Peter Morrison, David McArthur, Dugald Christie-Johnston, Bradley Smith, Stephen McCaughey, Mark Neumann, Ross McCorkell, Graeme Murdoch
DOUBLE TAKE: By Graeme Murdoch
AUSTRALIA'S SURFING LIFE 2005 Photo Annual "Seasons" Page 44
I'm delirious enough for God or Huey or whoever to tap me on the shoulder and whisper so mate, here it is, what do you reckon? I'm sitting between sets at the head of a left hand reef. A B-grade wave by this chain's standards is having an A-grade couple of days and it's answering an idle prayer I've thrown up for the last 15 years without expecting a response to.
Me and the mates Ð PM, Spike, Macca, Rossi, Braddo, McShack and Doogs Ð are halfway through a Mentawai boat trip that's within reach of any Australian surfer with the means to save up four grand and two weeks off work.
It's all so commonplace and popular and easy these days. There's thirty (!) boats who want you on board. Thirty captains to take charge, thirty chefs to cook you a brekky omelette, thirty indo deckies to race you out to the lineup in the ships runabout, thirty other deckies to share a laugh with.
And they're kept busy all through the ever-lengthening Indo surf season by a constant parade of customers touching down and sweating the snakes and ladders queues of Padang airport arrivals. In our line alone there are tight-knit eight-packs of surfers from Margarets, the Central Coast and the Goldie. There are Brazillian and French surfers. Mostly though, there are the Americans, abandoning all inner monologue in their high-fivin', runnin'-commentary, I'm-a-good-bloke-but-I-just-might-have-pissed-my-pants excitement.
And so this excitement begins for all of us, the overnight channel crossing where the armada splits and regroups in smaller numbers at different breaks. The Captains on their radios co-operating and scheming, a hundred FCS keys screwing fins, tropical wax and zinc cream and betadine, Lances, Diablos, Playgrounds, Bells and Burgerworld, boatloads surfing in shifts, swell pulses and lulls, Bintangs and digicams and iPods and payouts and loving it all but hoping for a few less boats and a few more waves.
We're halfway through the trip and the mighty Barrenjoey sits alone, anchored half a k down the line where the reef finally ends in a bend to the beach and IÕm wondering, why do I feel so privileged to be sitting here? Why does this left feel so completely and utterly right?
That's when I realise a playful and generous god has erected some kind of huge mirror reflecting my home break and has created a classic east coast pointbreak, he's imprinting on this reef a strong south easterly groundswell at mid tide on a still autumn day. Everything's Burleigh reversed: the water colour; the texture and the angle and the speed of the faces; the way it's perfect but not perfect; the way you're turning with the next 50 metres in mind.
15 years of surfing with my back to the Burleigh wall and wondering how it'd feel on my forehand are answered and the answer is it feels fucking unreal. Macca paddles back up to the spot and reads me with a you're-loving-this-aren't-ya-mate grin.
It's sacrilege not to surf eight hours a day when you're offered this so we pledge our skin to the sun and our shoulders to endless return paddlebacks. And as I fix this reef as a beloved Burleigh reversed, I can NOT let the smaller inside ones go through untaken. I'll picture the boys Ð a goofy-foot Harris brother, a natural Nick Heath or Brad Jeffries swarming all over the place, and figure to let anything go to waste is to do these blokes some kind of disservice.
But the occasion and the sun and the Neurofen will play tricks on you after a while. One arvo I'm wearing a pair of Oakley water-sunnies around my neck and start thinking they're earphones and wonder why they don't fit my ears and why nothing's playing through Oem. I can feel my retinas burn and sting, and worst of all start dreaming at one stage of how I could murder this wave on my backhand. Talk about a fickle mind.
Soon enough the blood red blob of the sun sets on our two days here and we sail overnight back on to the chess board of boats and shift surfing and the next day we're anchored next to a boat full of Aussie blokes at a murderous right. Rossi slinks over on the runabout hoping to get the footy scores off Oem, but they're from the Central Coast and don't care about how the D's went against the Bombers.
A shifty left a couple of k's away catches our eye and we motor to check it. I'm leaning on the bow rail, peering and freaking out: Every distant wave has another identical wave directly behind it, feathering and falling in exactly the same place at the same pace. I take off my sunnies, clean Oem on my t-shirt and rub my eyes and try to focus on the nearby horizon of the blue tarpaulin, the white painted railings, the ropes. Every edge has a ghostly, hovering apparition. Holy shit, IÕm seeing double. I surfed Burleigh's twin for fifteen hours in two days and now I'm seeing double.
The heat and the waves and the Bintangs and the mates. The Mentawais have got me.