When all the elements combine, but you're not there.
We planned our trip a long time ago. It was to coincide with my birthday, so it was easy enough to plan, as birthdays tend to fall on the same day every year. Different to swells however, as they tend to fall on whenever they feel like it, and planning a trip around a swell is nigh on impossible. Anyway, this isn’t about planning a trip to coincide with a swell, this is about missing a swell. A good one.
It has always been a dream of mine to go and see The Wall – the show made famous by Pink Floyd and now performed by the former lead singer and songwriter Roger Waters. Being a Roger Waters fan member on Facebook, I received advance notice of his European tour, and decided on impulse to go to his show in Turkey. I wasn’t keen on going to Wembly, actually I wasn’t keen on going anywhere near England, in case there might be a warrant out for that car I left parked on an island in downtown Tooting the last time I left there, but that’s a different story altogether. Istanbul sounded more romantic, and I was taking my wife along for the show.
The Wall was incredible, and after the show we had a few drinks and went to bed late. I woke up at four in the morning with the Call To Pray braying out from the local mosque, and jumped on the iPhone to see what was happening. There was a lot going on, most of it centered around a swell approaching Cape Town that was being called many superlatives including biggest, best, cleanest, strongest, most scary, and smoothest. It was going to be a whopper, and once it had run it’s course on the Cape Town reefs, was going to light up the east coast, including a two-day run of the swell changing more to the south, and we all know what that does to a few world-class pointbreaks along the Garden Route environs. I was 4 days away from Port Elizabeth Airport, as we had planned a few more little adventures along the way.
“We could go home early’” said my wife. She’s cool like that, knowing that I’m generally ‘more approachable’ if I’m getting some good waves. That wasn’t the plan. I had just experienced the most mind-blowing music concert I had ever attended, and we had more thrilling stuff to do. We went out for lunch.
Fuck Wifi. It’s everywhere. Every little nook and cranny restaurant in downtown Sultanahmet in Istanbul had high speed complimentary wifi, and The greatest Swell To Ever Hit South Africa was talking to my iPhone, making it hot, making it sting.
The images started coming through of Dungeons and Sunset. I wasn’t too fazed, as it bears no relation to the surfing world I inhabit, a world that tops off at about 6-foot, a world that doesn’t see many boards above 7ft. These images, of Frank and Twig were good entertainment, pure and simple. We surfers love entertainment, surf porn, fresh stuff. The swell was providing.
Then the swell reached the points. “Too big”, “too west,” “devil wind,” and “morning sickness” were phrases that I relished from my hotel room, almost willing the swell to get bad. What was I thinking? A massive ground swell and offshore winds overrides fickle little issues like imperfect wind, and morning sickness as we all know, becomes afternoon perfection. Social media channels were pouring it out, websites like this one were delivering galleries in 3D, and there was more to come.
In Dubai, where I was, the swell chart showed a steady, unwavering quarter-foot for the two-week forecast, and the outside temp was a troublesome 47 degrees C. It was the celebration of Ramadan, so one couldn’t eat or drink until sunset unless in specific restaurants.
After our planned adventures were over, it was time to come home. Some of my friends back home had scored the waves of their lives while others, drunk on the whiff of barrel-time, had chosen to continue the chase to Skeleton Bay. When I landed back in South Africa it was raining, the entire eastern seaboard was onshore and the swell had entirely disappeared. I bumped into my mate, Giant Gorn. He told me how good it had been, what I had missed, and finished off with a nonchalant,
“Don’t worry, there’ll be another swell soon.”
Thanks dude. Thank for that.