Father’s Day was the first sign of mercy from Huey the surf god. Was it September 2? Think it might’ve been a week earlier. I was so excited I stayed up all night drinking coffee, smoking, reading, playing video games and watching RAGE, which for some reason was on a Saturday night (because of the Paralympics, I believe). The insomnia was borne of possible wave excitement and sleeping patterns ruined through idleness. At about 4am boredom set in and I ventured forth to 19th Ave Palm Beach’s Maccas for a McMuffin meal. Two little shits and their alcohol ravaged girls were loitering there on the tail end of a night out while I ate and read the Sunday Mail. One of the shits insisted on reading over my shoulder and then, with clumsy manners, commandeered my paper to show his friend the front page about a killer new designer drug – which they were both hopefully (and probably) on. Not long after one of them asked if I was drinking and could I drive them to a nearby house, to which I too politely declined, I found myself at 7th Ave Palm Beach. It was extremely early in the morning; becoming light, but there would be no sign of the sun for a good half-hour. A peaceful, enjoyable solitude overcame me as I stood there watching waves break right toward the surf club. I paddled out into the cold water and warm young sunshine and, despite gaining one wave I could actually stand up on, it was unimpressive. I spent the day with the family in a state of food-fuelled sleep deprivation and slept from 7pm to 11am that night.
Sunday evening about a week later I received a text message from photographer and freeframeproductions.com co-extraordinaire Blainey Woodham (known as Woodhead when he gets out of control). Fingal Head Tweed Shire’s sand pumping jetty was the place to be on a morning in which the most promising batch of swell in weeks was, erm, promising to hit Australia’s most north-east surfable coast. I stayed up all night again and was there about 5am, before everyone else, stunned by a punchy left breaking away from the jetty toward a longer right-hander. An enthusiastic text message sent to four comrades confirmed what they wanted to hear: “I think there’s a wave!” It was a happy sign the break wasn’t even showing the morning sickness so characteristic of most dawn patrols. As the most reliable indicator of a good session being imminent, a father and son ran past me while I smoked and listened to the radio in my car while waiting for someone else to arrive. This had been building for a while, for many people. I don’t have to explain what it feels like to catch a wave after so long starved, to fellow surfers. But to civilians, I’d describe it as a gentle, invigorating electric current running impossibly slowly from my feet the moment they hit the board to my heart as I pulled off the back of the wave. There were smiles all ‘round . . . until it got crowded . . . and especially until those of us who didn’t have to scuttle off to work decided to do the long drive around to D’bah and compete for crowded closeouts.
I’ve had two nights out since then. One on a Friday and another on a Thursday. And one surf at Cudgen further south of Fingal. Possibly more nights out and surfs depending on how quickly this was published (if ever it should see the light of day). On the Friday while hungover, before Cudgen if it helps, I woke up freezing at about 6am in my best mate’s van, that he let me sleep in outside his place in Wooloongabba, Brisbane. I wandered, shivering from the come down and the cold to the local take away joint for a steak sandwich. The proprietor asked if I was “working today?”, to which I replied “God no”. Then I slept in my car for some warmth, after which it got too hot so I moved under the house to sleep on a weather beaten single-person couch. Southbank’s simulated beach overlooking the river and the city was busy; the water cool; the sunlight warm; the many female, bikini-clad uni students and tourists arousing. As I stood, struggling to stay vertical under the savage weight of the hangover, transfixed by a painting of a pair of men depicted during the 1800s returning to shore during a storm in a tiny sailboat at the Queensland Art Gallery, I realised something. I was in no bubble, everything (except the waters of Southbank’s beach, of course) was no longer flat, and I was very much alive.