Surfing with the locals

Today I woke up feeling fit, well and energised for the first time since I arrived in Byron and then had a lovely surprise skype session with the ‘rents over breakfast – I had a feeling that it was going to be a good day.

My main objective was to finally hit the surf and, after two abortive attempts, I finally managed to hire a board (I had to go back to the hostel twice, which is a fair trek – once for my wallet and then again for my credit card, d’oh – getting into the water has certainly been a labour of love). I then walked all the way along the main beach with my board to ‘The Pass’, Byron’s most famous point-break. All that walking in the hot sunshine meant diving into the cool water felt blissful. The sea-temperature was perfect for a rash-vest and boardies – incredibly novel after UK surfing, which always requires a full wetsuit. My movements felt very liberated and fluid, especially when paddling. Not that I needed to paddle much – another novel thing about surfing here is how accessible the waves are: no battling through the washing-machine white water to reach the green waves. Instead you just wade out a little way and pick one of the endless, beautiful, evenly rolling peelers and take a long ride in, almost parallel to the beach. Brilliantly simple.

The atmosphere on the water was very chilled out, unlike other surf hot-spots that I’ve experienced, where an aggressive, macho mood can prevail and the locals can emanate hostility towards the groms and outsiders. Here, there were all kinds of different people in the water, lending a relaxed attitude to the whole affair. Families, learners, athletic surfer dudes, graceful old-timers, body-boarders and, I was pleased to see, a fair few very competent women surfers all rubbed shoulders, and I enjoyed being in the thick of such a mellow melee. It was fun watching the pros perform jumps, 360 degree turns and even headstands on their boards, and lovely to see the effortless grace of the older crew, who had clearly been surfing these waves every day of their lives since they could walk. Old men shimmied up and down their longboards with ease, prolonging the ride, and chatted to each other whilst zipping along in tandem. No wonder the Byron community is so laid-back, when surfing is so engrained in the local psyche.

My own surf experience was wonderful. The waves were around 2-3 foot, regular and peeling consistently to the right and, as such, were a pleasure to catch and ride. It seemed so easy, and I felt the usual exhilaration and ‘high-on-life’ euphoria that I always feel when surfing. Such a tonic after my few days of injury and lethargy.

Mind you, I haven’t forgotten my lesson in slowing down. After a fantastic session in the water, I stayed on the beach for another hour or so and watched with pleasure the grace of the surfer silhouettes, feeling the breeze on my face and sun on my skin. I felt inspired to keep working on my own surfing, and sensed how beneficial a prolonged stay in Byron would be for me, on so many levels. I can just feel the beginnings of its positive effects on me, but alas I leave at a very antisocial hour in the morning tomorrow. Oh well, I am glad that I managed to surf before I left, and tap into what I feel is the true essence of the community here, out in the surf amidst the ocean’s rhythm.

Sadly I didn’t take my camera with me, to record the experience, but here’s a photo of surfers enjoying the same spot yesterday, when the waves were a bit smaller.

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