Article

Sand On The Wind

A Tall Tale From Africa’s Longest Left

| posted on February 27, 1987

Kiron Jabour, making the daunting look inviting. Photo: Pacotwo/We

The wave is changing before our eyes. It wasn’t here 20 years ago, and every swell is having an impact on its future. It’s already less makeable than the famous Cory Lopez session. Less secret too. Twiggy cringes: Two years ago, he says, you would have been lucky to find someone to paddle out with. Today there are 30 trucks lined up. It’s a scene. Still, the crowd is not really an issue.

I see a friend for the first time in two days, though we have been surfing the same point the entire time. The 2-mile conveyer belt, the mist, all the rubber we wrap ourselves in, and the pulsing sets keep us anonymous and the crowd spread out. The locals have yet to snap. Seals are the real locals and we are told not to look them in the face. They are in culling season now, thousands are being killed, and they are not happy.

The wind swings hard cross-offshore as the tide fills in, the swell surges, and I stand shivering at the top of the point, ready to commit to the experience again. The current pulls at my legs as I wait for a gap in the sets. My feet ache from the cold—booties not solving the problem of the icy Atlantic. When it’s time to commit, I drift with the current, scrambling to make it out the back before the next set of guillotines comes marching in. A seal pops up next to me, scares me half to death, and bares its teeth in a sign of aggression. I keep my head down and push on. The lines start to show, my heart climbs into my throat. This is it. I’m going no matter what. The wave is a beast and I scramble to get wide and paddle hard to try and match its speed as it charges down the point. I’m in. The roar becomes deafening as I grab my rail and the pit snatches at my back.

Shaun Tomson once said time slows down in the barrel, but this wave breaks all the rules. My line changes several times through the 220-yard tube. I have time to adjust, time to think, time to laugh out loud, and throw a wave at the hooded soldier paddling over the shoulder. But it all happens at full speed. Who cares how long it was? It was five times longer than anything I’ve ever experienced.

From the bottom of the point I survey the carnage. The waves continue to roll in, but I’m exhausted. Bruises cover my body. I’m dehydrated and sunburned. I exit the ocean and join a procession of rubber-clad casualties shuffling back up the point. One more, I tell myself, and then I’m done.