The Billabong presents Quemao Class, an invitational event in Lanzarote, had the best waves for a competition in the last 12 months. It also brought back some memories…
“It is the best wave for a contest outside of Pipeline,” said Frenchman, and Machado doppleganger, Adrian Toyan. “It was absolutely epic. 10 foot, maybe bigger, offshore and the most perfect, heavy slab you will see,” said former CT surfer and legendary tube hog Aritz Aranburu. They were talking about last week’s Quemao Class, an invitational only event held at the Canary Island slab of El Quemao. In a week where Nazare went XL and Australia’s East Coast came out of slumber this comp went criminally under the radar. Aritz, who won the event, reckons it’s the perfect place for a CT. Consistent, left and rights, huge barrels, some big turn sections and a wave with that 30-years plus of surfing history and culture. The WSL; are you listening?
Watching the highlights it also had me scanning the, by now, corrupted files of my memory hard drive. My introduction to the wave about 20 years ago had seen me being surrounded by a half-a-dozen long-haired boogie boarders who had repeatedly kicked me in the face in a furious flurry of flippers, before sending me in.
In fact, that initial trip had, looking back, had seen plenty of highs and quite a few excruciating lows. By the end, when I lay in a tent on a Lanzarote beach bleeding, exhausted and humiliated, furiously stroking my penis it was safe to say it had a been a month of swinging fortunes. I’d had many a first light solo session at the La Santa Slab, featuring six-foot powerful perfection. I’d enjoyed the cleanups and the wally rights on some big, wobbly days at Morro Negro. And before the boogers ended my run at El Quemao, I’d snavelled some big, leftovers at the infamous wave.
I’d camped for a month surviving on a diet of boccadillos, Mahou beer and hash; snapped a few boards, made a few friends and more than a couple of local enemies. I’d also wanked myself as hard as any 22-year-old full-blooded male staying on his own in a tent with no female company, three porn mags and a beer-fueled imagination could do.
The quality of the waves though had seen the credits outweigh the debits, but I knew it was probably time to cut my losses and move on. I still had a few boards, most of my belongings and a half dozen rolls of film featuring very good waves that I could bullshit to my mates if, and when, I made it home.
So anyway there I was with a few days left in me. I decided to pitch my tent down on the sand just in front of the rocks at La Santa and spend the last few days just surfing the left out the front. I pegged down the cheap dome tent and returned to the car. With the wind howling (as per fucking usual) I figured I might need a bit more weight and some extra rope. As I shut the boot and turned around, I was just in time to see my tent unpeg itself and start rolling towards the ocean. I immediately sprinted after it and came within fingertip touching distance, before the rolling dome would race ahead tantalisingly out of reach. In a matter of seconds, it would hit the volcanic boulders that line the point and I knew then the race would be over and my tent would be resting on the bottom of the ocean.
I decided that my only chance was to dive for it. My heroic lunge did in fact capture the escapee tent, but I also had the scars to prove it. I had the effects of what effectively was running as fast as you can before jumping headfirst onto 10,000 year old lava. My shins were ripped, my knee was fucked, both elbows and forehead bleeding.
My physical pain was also the least of my concerns. I could hear the laughing and shrieking of the dozen guys in the line-up who had just witnessed their own personal live Funniest Home Video moment. I hauled my partially sodden tent back to its place, re-pegged and climbed inside to lick my wounds, both internal and external. All there was to do was make a sandwich, roll a joint and have one last wank.
So last week’s footage of the legendary El Quemao forced an upswelling, if you’ll pardon the pun, of emotions. Unlike Aritz and co I didn’t conquer the Canaries and return a hero, but at least I have a memory that I’ll never forget. That counts for something, doesn’t it?