A Sad Goodbye to an Old Friend

Tuesday, 19 May 2009 16:23 | Written by  Murray Williams
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The surf only cranks seriously at Bikini Beach a few times a year. So when the forecast came in late last week we started to dribble with excitement.

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I paddled out at Gordon's Bay Main Beach, out round the harbour entrance, and south towards Steenbras point.

The waves peal along the cliffs beautifully and then rise up to break off Nun's Pool, just south of Bikini Beach beneath the road.

It's one of a few spots which break only when the surf is huge - De Beers reef off the Strand, Paranoia just south of Koeel Bay, and Bikini. The swell cruises in and then gains huge momentum as it funnels down on to Bikini Beach, and does its best to destroy the dollosse.

...perfect for surf-skiing

The Wedge/Waverunner life-saving ski is a craft of great beauty ... you can skate down the face, wedge it sharply left, carve into a bottom-turn, and then return over the falls, without a fear in the world. The hammer-head nose and banana-esque rocker offer a purpose-made design perfect for surf-skiing ... as the sport was originally intended.

I'd caught several beauties, hanging left on each wave, and then pulling out at the last minute before the final beach break crunches on to the harbour wall's scary piles of concrete Lego.

After a few fantastic runs, on what was to be my treasured Blue Bird's last flight, I paddled far off the cliffs in search of the wave of the day, and found it. I'd just been joined out at the backline by the good Doctor Willem van der Westhuizen, who will attest ... it was truly a magnificent wave.

Gnarly

After a gnarly but stunning 30-second ride, I pulled hard out left in front of the harbour wall, and turned to paddle out. But bearing down on me was the next wave, even bigger, which had just broken across the entire bay. I paddled hard to punch it as hard as I could, but the wall of whitewater hit me like a Mack truck. My ski was lifted 45 degrees skywards, and the wave took me with it, dragging me back, still facing the sky, at full tilt towards the harbour wall.

I rolled, keeping my feet in the straps, to slow myself off the wave, but the whitewater thundered on - with my boat and I in tow.

Reluctantly, I baled and dived, with my paddle.

Surfacing, I was about 15m from the harbour wall, and watched as my boat was hurled on to the dollosse like a matchstick. Not pretty.

The swim was tough, as the water was seriously churned, but after ducking a few more monsters, and swimming sideways out of the main force of the swell, I managed to bodysurf on to the beach.

A guy from the Gordon's Bay yacht club was one of the many who had been watching this carnage from the shore, and leapt down on to the dollosse between sets and retrieved the remaining one third of my boat, for which I thank him.

Fine Adventures

My old blue boat and I had many fine adventures - off Tombstones between Strand and Macassar with my paddling partner and Best Man, Darren Tarling, alone between Rooi Els in Strand in pumping southerleys, sometimes carrying crayfish! And, most memorably, I paddled it from Strand to Rooi Els in last year's 25-Year Storm, along with three fellow paddlers of fine pedigree. On that occasion, it would be fair to say that the Blue Bird made all the other boats look silly. The Wedge/Bayrunner is designed for massive surf and the boat performed like a paddleski on steroids, while the other guys' racing boats became unplayable - unable to handle the force, pitch and pace of the vicious northwesterly wind, waves and rain, despite their paddlers' expertise.

To give you some idea, the wind was so strong that when I landed on Rooi Els beach the wind snatched my boat ... and it landed on the Rooi Els tar road over the river, 500m away, for those of you who know Rooi Els! But nothing a bit of duct tape couldn't fix ... for next time.

All said ... a very sad goodbye to a loyal and trusted comrade-in-arms, a boat and friend that never said never.

- Murray Williams, May 18, 2009

PS: No, I wasn't strapped in, in any way whatsoever. In surf that big, it would have been crazy (and quite possibly fatal).

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