– Azores 2009 –
Looking out from the beach, it was quite in line with what I had imagined. In reality, the length and perfection of the waves exceeded my expectations. They were seemingly so wild and powerful already, which was assuredly far from the actual figure from shore. You could feel an uncommon amount of energy by the continuous flow of projection producing open cavities of water peeling flawlessly along the mile long stretch of reef. It was not more than a singularity born out of far and powerful forces of nature hitting a profoundly exposed and perfectly shaped area of land. There was no such beautiful thing in the world, a truly masterpiece of nature.
The lineup was complex judging by different shapes and sizes of waves depending on the pattern of reef involved and the tide. There was not a soul except me and another guy checking from a watch tower at the edge of the forest. As I was trying to figure out the spot, I promptly came to wonder how the hell you could reach the waves without being pummeled on the reef. The tide was coming up but there was no one out and I thought it was still too low to give it a try.
Meanwhile, somebody appeared in the distance walking from down the reef a board under his arm. He went all the way up the point and finally came to stop, dropped his board to tie his leash, walked slowly on the sharp reef and stood at the limit of the foam about twenty yards from the wall of crashing waves. After a long wait, things calmed down a little and a sketchy channel appeared exactly in front of him. He rushed out and paddled fast but not straight through, with a downstream angle allowing him to take advantage of a rip current running down the point to reach safety faster behind the waves. Immediately after, the passage shut down like an oyster and the waves started hammering down the reef again.
Some time after we saw him take off on a middle sized wave and get a ride as long as a couple hundred yards. He had to kick out before the end to deal with an unfeasible section and it was only at that point that he realized the bigger size of the rest of the set which was hiding behind.
“He’s going to get pounded! ” the other guy said.
His name was Marty, a fellow Aussie of something under fifty from New South Wales.
“He took of on the first one of the set. Maybe not the best idea. ” I replied.
“You’d better be ready for anything out there. Things can change pretty much in a blink of an eye. ”
Marty was the type of character you meet oftentimes in places with good waves. He tended to talk loud and play the tough guy but wasn’t arrogant like most other guys. He used to walk unsteadily with a dragging right leg and seemed to know the place pretty well.
“First time here ? ” he asked.
“Yes. I have wished to come for a while. ”
“So you like big waves? ”
“No I’m just looking for good barrels. ”
“Better know what to expect dude. This place is more powerful than anywhere else. ” He stared at another set.
“Well, I planned to stay more to get used to it. ”
“Knowing the place is what it’s all about. I came here twenty seven times. ”
“I’m nearly fifty. ” He paused for an instant. “I’ve spent nearly all my life surfing, looking for waves, having good times. Look out my skin, I’ve been so burned out by the sun in my life that I’m pretty sure all these spots on my skin mean cancer. These days I can barely walk because of a problem with the hipbone. But I don’t complain because it’s my right hip and I’m regular footed, so I can still surf left handers. Taking off backside does not require my right leg so much. As I’m slower to stand up on a wave, I can only go for the bigger ones. Anyway even if I wasn’t impaired I wouldn’t want anything else than big barrels anymore. ”
“You can’t fix that hip ?”
“What for? My body is washed up after years of mistreatments of all kinds. I lived pretty much to the fullest and I know I’m pretty close to the end, so whatever. ”
He was right after all. It had no importance. Nothing has, we all end up eating shit the same way in the end. We kept watching there and I was rather interested to find out how to paddle out. There seemed to be two options. The first one was the versatile keyhole. A safer way to begin was to undertake a long paddle of several hundred yards all the way down the reef.
I had much time to think on the first time I ventured paddling to the waves, figuring out their actual power at each paddle stroke towards the lineup. The weather was warm and clear but it was hard to see sets coming and even harder to figure out where to sit. Sets looked to come at a long interval which was also the sign that they double up on occasion. A massive line of water then popped out from outer space. The vision of this force marching right at you drives singular feelings of exaltation and intense fright. There’s no escape other than paddling right at it in turn with the hope to escape. While I was getting close, the enormous steamroller rose into something like the glass front of a small building which was bearing down upon me. On my left side I could see the translucent seawall crashing up the reef producing a truck size tube peeling in slow motion all the way down the point. When it reached my position, I was just in time to get through the peaking crest and made it safe to the other side before it broke. Another shit was already on the horizon again.
