Monday, November 08, 2010

High noon: Noosa

Don't go that way. There's some steps further along here a bit.

I turned from where I'd been looking at the surf and the rocks and the potential entry spots and faced the man who was speaking to me. He was middle-aged, round, with a beard and a kind face. And he was offering advice!

So you're not from Noosa then?


No. I just got inspired to come up for the day. I heard there were waves.


I had only surfed here a couple of times before, earlier this year with friends. But on this occasion I had come up on my own. I drove up from the city found a pretty good parking spot in amongst the chaos, walked down the lane I knew led to the beach, bumped into some friends who were leaving and who lent me some wax, and made my way through the bottom carpark and along the boardwalk. The break was busy - well, it was Noosa on a Saturday after all - but that doesn't really bother me. Especially since there were nice looking waves to be had. And I was feeling relaxed. I didn't expect it to be friendly or welcoming though. My plan was to sit wide and be patient.

Bumping into this helpful guy, Alex, on the boardwalk was a nice surprise. He showed me the easiest access spot and explained that there was a hidden rock in the wave to look out for. He walked down the ramp-like rock and paddled off. I waited behind him as a set came through, gripping the green, cunjevoi covered rocks with my toes. When I got out we were sitting close to each other and chatted as we waited for waves. He was a cool guy.

I was stoked to be in the water. My life has been pretty hectic and challenging lately, so surfing has become a real treasure. It is something that I don't get to do that often, so when I get the chance to be in the ocean, on my board, catching waves, I feel quiet and content. Sometimes surfing can be so noisy and social and fun and chaotic, but at the moment, I just want to get waves and have time to do whatever. I'd driven up here to have all that for the afternoon and assumed that if I sat wide, didn't take too many waves and minded my own business, I'd be left alone. So that's how I went about the whole thing.

I sat for a while talking to Alex, playing with the water, picking at the wax on my board, waiting for something right to come through, taking my own time. Off the rocky point the crew was busy and competitive and, I thought, overly aggressive considering the number of waves that were around. I watched them hassle and panic and strive for more, more, more. I understand that feeling and that game, but it wasn't for me that day. There was only one chick out there. She was spindly and blonde and in a black bikini, and her body was slim and fit - a picture perfect surfer girl - and she was pretty good. But as I watched her, I noticed how angry she looked. Angry and determined and frustrated. I watched to see how she was treated, to see if there was any reason for her to look so cross. She was in the thick of the game, getting loads of waves, but she was also getting dropped in on a lot. I reckon she got dropped in on at least every second wave. Sometimes the dude would pull off. Sometimes not. I could kind of see why she was so angry and frustrated, but I also felt like she was actually getting a lot of waves in there. More than anyone else I'd say. It made me happy with my decision to sit on the outside.

The first wave I got was lovely. It was clean and nice. I paddled into it and watched the others along the way paddle, paddle, paddle, expecting me not to make it. I did. I flicked my board down the line and saw the section where the rock Alex had told me about made the wave suck up. I knew I wouldn't make it, so I kicked over the back of the wave and paddled back out. On the second wave I made it through and surfed through close to Little Cove. I paddled back, having fun, enjoying the sun, the softness of the waves and the quiet lineup.

I'd been in the water for maybe an hour by the time I paddled into my third wave. It was small and fast and I sped along to get through the breaking section. As I did this guy looked at me. He was middle-aged, stocky, shirtless, on a log and angry looking. He looked at me and then turned and paddled into the wave I was on, only a couple of metres in front of me. He'd seen me, he just didn't care. He got to his feet and stalled his board so it slowed and cracked into mine. I was shocked! My board slid along next to/under his leaving me little room to move. He kept his board slow and stalled so I couldn't go anywhere or do anything. He was so close he left me with few options for getting off unless I let myself get caught on the inside, with the rocks.

Hey! I called at him, Hey!!

But I knew I didn't exist. I was invisible. He stalled again so our boards were still tangled.

What are you doing?!!

His back was almost against me, so I reached out and pushed him. Hard. He was solid and didn't go anywhere, but he sped up. I twisted my board over the back of the wave and paddled away, fast.

I was confused.

As I paddled back, feeling a bit distressed by the whole thing, some young guy spoke to me.

I saw that. Do you know him?

No! I don't know why he did that? Why did he do that?

I don't know, but I saw you push him. He laughed.

