Man and fish

Bruno Compagnet gets into troubled water, sharing his concerns as well as his joys of surfing an unknown, deserted spot while Layla keeps a watchful eye over the battle from the shore.

I didn’t sleep well last night but it wasn’t the mattress or the sore back. I parked the van just how I like it, as close to the beach as possible and it was maybe the rumbling of the waves crashing onto the mussel and urchin-covered rocks that worried me more than usual.

Layla Jean Kerley

 

Some entries are more tricky than others. Finding yourself faced with incredible waves that constantly break without anyone surfing them for ages does not exactly fill you with confidence either. Even more so since Portugal is a country that is surfed all along the coast near the big towns. The current, represented by white foam and surface disturbance, provides quite an easy read but until you’ve put yourself into the very heart of the maze of rocks it’s hard to be certain of anything. I peer for details, a sign that says this wave is not surfable. Nothing.

I can’t see anything apart from perhaps the fishing nets, indicated by little white floats. The thought of duck diving in rough seas in a sector that I don’t know, or worse, getting cleaned up by a big set and becoming caught up in one of the nets that I’d seen the day before fills me with dread and the feeling is worse at night. Nothing is forcing me to go out there…nothing apart from these perfect waves that are cleanly rolling in from sea. It’s something that surfers dream of…The holy grail of the surf trip.

Layla Jean Kerley

6:30am already, day is about to break. The horizon is brightening up and the light maritime mist turns a pale pink. I watch the waves, the tide is too low but straight away I see two rocks that I hadn’t seen the day before. Reassured, my thoughts turn to the fact that it’s disappointingly smaller than expected. I make myself a coffee and light up a natural incense stick that I love the smell of, which wakes Layla up.

We’re on our third round of coffee when I notice a little fishing boat being harassed by a flock of seagulls. I hoped to see them take in their nets; this wasn’t to be but the size of the boat made me revise my judgement on the magnitude of the waves.

I waxed my board thoroughly, slipped into my stinky, stretchy wetsuit and ran to the beach…If my calculations are right, I should get in between two sets, if I am wrong…

Layla Jean Kerley

The current takes me right away. The cold water and the adrenaline wake me up completely and I paddle like crazy to get through the white water. I find it hard to believe how easily I get through and am now trying to position myself with my reference points but the line up must be as big as a tennis court. Too far on the shoulder and I miss my first waves so I decide to go further inside, only to be totally cleaned up by a big set. The foam must be a good 1m50 high… Not even attempting a duck dive, under I go leaving the board behind. That’s when I really get spun. Three waves on and I’ve drifted a lot but I’m OK and I come up with a more precise idea of where I need to be.

Layla Jean Kerley

The take off is difficult because it’s weak at the start before suddenly becoming hollow and then stretching out. I managed to get going, stand up and take a line allowing me to get myself safely on the shoulder where I can move up and down to vary the board’s speed. As the wave finally weakens, I come off it smiling, raising my hands in the air towards Layla. A session like that is unforgettable and warrants the hours on the road, searching and all the false hopes. All the moments of disillusionment only serve to accentuate the fleeting moments of success and small personal victories. After months and even years, they are the memories that our minds keep fresh and that we can ignite as fuel for our next dream.

 

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