Copyright © 2017 five-sigma.com
– Nicaragua 2009 –
– California 2002, 2004 –
– Maldives 2004 –
With the rocking of a peaceful swell in the wild Indian Ocean, Joe was overwhelmed by such waves of memories and shades of the past on the slow-moving ship. By that time, he was torn about figuring out why he was in the position that he was in, unleashed somewhat earlier by an unreal situation at home. He was fighting to control an immeasurable urge to kill. Even here though, far-off the coast of Sumatra, he couldn’t help but think about that crazy shit that had been driving him mad for so long.
Few people get to really comprehend the truth about traveling Third World remote places. It’s a long and slow ride, sometimes dangerous and mostly uncomfortable. In short, it sucks. But it’s a good start for someone committed to forge an own, authentic path, traveling the hard way, staying at the cheapest and most feral of accommodations like locals. Joe was among those who knew from experience that it’s the only way to travel. The remote tropical waves he had been looking for all these years weren’t to be found following the roads more often traveled. He couldn’t expect too much in the way of creature comforts where he was going. There would be no running water, electricity, cars, toilets, restaurants, and certainly no medical care in the villages near the waves.
On his way to these wild shorelines, Joe was lying drenched in sweat on the outworn mattress, awake in the stinking hot dorm-style cabin of an aging ferry. Here in the middle of nowhere, a kind of shift was naturally happening in his thoughts from the radical change of perspective. In the faint glow of the night sky, as always he came to wonder.
What am I doing here?
An old, cloudy memory was slowly making its way to his brain, recalled by the same trip to these islands many years ago. It was a recollection of a past decision to move abroad to join the research department of a leading high-tech institute, a unique job opportunity for a young man of serious working prospects. He was on and end-of-contract at that time and had no other engagement except that of his own attachment to the little coastal town overlooking the ocean where he had spent the last four years.
Relocation, flexibility and mobility are standard requirements in the logic of today’s working life. Coming from a family of refugees exiled in Europe and having grown up in a poor suburb of a tropical island, emigration was like a second nature for him. But Joe was tired of the incessant moves he had gone through, which were not always the result of a deliberate choice, and were certainly ahead of what most other of his peers have had to undergo. This was sometimes stirring up bad feelings of an adverse fate when he was younger.
Despite the regrets, he firmly made up his mind to leave everything again for a new start. The main thing he remembered when arriving Switzerland in his beater from another age was the profusion of expensive touring wagons. The country was attracting highly skilled foreigners in areas strongly promoting science and technology as well as business with a high standard of living. Joe always suspected that people would be much less willing to go there aside from some unique professional reasons, some call it the smell of money. He recalled the idea came to him that this place was a stereotype of the yuppie lifestyle, which perhaps coincided with the growing realization that his adaptation could take a little bit of time.
Joe went off in the noisy agitation of the unloading ship towards the dock, gently pressed to conclude an endless journey in this near end of day. He was pushing his way through the crush when someone approached him. The young fellow of something under thirty bore a gentle, proud expression under an indescribably emaciated appearance, which seemed to be a common feature tied to the people and culture in this region.
His name was Jupy, a diminutive for Jupiter.
After a few exchanges of words about the motives of his travel, they determined to take a bajaj together to his house, in the surroundings of what looked more of a village than a town, where his own motorized river boat would take him to a tiny island, the end of his journey, hopefully before dusk.
What to expect, Joe really didn’t quite know yet. He wasn’t very enchanted at first about the idea of a late excursion in the thick forest. Little did he suspect the flow of traffic in the middle of this wilderness. Rivers provided the island’s main network of transport in the ancient culture which was common to this archipelago. This type of travel was natural to the people who have been living there for many thousands of years.
The frail dugout canoe was proceeding carefully through the maze of the mangrove, often pausing the engine to prevent any damage from the irregularly shaped depths and banks. After an hour’s ride, they came out of the forest into a channel near a little island from where they proceeded ahead along a lengthy shore. At the end of the wild stretch of beach, there seemed to be nothing except a wave, but arrived closer, they started to discern signs of activity behind the trees.
It was a modest wooden stilted construction divided in three adjoining sections preceded by an open porch. He was struck by this atypical but well carpentered organization. The frontside porch used to become the dining-room when required and the rooms, which were designed for the basic accommodation of a few lodgers, were laid out alongside of two narrow decks. The whole place stood in a pleasant little cleared field, sprinkled with palm trees and surrounded by the dense forest.
The day was nearly over and the sound of an old generator providing barely enough power for light came through him. It was the only settlement in the area. The place as a whole seemed to inspire with a kind of apparent indolence, mixing well with the peaceful setting. It felt like a place that time forgot.
