IT’S funny when you hear the sound of a surfboard crunching under a car’s tyres for the first time. You just know what it is; you don’t have to see it. We’d just been out at Angelsea on the Victorian south-west coast, near Bells Beach. It was huge, and cold, and we gave it a shot. But it was too huge, and too cold, so we came back in and Ross managed to catch the only wave he would on his newly Ferrari-red painted Firewire ‘unbreakable’ – in normal conditions, like water – board. I was struggling to put my socks on while enduring frigid winds in the front seat of the van when I heard the sound of his board’s fins being dragged across the carpark’s tarmac. I hesitated, hoping I’d imagined the sound. Then wandered to the rear of the van to see him standing over what appeared to be an intact board. The villain – wearing a dopey look on his face, a shitty jumper and ripped jeans – got out of his pea-green Ford Falcon and staggered over to the crime scene. “What happened?” I asked. In answer Ross picked up board revealing the back corner split from the rest of the fibreglass and the two ruined fins.
‘Shit,’ said the guy.
‘Yeah shit,’ said Ross.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said.
Ross shook his head and sort of wandered around as if he was looking for his brain for a moment. I sensed disaster, but cooler heads prevailed. The guy was outnumbered – if my comrade jumped him I’d have no choice but to make sure he prevailed.
‘Man, we just went for the first surf of the trip and now my board’s ruined,’ said Ross.
‘Where are you guys from?’
‘Brisbane,’ I offered.
‘Well I can lend you a board if you want.’
Ross explained with saintly calm we’d driven from Melbourne and had about 10 days to get more than a day past Adelaide, then back again for a flight home. We couldn’t borrow then return a board. Though we later discussed the idea we should’ve ‘borrowed’ his board and neglected to return it.
‘It’s my only board, we don’t have time to fix it and I don’t have the cash to buy a new one. It’s a $1000 board,’ Ross followed. Silence reigned momentarily. ‘Fuck! We’re not even a night out of Melbourne and the whole fucking trip’s ruined!’
‘I said I was sorry,’ he repeated pathetically. I could’ve strangled the bastard.
Silence returned. For a long time; long enough for me to realise how hollow I felt, to notice the sounds of the surf breaking on Vic’s rocky coast; long enough for me to start feeling out the disappointment that had come with this event. I had to try and progress things. ‘So, what’s the solution here?’ I said, meaning, ‘You should offer to pay for the man’s destroyed stick, you stupid motherfucker!’ But the silence continued agonisingly into the afternoon.
So Ross finally concluded ‘Alright, it was an accident, don’t worry about it’. Upon which the guy limped to his car and took off. We even forgot to note his licence plates. But what purpose would that have served? He clearly didn’t have any money, or just wasn’t going to spend it, and the cops wouldn’t give a flying fuck about what happened. So Ross and I said a bunch of useless things about what should have happened, what shouldn’t have happened, and what definitely shouldn’t have Goddamn happened, then continued getting ready to take off. His ruined fins flew into the bushes, while what remained of the board disappeared into its cover like a coffin into a grave. As I walked to the passenger side I couldn’t help take note of the Wicked Camper’s paintwork: a skull, with ‘Till death plays its part’ written on the side. Ominous. But, after driving west in silence toward Angelsea Ross spotted a bottle-o and took an immediate illegal right turn into a less than precision park. As I sipped a Tooheys Pils back in the car, watching Ross find just exactly the grandpa’s cough medicine he needed, I could almost feel things were already starting to turn around.