I almost died today. In a cave nestled a small reef platform on a raw and isolated bit of coast miles away from civilisation. I sat and waited studying, timing the sets watching the movement of the water. For almost an hour I sat and watched as the flat rock pan filled up and drained out. Waves, 6 – 8 feet, 12 seconds apart coming in sets of 9, four smaller ones, two ridable and three more each one smaller than the last; four minute lull and repeat. As the ninth wave of the set rolled up one over I lowered myself down onto a submerged rock while the icy water receded under the overcast sky.
I knew that there was about a three minute window of opportunity for me to shuffle across the rock shelf and launch before sprint paddling the 50 meters to the safety of the channel before the beginning of the next set. I scampered out to the edge and launched into the greyness of the sea. At the precise moment I did I realised I had made a horrible mistake. I’d misjudged the small lumps that had risen up as I’d made my run for it. Those same small lumps had swung into the bay and were now fully-fledged monsters coming straight for me. There was no way I’d be able to duck dive my big red 7’4, or even be able to punch through enough to not end up on the barnacle encrusted cliff face that resembled something akin to a 40 foot high cheese grater crossed with a set of road spikes.
Time wasn’t on my side but I didn’t have far to go so I scrambled back up onto the ledge from which I just came but it was too late. Throwing my board up I dived into the wave that was now a formidable looking tube complete with dry rocks and teeth. The water was pulling with such power and the sound of the wave was so loud that while operating only on instinct I couldn’t help but wonder how the cunje and weed on the reef was managing to survive. As I had expected the wave sort of spat me out the back and then carried me onto the ledge. In the calmness of the turnaround I was able to latch onto a boulder for a bear hug from hell. It began to drain out and I fought with the power of it to keep hold of my rock. Barnacles digging into my chest and hands I refused to give in to the water being jammed up my nose. My board tugged at my leg until I was able to stand up, reel it in and take two steps before pegging it up in the direction that I wanted to go diving into face of the next one.
This time I did not penetrate as far and was subsequently skittled up along the reef and into the mouth of the cave. This time the retraction of the water was not as powerful; with one hand I was able to find my board while being able to maintain a solid grip on another rock. Once the water had resided I scrambled up into the safety of the limestone cave where I had sat before only to watch the rest of the set monster through the channel and unload on to the kilometre long cliff face where I had been only moments before.
Board in lap with hardly a ding and somehow only a couple of minor cuts and grazes I felt a small chuckle growing deep inside me. This became a laugh that was soon uncontrollable and I guess it was my misfortune brought about by poor timing, misjudgement and the mental over load of an inconceivable adrenaline high combined with the freeness from emotional conditions induced by a rather intense and sudden session of mindfulness that was able to afford me some clarity to weigh up what I value and let go some inner demons. In context of the day it sucked that I got washed up the rocks and then had to watch my mates (who were intelligent enough to take a boat) get barrelled without me before walking two hours back to my car in the rain. But in context of my life I’m glad that I was handed the cards Huey dealt and escaped with a little more than my life.
Words and photo's - Jake Harmen