At twenty five, Eliza perfectly matched the career pattern of a successful modern woman. She was a young expat, smart and attractive, completing an advanced degree in a reputable research academy. That sort of thing was not to be found every day among the women of our times. She was a regular runner, climbing on occasions and an avid skier, setting great focus for trendy outdoor sports like most self-respecting wealthy middle-class these days. Each day she used to go cycling to the office, oftentimes having a break at the cafeteria and considering in equal part her next weekend plans on the slopes at one of the many glamorous and popular spots of the Swiss Alps. She would probably join a name-brand firm or a high-tech start-up after her graduation and it would not be very long before she could embrace fully her dream of the Swiss lifestyle.
Eliza had never been so confident in all her life.
She was of this order of beings who had been secure and blissfully unaware of concerns beyond the hole in the ozone layer or their last relationship failure, who could afford in their careless existence to be driven by worthless goals such as to do and be what is cool. She never suspected that her views, conferred by virtue of birth, were nothing but smoke, fantasy distorted by dangerous self-regard that only a hint of integrity could possibly avoid turning into an excessive sense of self-entitlement.
It was partly the perception of a singularity of mind that intrigued her when Joe arrived in the group. There was something of an introverted thinking and judgment, and at the same time an outwardly emotionally detachment. The contrast stirred up a deep curiosity in her mind as they evolved daily in the office proximity of the same floor. This absent-minded face with flaming eyes, it was a strange guy.
Most of the land in the islands could not be purchased and used to be in control of the government or ancient clans who have inherited the land through countless generations. In the absence of registry, some people started to settle in the profusion of hot and humid fields available at the risk of losing their ownership at any time. Like many natives did to escape high disease and death rate on the islands, Jupy’s family was living in town, two hours or so from the camp by boat. The patriarch, who appeared to be a man of about fifty, thin-faced, was lord of a flourishing family consisting of his wife and four children, Jupy being the grown-up son. He was one of the few locals who had long been surfing a wave breaking at the end of the beach where the reef drops off. He later came to clear a small patch of forest and make a shelter, a common practice from when the ancient people used to live off their natural environment. With the recent drawing power of singular surf conditions in this remote wilderness, the feral palm shack had expanded to a modest beach camp permitting the whole family to increase the household income a little whilst reconnecting somewhat with their lost roots and lifestyle.
The old people were always busy all day, the father meticulously hand-building a new palm thatch roofed hut with the help of his sons, and the mother fishing on the reef or gathering in the forest. The unique daughter, helped by her young brother, was in charge with food and logistics for the current visitors. They were supported in their task by the boatman who was taking everyone in the small wooden craft to the nearby villages for supply or to the various islands in search of waves with the guests. Incidentally between two rides, he would try his hand at fishing on some reefs to bring back fresh fish to the camp for diner. The second son of eighteen was the only other surfer, he used to work hard doing a bit of everything and, as far as he could, joined the guests carelessly having fun surfing all day.
With electricity limited to the evening, rooms and facilities were pretty basic, so were the daily meals based almost exclusively on rice, eggs and fruits everyday, with some episodic fish or fresh meat like crab, pig or chicken depending on the collecting success of the day.
In the evening, they used to join by the porch after diner to endlessly play game at cards and smoke their popular clove-flavored cigarettes. When the three guest rooms were occupied, which was most likely to happen, many had to keep sleeping outside in the indeed strange, unsettling and mosquito-infested surroundings of the living forest at night, except for the two parents staying in the relative comfort of the little kitchen shack. In the morning, most of them seemed weary and had sleepy eyes while their uneasy sleep approached an inexorable end with the first lights and rising heat of the day.
Joe started this morning at the office with the socialization coffee ritual. He actually hated to spend time at the cafeteria which he used to consider a waste of time to the detriment of the busy work and responsibilities he was engaged in. Success of his project was determinant for the future of his career and previous decision of moving to this country, which was not the most attractive for him, was totally dictated by these prospects. But the people in this place seemed to attach much importance with these little social gatherings and Joe felt progressively compelled to take part in the daily coffee habit, at least at certain periods.
On the way back to his office, he stopped by his mailbox for a quick check to find only a paper sheet folded in two slipped in the box. He quickly noticed his full name hand-written on the back of the sheet so as to make sure it was directed at him. In the office, alone with his thoughts, he unfolded the paper and started to read.
Voici des fruits, des fleurs, des feuilles et des branches
Et puis voici mon coeur qui ne bat que pour vous.
Ne le déchirez pas avec vos deux mains blanches
Et qu’à vos yeux si beaux l’humble présent soit doux.
