Surfing is something that resides in treasured depths of not just my mind, but also my heart. It would require countless blog posts for me to comprehensively philosophise about it, and many more to properly discuss more technical or practical elements of it. This post will concern night surfing. And particularly one night surf. Though surfing at night is a different beast to surfing during the day, one night surf could only vary from another based on location, temperature and other conditions of the environment so this will be the one post I write about the specific topic. And I write this post for no more significant a reason than that I recently went for one of the handful of night surfs I’ve had. On June 23, 2013 at about 5pm a Super Moon occurred. In laymen’s or perhaps even scientists’ terms (but perhaps not a scientist’s language) a Super Moon is an event in which the moon passes as close to the earth as possible – presumably only as a full moon. On the 24th of June I noticed a Facebook post by Australia’s Surfing Life magazine that featured a video of night surfers. I don’t know where they were, I don’t know when exactly they were surfing. And I don’t particularly care. I enjoyed watching the dudes in it ripping waves to shreds in the pitch dark, aided by floodlights and probably a full moon. And quickly decided I wanted to go for a surf that coming night. High tide was at about 9.30pm – funnily enough as the moon was above the water. So I suspected a full moon surf at my local beach break was a definite prospect and headed down to said beachie just before dark in order to conduct some recon on the situation. I discovered a solid three-to-four-foot right hander breaking just to the south of and across the front of Palm Beach’s 7th Avenue. It was pretty good, and not many people were out there. I probably should have been out there for an afternoon surf, but it had become time to wait for the no-longer super moon to hang above the water as a heavenly surfing beacon.
I was hoping to have some company out there in the relative darkness. Despite putting the word out on Facebook I didn’t manage to attract enough interest, however, and one person who was keen ended up heading to a nearby point break – Snapper Rocks – a little earlier, instead. I suggested to him he could surf the beachie after riding Snapper but he said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get back into his sopping wet and freezing wetsuit, which was reasonable. I told him to man up anyway. So I headed down to 7th at about 9pm to see what I could see. Which wasn’t a lot, though the moon was doing its best to enlighten the situation. I could see the same right hander I had just three hours earlier, and perhaps unsurprisingly there was no-one out in the water. The wave would appear quite suddenly from the Pacific Ocean’s depths as its energy hit the sand bank and the moonlight hit its newly formed bulge in the water’s surface. Though not particularly keen on the idea of doing it alone, I realised I had no choice and decided to paddle out. If not for the fact that I do own but rarely use wetsuit booties, I’d not have bothered. The air temperature was something like 6 degrees this night, while the water temperature was probably somewhere above ten. In that case I guess you could say all I really needed was a wetsuit hood or something, but from experience my toes tend to get cold no-matter how much of the rest of my body is covered. So on the booties went. Then I put on a long-sleeved wetsuit shirt I fortunately had. And over that went my wetsuit. After waxing up the board, I was ready to rock.
I walked down to the beach past one woman checking out the natural splendour of the full moon hanging over a calm sea. “Are you serious?” she asked, quite shocked.
“Well, there’s no one out there,” I assured her. Then after I’d made it down to the sand whose coolness didn’t thankfully penetrate my feet thanks to the booties: “It certainly is cold though,” I concluded to her.
She said nothing more but stayed put as I placed my board on the sand, strapped the leg rope around my ankle and began to walk out through the shore break. I could barely notice the cold due to the fact that my legs were pretty well sealed between my booties and the leg of my wetsuit. Neoprene is an amazing substance. Once I’d passed as much of the relentless white water I could I laid down on my board and paddled out. Fortunately the waves weren’t breaking terribly powerfully and I could see the white-water easily in the lunar light, so duck dived a couple of waves without much trouble and found myself sitting behind the break zone – where I’d been thousands of times before but not often in the same context. One of the best things about surfing during a sunny day, when the water is clear, is that you can almost feel like you’re floating on an air pocket metres above the shallow ocean bed. This is also reassuring because you are able to see any potential hazards like rocks, or sharks. During this night surf I remember thinking it was mildly reassuring that, with only the moonlight’s aid, I could actually see the sand through an eery green watery prism. A more than usually intense focus was however required just below and in front of the horizon, to notice when a rideable wave was approaching.
There was a bit of southerly in the swell during this night. So I’d look a bit to the south when sizing up approaching waves. The first one wasn’t much good. Unfortunately the moon wasn’t far enough to the west and hence not casting its light directly on the face of the wave, so darkness all but reigned as I paddled on to it facing west. The highlight of the hour I spent out there was one particular wave. I managed to stand up ok – which is difficult wearing booties that fill up a little with water – and get my feet in a good position for riding across the face. I pumped along the wave quickly and did a savage little cutback right into the pocket where the lip was forming. The difference between performing this manoeuvre at night instead of during the day was that, and any fellow surfers out there could probably relate, I had to do it more based on feel than sight. I could feel through my legs and sense from my momentum how the wave was breaking and knew almost exactly when to push my back leg out to carve some water from the wave’s lip; then when and at what angle to push my front foot out to bring the board around parallel with the wave’s direction of travel again. It was exhilarating. If the wave itself had been a little better I would have been letting out whoops of excitement. My new surfing goal that I may never fulfil is now to get a barrel while night surfing. The moonlight would shine through the lip of the wave above to create an icy-green cavern I’d be crouching within. Just thinking about it is wonderful. I caught a few more waves after that one, and enjoyed sitting out there in the warm water and cool air while trying to convince myself that random movements in the water around me weren’t due to sharks circling. Then I decided I probably wasn’t going to get any better waves than what I already had, so caught one in. A fantastic experience. Heavenly, even. The closest to true inner-peace and quiet I’ve ever come without leaving but physically sitting at the edge of a major Australian city like the Gold Coast. Well, obviously sharks were a small concern. But night surfing is like any beneficial endeavour: if you’re realistic, dismissive or even contemptuous about your fears, you become empowered to achieve your dreams.