But I didn't find it funny. It was horrible. And weird. I mean, I was sitting around mostly. Wide. I was only going for waves every so often and wasn't there to hassle and compete. I wasn't hungry. I was no threat. And I don't go about pushing people like that. It was so weird!

Alex came and spoke to me,

Don't worry about it.

But that aggressive man paddled back and sat there, in his spot about 20 metres from me. I recognised him as one of the guys who had been dropping in on that other chick. One of the guys who wasn't pulling off. Yeah, that type.

So I sat there, letting waves go, stewing.

The next wave I caught, I knew he'd be there. I knew he'd go again, but I also knew I wasn't going in. Sure enough, there he was, paddling into my wave. He waited til he was close again, so I had nowhere to go.

What are you doing? I yelled at him. I decided this was crazy and unnecessary, stomped the tail of my board and pulled off, just as he did too.

What's your problem? Why did you do that? I've only had three waves. I'm not being greedy. You're going to hurt someone.

Fuck off!, he grunted at me. As if I'm going to fucken hurt anyone. Hmfph! If you hadn't got that wave, then I woulda. Fucking bitch.

I actually laughed at the ridiculousness of his argument - that if I hadn't caught that wave, then maybe he would have.

Yeah. That's kind of how it works, hey.
Maybe you should start dropping in on some of the guys then. They're getting loads more of your waves than I am.

But I was upset.

Yet another guy spoke to me as I went past,

Don't worry about him. I just let that stuff go.

I understand that attitude, but I find it hard to take that advice for a few reasons. I mean, I'm the first to implicate myself in bad behaviour in the water. I am not always an angel, but I know what I am doing and I know when I'm being greedy/aggressive/rude/disrespectful and I do try not to and I know I wasn't that day. I know I'm not local there, but I was just hanging out really. I wasn't going for many waves, but I was making them when I did. Also, he was only dropping in on me and that other woman out there. I know, because I was watching him. He targeted the chicks and didn't get into tussles with the other guys. What a moron. And from my end, I find it hard to let such aggressive approaches go. Like many women, I'm just not used to being treated like that. I still struggle to get my head around that kind of masculinity and what it is supposed to achieve.

As an incident, I know it's not that big of a deal, but it really rattled me. I wanted so much to go in and leave him and all of that bullshit behind. I wanted so much to get in my car and drive home. But I didn't. I couldn't. I wouldn't! I have as much right to be in the water as that moron - perhaps more considering my low-impact approach to other people's well-being.

Alex chatted to me a bit more when I got back out there. His kindness and friendliness seemed in such contrast to the behaviour of that aggressive guy. I suddenly really appreciated it. Most of the folk out there were nice.

All of this reminded me of my post about lineups the other day. It brought it to life in a way that I would rather it hadn't, reminding me of the dense complexities of these spaces when they get busy and entitled. It made me glad that I pay them so much attention, so I can understand moments like this. So I can keep surfing.

I needed the ocean that day, I needed some waves. I needed it for my soul. As someone whose local is a crazy busy break, I know what it's like when visitors take over, so I am extra careful about that when I do surf other places. I was happy just to be there, quiet and unobtrusive. But it turns out I wasn't. I was invading this man's opportunities and he had to make sure I knew about that. I'm still pretty bummed about it, but I do take comfort in the fact that while I will probably never have to deal with him again, he has to live with himself every day.

As I went in, I saw the chick who had been on the green board.

They weren't making it easy for you out there.

Hey? Oh, no, they never do. I'm used to it now. She shrugged off their behaviour and paddled back out.

A resilient lady.

Nice waves though!

2 comments:

  1. I loved reading you post, and hated it at the same time. I loved that you expressed what goes through so many people's minds in similar situations and you did it so eloquently but with such honesty and sincerity.

    I hated hearing that a visitor to this beautiful part of the world that I live in had such a negative experience with some idiot who was probably a local and no doubt felt he had some right to the waves.

    Good on you for staying out there - the ocean is for everyone regardless of where we live or where we're from. For the most part, surfers in Noosa re a pretty chilled and welcoming bunch but you always get the odd dickhead.

    I hope your next visit presents perfect peeling waves and a chilled vibe that will have you coming back for more.

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  2. Thanks for your kind words, Brad.

    I will definitely come back though - that guy was a glitch in an otherwise beautiful and inspiring place! I'm already looking forward to my next trip north, whenever that might be..!

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