A father and son moment.
After a year or two of playing around in the shallows, catching a few foamies, getting a couple of surf lessons under the belt and generally getting to understand the ocean, my ten-year-old suddenly started frothing for surfing. His skills had improved to the stage where he could paddle out into two to three-foot foot surf by himself, and manage to pick up a few little lefts and rights unassisted.
Last weekend I bought him some new fins for his step-up 5’0. They were smaller than the ones he was used to, and he decided that he needed to try them out as a matter of urgency. So we planned our first ever dawn patrol together.
It had been a while since I had been for a surf, let alone a dawn patrol. With him constantly surfing tiny waves with his friends, I somehow found myself sitting the sessions out, catching up on work on my iPhone and generally not bothering with surfing the gutless 2-foot drivel that he was loving so much. Not really one for longboarding, I chose instead to sit in the car and become a spectator. First dawnie however, was the time for us to paddle out together.
We had been through a number of milestones jointly so far. First time standing up; first time paddling into his own wave, first time at backline, first ever proper barrel and subsequent first time me witnessing the absolute stoke of a first barrel, first time getting caught inside (by a set that had even me terrified) and now it was going to be first time dawn patrol.
We arrived at the beach and it was still quite dark and there was no one around, just as a dawnie should be. Perfect little lefts and a few rights spinning down the bank in the offshore conditions. We quickly suited up and paddled out, with the rip gently tugging us out to the backline.
The waves were fun, and even though it was small I got a few. He caught a bunch of waves, pulled into a little bomb-out barrel and thought that his new fins were quite ‘racey.’
Suddenly we both froze, as a fin emerged just a little way in front of us. Just as we were about to commence panic paddling to the beach, we saw another and another. A massive school of dolphins had suddenly arrived, and were slowly cruising past.
A fairly common sight in this part of the world, I relaxed, but him not so much. He paddled up to me and hung right next to me as I held his board and the dolphins slowly swam past. First time seeing a dolphin up close is quite a thrill.
After a few minutes, instead of doing what they normally do and continuing down the beach, the dolphins turned back, and this time they were heading directly for us. They slowly cruised up to us, and I held onto his board and told him to relax. They surfaced next to us, and they slapped the water gently with their tails, making a bit of a splash. They were so close to us that we could reach out and touch them.
Then a giant dark shape broke away from the other dolphin and swam directly underneath the two of us, and my boy watched it closely, not without some fear. My son was a fraction of the size of this Bottle Nose. Normally weighing somewhere between 200 and 600 kg, this was one of the bigger boys.
The dolphin surfaced right next to him, saw him there on his board, and languidly continued along its route, back up the point. I guess it was just saying hello.
We went in afterward. By the time we got to the car park and the adrenalin had subsided, he began to realise what had just transpired - a moment of magic between us and these gentle creatures. It was another pretty big milestone and one that not all surfers are lucky enough to experience.