J’arrive tout couvert encore de rosée
Que le vent du matin vient glacer à mon front.
Souffrez que ma fatigue à vos pieds reposée
Rêve des chers instants qui la délasseront.
Sur votre jeune sein laissez rouler ma tête
Toute sonore encor de vos derniers baisers;
Laissez-la s’apaiser de la bonne tempête,
Et que je dorme un peu puisque vous reposez.
It would be difficult to describe his thoughts at that moment.
What was it?
However absurd it may seem to take seriously a little paper sheet like that, he had a little idea about who was having a crush on him. They knew nothing about each other before, outside the daily crossing in the office corridors, but Eliza liked him and like a shark smelling blood, Joe could tell. When he ended up knowing, only some time after, that she was engaged in a relationship, he had no idea what was going on. As the typical guy, he was totally clueless about these mind games women play.
Joe had become extremely wary of women in the past, as he had little luck, but had the good sense to concentrate on his work instead. This story was recollecting remote emotions that had been buried deep along the years. He started to spend more time at the cafeteria and pay attention in an attempt to try to learn more. Despite his efforts there was no sign of the secret fan and after a few weeks, the fact had to be faced that someone had played a game with him. It was just an attempt, an observation from afar, a mistake, another of these manipulative and deceptive tactics that have become integral part of the seduction bullshit of our times. That’s what people do these days, in this era of relationship crap where poor trickery of all sorts have finally reached the point of an accepted commonplace reality.
Joe was sometimes grieved because he seemed so unlike the rest of the world. He was not quite certain, but had at times a strong suspicion that things did not happen to him as they did to other people. Others led a quiet, uneventful life, while he had been subject to continual upheavals. He realized early on that traveling through the unknown and insecure was a powerful way to stem his at times oppressive reality, making it fall into oblivion and disrepair. His mindset had been forged in the face of trouble times, where raising the bar to the extent of exceeding his own limits of tolerance and solitude was the only way out.
All this was certainly part of his wish the first time to undertake this trip afar to these feral waves in the back of beyond, away from the crap going on at home, and for the situation that he was in now paddling in the middle of six foot waves with a dislocated shoulder.
He thought of this uncommon place, far from civilization, with the wild forest in the background and especially of a certain spot which he used to frequent, when he would look down upon the surrounding islands and distant reefs, and see the waves, far off, like little silver threads, and the old little fishing boats in the distance.
The call of these waves earned him two more injuries. He knew he would have to travel back to this place, in other circumstances, away from this bad fate he couldn’t get rid of. He longed to be there alone now with his thoughts, in these peaceful moments that this untouched nature seemed to inspire. He knew he would have soon to come back home, sometimes it’s harder than go away.
There were growing signs that despite the brains, the fair-haired beauty who already appeared to have fun playing with people’s mind might not be very far from being a downright shithead. Why dwell on ethics or bad conscience when it was easy, perhaps exciting, to get around that following up with further sordid games? Joe didn’t even seem to understand what was going on, which was certainly inviting to play with in the monotony of work routine. If there was a limit of unscrupulousness, it was beyond her consciousness of shame where she did not seem afraid to go, quite regardless of the possible storms she might encounter.
Joe moved on. For some time he couldn’t be sure but he was increasingly suspicious because of her strange conduct. She was pulling every trick in the book as if it was to get his attention, but whenever they happened to be merely copresent to one another, it was the other way around. There was not the least bit of remorse in this two-faced game which on further consideration was making sense with the rise of a previous player in this afflicting threesome bulshit. This reasoning was leading to a perverse paradox where she had to stay loyal in appearance, keeping at the same time a game with Joe for the sake of saving her little esteem, but always ending up pulling 180° to avoid him like the plague.
Meanwhile, it became equally clear that there were many things going on that he was not aware of. The situation had progressively turned the workplace into the arena of an epic melodrama worthy of all the attention. This little game was proceeding even so far as to undermine his reputation with artful insinuations and its insidious operation on his colleagues mind was manifest. Everyone’s focus was on Joe’s reactions, acting with him in a way to make him feel much oppressed. As a matter of fact, it had to be acknowledged that the whole thing had become the great distraction of the facetious miss at work. She was smart and knew well that what she was doing smacked of a serious form of abuse at work, but it was more than that, the fact was she was unable to realize the need to stop, acting like a playful child, allowing this to become a never ending story. Everyone in the venerable institution was turning a blind eye and this collusion was revealing, as he often thought to himself when she was casting all her defiance at him, out of sight of everyone. It was not everyone who was capable to mislead to this point of machination.
