burned in to pick them up.  Miles was characteristically blasé. “Probably just a reef shark.” 
* Just say it is le weekend.  Everyone in the line-up will be speaking a foreign language.  Just say you get caught inside and dragged across the reef for a six wave set.  When you emerge from your hellish ride and somebody nearby says to you reassuringly, “Hey, it’s okay, hardly anyone ever dies here,” you won’t be able to understand them.  On the whole, the few people we’ve encountered surfing have been super friendly in a smiley, non-verbal kind of way.  But it would still be handy to know when somebody calls out, “Paddle out guys, a monster set’s on the way.”  Just saying.
*About that reef.  It’s not soft and squishy like sand.  (Sand, sand, how I miss your inconsistent yet forgiving influence on the surf.)  Coral is hard and jagged and lumpy and sharp and if all that isn’t enough, it also messes with your mind.  “If you were a wave at Frasers, I’d be all over you like smallpox,” you tell the wave as it rears up.  You turn, you start to paddle with something approaching tremulous enthusiasm, and then you glance down the face as you go to stand up, see water draining out of coral just below you and perform the Human Parachute, aborting the wave with a dangerously accelerated heartrate and some very bad language. 
* If there is a 7 year old member of your surfing safari who doesn’t actually surf, she will need to be occupied in some way on one of the above-listed dry surfaces.  One day Miles, Rems and I went for a surf at Ouano Lefts and left Budi and Sylvie anchored in the tender about 100 metres away from us.  They waited, quite cheerfully, for THREE HOURS while Rems tried to get “just one more wave.”  They had food, they had shade (a cubby house made of surfboard covers), they had each other and they had massive turtles endlessly surfacing right beside the boat.  It was a stellar effort, but there’ve been other days when various permutations and combinations of folk have stayed on a very rolly sailboat, turning greener and greener and willing the surfers to hurry the flock up.

Cheerful little tender flower
*On the up side, if you do manage to wrestle that monkey off your back, your rides will be long and fun. You'll sit in a couple of metres of crystal clear water watching fish dart in the coral beneath your feet, and cheer as someone you love nails another wave.