Monday, July 06, 2009

Rivermouth

I clamber down the sandbags that now constitute my beach track and head south along the sand. The sky is clear and the sun is warm and my jumper comes off pretty fast. There's some little waves breaking out the front that might be fun later. It's been weeks since I've been anywhere near the beach, so I just want to go for a walk and look around and check it out again.

The beach seems pretty empty, but I notice a couple of guys up in the dunes looking south, checking the surf. And a couple more. And more. And some with chairs. They're really engrossed. It must still be working further down. Harley told me last night that it was about the only bank in the whole region doing anything at the moment.

The guys stand low in their bodies, arms stuffed in pockets or folded self-consciously across their chest. Low-slung jeans, checked shirts, hoodies and beanies (and the odd pair of ugg-boots) protect them from the wind and cold, and mark them out among the sea-grass and banksias. Alone, or in twos, they stand still and quiet, engrossed in their own little process of observation and decision-making - to go out or not to go out. There isn't much talking.

I feel a wave of affection for them all. Them and their flannelette shirts.

I walk further along, towards the break they're watching. Even from here I can see that it's pumping. The sets are peaking up into A-frames and every wave has someone slashing and dancing along its length before flicking themselves (dramatically) over the back as it closes out. Between sets it's almost flat with little movement at all. It's funny to look out at the water full of bodies bobbing about with no waves in sight. They look ridiculous. But there's not much waiting. The sets are coming through with impressive regularity.

The bank is a walk up or down the beach from the nearest carpark, so there is a steady stream of black-rubber-clad bodies running both towards and from the break, each one clutching a small, thin, white board under their arm. Black steamer, white board - the look is almost universal with only one pale blue wetsuit, a dark green fish, a yellow longboard, and an old stained blue and yellow single-fin breaking the monotony. Black steamers stretching themselves on the beach, reaching for their toes, reaching their arms behind them to open their chests. Black steamers grabbing their boards and running into the water like time itself is coming to an end.

When they walk back towards their cars and homes, the anticipation has gone out of their movements. The walk back delays the beginnings of the day, work, commitments. They keep looking back over their shoulders to watch. As they get to the beach tracks, they stop and answer the perfunctory questions from those standing around. Who? What? Where? How? The cold wet surfers don't stay long, rushing back to the warmth of their cars and changing back into their jeans, checked shirts and beanies before carrying on with their day.

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