Waving not Drowning (Why you Never Give Your Friends a Surfboard)
I think drowning would be peaceful she smiled across the glow of the campfire, I took in her bright hair braids, her patterned skirts and beads and inwardly groaned. I for one didn’t share hippy surf chicks sentiments, as a surfer drowning, along with sharks and spiked coral reefs were the enemy. I remembered back to my first surf class and the best piece of priceless advice I had been given; if in trouble out in the water, stick your hand straight up in the air. Don’t move it around or people on the beach will think you are waving not drowning.
Waving not drowning, that tidbit had saved my life.
Several years ago I had dragged my less than athletic friend on a dawn break surf adventure with me. Said friend was not a surfer, in fact he loved nothing better than a traditional pub lock in with all the pale ale he could drink. So you can imagine my surprise when he took the board from my hands and insisted on giving it a go. I shrugged and handed my prized possession over, giving him precise instructions to stay in the ankle snappers whilst I went for breakfast. There was a surf school out so I figured he couldn’t get in much trouble if he paid heed to my words.
Note to self – hairy punks from Manchester don’t pay heed to anyone’s words.
I returned twenty minutes later with an armful of croissants expecting to find him flat out on the beach, full of seawater and finally admitting that yes, surfing was harder then it looked.
Instead I caught sight of something drifting out on the back line, a miniscule vision on the horizon; it was my friend, using the surfboard as a lilo with his sunglasses still on. I dropped the croissants and plunged into the water, fighting against the swell as it took me closer and closer to my floating friend. I could tell he was stuck in a rip as the closer I got the further out he drifted.
Finally breathless I reached out and grabbed the board, my eyes stinging and my arms jelly. He looked surprised to see me and not the least bit distressed. What are you doing? I managed to splutter, chilling, he shrugged yawning. I glanced back to the beach, quickly receding, we’re in a rip, I said, we are getting pulled out. We need to get back.
Suddenly I saw something move on the horizon, felt the sea surge beneath me, like a crackle of static electricity. I saw surfers closer to shore turn their boards and start to prepare for the inevitable, I looked around and I saw it…a massive set heading our way!
There was no way I could navigate one hairy punk, a surfboard and a leash that was trying to strangle my legs back to the beach in time to escape this monster swell. The first wave hit us like a crescendo, I held tight, his sunglasses disappeared, we had enough time to spit out chunks of seawater before the next wave hit. Hanging on was becoming harder. My friend was no longer chilling, but openly panicking.
Waving not drowning.
I could see the surf school like a tribe of ants on the beach. I took a deep breath and stuck my hand up in the air. Straight up like a shining beacon, like a lighthouse. Another swell hit us, I came up coughing but my hand remained in the air, before going under one last time. When I opened my eyes, there he was, the surf school instructor, AKA our savior. He had answered the secret code of all surfers, the hand in the air.