When you ride a surfboard that is a bit over 9 feet long, you have to learn some tricks for manoeuvring it around the place. My board is not only long but is wide so my arm barely stretches to reach around its thickness, and I have to lock in my fingertips and elbow to make sure I don’t drop it. Years ago, when I was fit, this was not a problem and I could happily skip up and down walkways to the beach, a longboard clutched under each arm. Alas! No longer. These days I struggle to carry my heavy board very far at all, so instead I lift it onto my head where the weight and length is more easily managed. Because I ride longboards, I am used to seeing people balancing boards on their heads, and because I carry them this way myself, I guess have come to assume it as a pretty normal sight. But, apparently, it’s not so normal here in Newcastle.
The other day, as I walked along the coastal path to go surfing, I passed a school group. As I passed them playing soccer on the sand, the teacher smiled at me. ‘Gosh, aren’t you clever carrying that on your head’, she exclaimed as I walked by. I laughed. A little further on, closer to the pool, a group of people having lunch stared at me as I approached. ‘Nice work balancing that. Very well done.’ Again, I smiled. But by the third comment – Well, that’s impressive – I found myself bemused by the interest in my board-carrying style - it reminds me that longboards are still are bit of a rarity around these parts.
Since then, I ‘ve kind of embraced the continuing interest in the spectacle I create on my short sojourns from the edge of the city down the sea. But yesterday, when I was in the water, I discovered that my board-carrying walks might act as more than an amusement for passers by. I was sitting in the water when one of the local guys paddled out, ‘Hi’, I greeted him. ‘Hi’, he replied and then asked the requisite, ‘Getting some?’ I replied with the equally requisite, ‘Bits and pieces. It’s kind of fun, the tide is still moving though.’ This break is heavily reliant on the tide, but I love surfing here so I’ve come to know exactly when to arrive to get the most time out of it. He smiled, ‘Yeah, but I know it’s time to surf when I see you walking past with your board on your head!’ Amused as I was, I have to admit that I felt a little proud of having become a tiny part of surfing life, tides and times in this bit of Newcastle.