The Return

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The return – session 1

Today I am back! I went for my first surf at Kalk Bay Reef in about 5 years – my first surf in more than 3 years. I feel like a grom all over again.

I grew up in Kalk Bay and The Reef was my playground, pretty much my life actually and if there were waves I was in the water. I remember studying for matric, looking out the window and seeing the waves. I couldn’t concentrate on my studies any longer and just had to go for a surf. Just had to! Even if just for half an hour. That was enough to get it out my system and to allow me to continue with my books. There is something about surfing that seeing the waves drives a need to get out there – or is that just a male visual thing? As life moved on and I moved away from Kalk Bay and priorities changed I ended up surfing less and then not at all. However, I remained a surfer at heart and wondered when/where/how I would get back into it. I remember chatting to a good mate once and lamenting about whether I had had my last barrel at The Reef. At that stage I presumed I had actually. And I remember feeling pretty sad about that.

One of the reasons of staying out of the water was that I worked an office job and so it was only really on weekends I could get in the water. Weekends are when everyone else also gets in the water and so the surf was usually crowded. It isn’t fun to drive almost an hour to a “secluded” break in Cape Point Reserve, only to get there to find 20 other guys sharing one peak.

Having grown up across the road, and railway line, from The Reef I never had to travel in order to get waves. The Reef is a fickle wave and may work in the morning and be flat by afternoon. Living opposite the break enabled me to jump into my suit and be in the surf within 5 minutes. Easy, effortless, enjoyable.

As I type this I fondly recall how we had a “system” with my folks when they decided we had been in the water for too long and it was now time for homewaork, supper, bed…. they would hang a towel over our balcony. That was the signal to have one last wave. And yes, there were often times I would get out the water in the dark, long after sunset. And then there was the cruelty of Sunday lunch. My dad had this thing that we were not allowed to go in the water for at least an hour after lunch. Once again that male thing of seeing the waves and not being able to reach them. Torture!

After being so blessed, the idea of now driving to find the surf was not inviting – in Cape Town sometimes you can drive for 3 hours, or more, looking for surf and then end up at home grumpy having not got in the water. Yes, this sounds bizarre considering I now live in Noordhoek with a view of the ocean…

Now though, I am no longer in the corporate world and my photographic work mostly happens on weekends so I can find time during the week to surf. (Now to find those old contacts again to call for surf reports on any given day.)

Back to “My Return”. I have been swimming at gym for a few months now and set myself a target on when I thought I would be fit enough to enter the water again. Yesterday I drove to Kalk Bay, without board, as I presumed there was good surf judging the conditions from the day before. The surf was in the region of 4-6’ and pretty good, if not perfectly clean. I sat and watched for about half an hour mind surfing the waves and happy I didn’t have my board as I did not feel comfortable to make my return in fairly large, crowded conditions. I started psyching myself up though for today knowing the waves would have dropped a bit and expecting less people in the water first thing in the morning.

I spent the rest of yesterday doing some visualizations of what I used to be able to do at The Reef, psyching myself. I admit that I felt quite apprehensive about paddling out at my old spot – what if my body did not follow my brain, how would the new breed of locals view this old timer…having been one of the locals at The Reef I felt a bit uneasy that I may not be recognized as the local I used to be and I remember how we used to view the “ballies” who paddled out onto “our” turf.

So this morning I left home just after 7:30 and drove through to Kalk Bay. I felt that first sense of excitement driving past Fish Hoek and seeing there were still some waves left over from the swell of yesterday, the wind was perfect offshore, the tide just right. Driving into the carpark in front of The Reef a lovely 4 foot set greeted me. Ahhh, this is it Stephen and I wondered what butterflies feel when they are a bit scared….

Smallish, 3-4’ waves, 4 guys in the water, tide going down just after high tide, wind a bit side shore from the NE but good enough to still hold up the waves. Will my body follow my brain…

I eased into my first wave and all felt good, actually really good and in the flow. My second wave and I was in familiar surroundings as I enjoyed my first barrel of the day – I came out looking like the proverbial Cheshire Cat with a  big grin. I was a grom again!

I enjoyed many more waves and managed a good 2 hour session so I’m happy my fitness levels are ok. As I enjoyed more and more waves so my confidence grew and soon I felt really at home again in my old playground.

Keep watching this space as I follow up on future sessions.

Instinct coined the phrase which is so true:

“Only a surfer knows the feeling”

The Return Part II here