Surfing in the City

My mind drifts from the screen.  It flutters out the window, past the city skyline, and away to an exotic locale.   Palm trees sway on a white sandy beach.  A cerulean reef pass rifles off in the distance.  A grin of deep satisfaction is etched across my sunburnt face and my board shorts are instantly dry in the tropical warmth. 

The abrupt siren of my mobile’s message tone jolts me away from an imaginary deckchair and back to reality.  There are deadlines to meet.  The relentless cogs of city life continue to turn, and my day dreams are forced to take a back seat. 

Fading light marks the end of the working day.  My thoughts drift from the internet to the ocean.  In the car, I notice a slight let up of the onshore breeze rustling the tree tops.  It’s all the encouragement I need to wash away another day in the life.  

The ocean is grim and ugly. Forty people are clawing at chest-high straight-handers.  I despair at the combative nature of urban surfing; a strange paradox of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve lost.  The simple pleasure of surfing belies the stark reality of crowded line-ups, localism, and fierce competition for waves. 

I wander down to the water’s edge, where the high tide mark divides two obverse worlds.   Faint cries of discouragement echo from the line-up.  “Yep, Yep, YEP! OIIII!”  Unfortunately, the sanctum from life’s terrestrial grief has been permeated by a bunch of pricks. 

Darkness encroaches.  Wobbly two footers trickle to the beach.  The crowd is still thick, but slowly dwindling.  Desperate, I force myself into a wet wetsuit.  The idyll is a long way from our common world, where instead, surfing is a gladiatorial exercise in frustration, and dare I say futility.

The first duck-dive washes away some of my sentiment.  With a few strokes, I’m out the back, bobbing with three other surfers in a dark line-up.  With each wave that passes underneath I feel myself loosening up, focus intensifying, breath deepening, the burden of responsibility left back on land. 

A dark swell line marches in from out the back, peaking a little further up the bank.  A few quick strokes and I greet it before it crumbles, jumping to my feet, gliding past the other surfers and along the open wave face.   Everything beyond the next section is an irrelevant blur. 

Kicking out, the fleeting ride is suddenly forgotten.  The setting sun appears from behind dark clouds, light glimmering gold on the ocean’s surface.  A slight smile spreads across my face.  I make my way over to a now empty bank.  There are moments of solitude even in a crowded city. 

Back in the car park, three loudmouth P-Platers rev their diesel engines, boasting to one another about some sort of self-centred trivial nonsense.  I ignore them.  My worries are a distant spectre and my thoughts linger over the session gone; a fleeting dance with freedom.