By all accounts, they were dealing with a tremendous mindscrew diva.
The fact is that probably Joe was not quite so black as Eliza painted him in her paroxysm of underhanded, ad hominem attacks. How did he reach the point where he gave himself up to them passively? He loathed the idea of trying to answer the erratic questions that would continually rise up in his mind. He had lost all hope of talking about the situation for everyone didn’t want to care, pretending this manifest case of harassment was a simple case of romance at work.
There’s no possible escape from oppression in the workplace, it’s an unstoppable hysteria. After months of powerlessness Joe began to despair. He could not imagine how he had been so foolish as to let this happen to him. Both his face and appearance gave evidence that he had seen better days. Something was inexorably bound to happen. On a day beside himself, he went for a clash with her. Joe had little to do with a poetic soul, she knew it well and managed to avoid the trouble hidden somewhere nearby for hours. He was left with nothing else than writing an invective giving her firmly notice to stop fucking around with him.
It wasn’t long after a short victimization performance before he was accused as the alleged harasser, in an ultimate irony, by the same who contemplated her hassle every day and kept their eyes shut tight. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore aside from the evidence now that he was surrounded by complete assholes, supervisors included. There couldn’t be any doubt that the situation was benefiting from this collective collusion and that it was never going to stop.
Little by little, the oppression had eroded Joe’s capacity of work, confidence, his mental health and even sound judgment.
After two fucking years going a little short of insane, there was only one way remaining to put an end to all this.
Joe smiled at the craziness of such thought.
“It’s not even five miles long out there, we’re not going to get lost on this fucking tiny island!” shouted Sam, the funny Aussie. He was heading the small procession through the thick forest as they were trying to find a shortcut to the other side of the island. For quite some time, they had been sweating profusely loaded with boards and many other stuff, climbing up the hills over the narrow tracks still muddy and wet from previous rainy night while fighting an incessant charge of aggro “tiger” mosquitoes.
People fail to grasp the deep reality of what’s behind going very far indeed, just for waves or for something else worthwhile in life. They may seem curious at best but will never get even close to imagine the dedication that can be put chasing such fleeting mirages, for the sole delectation of riding perfect waves. With the instant mentality these days, people have little patience for anything that takes time. They afford an overpriced inclusive trip, get their photo or video and go back home post anywhere to virtually show everybody.
That’s how it is now.
Joe was from a different school, another mindset, where you get a feel for the real place and people, put in your time sitting on the beach waiting for the swell to come up and hopefully get some good waves.
He would be rewarded for this standpoint when a combination of circumstances had set him up all alone with the waves for hours of exhilarating withdrawal in this untouched wilderness. Many scenes would be seared in his mind with uncounted mechanical, machine-like, walls of sea water crashing over the shallow reef, infinite visions of tiny breaking points inviting to blow the lip with blinding speed, and downward projections bringing on the same visions of walls all over again. One of the most incredible feeling in surfing is to draw a perfect line. Another one is to go down the back, catch another wave, and do the same thing again.
No money could buy what he had that day.
He would also recollect one wave, on a later day, after hours under the burning afternoon sun with only a few others.
Boats always used to show up for the evening session pouring a herd of folks in the lineup. Unwritten rules granted a set wave for everyone each in his turn, but there would only be a set every once in a while and too many guys. Joe had been around for long, before the crowd, so he would be soon first in the queue and it would be his last wave for the day.
After a patient wait, he suddenly started moving firmly out to sea ahead the rest of the herd. A wave twice the size of the others then appeared on the horizon. Upon reaching the peaking wave, he turned around quickly and paddled quite furiously in opposite direction. When it reached a certain part of the shallow reef and started to break, he got on his feet in compact inclined position, like if it was to merge into the steep moving section. From the crest, a crowd of moving little points appeared furtively underneath, in front of him. Arrived at the bottom, the amount of speed retrieved from all the power of the breaking wave was followed by a deep turn forward and an upward leap like to project the board straight up to the sky. Focusing on a tiny point, his legs a little bent halfway up the breaking wall of water, he set out to position his right arm as a pivot upon almost reaching the top, turning in extension while pushing both legs with all his strength, filling an area of sky with a stream of water mist. It was only after this turn completed with power and flow that he reached the forefront of the horde and had then to weave between boards to make a few other turns.
As he paddled back through the pack to get back to shore around the reef, he could feel the impression made on the crowd.
With a busy week full of tiresome occupation at work behind her, Eliza was in a hurry to leave the office for another weekend trip to the nearby trendy ski domain, an hour or so from town.
Upon reaching her car in the parking lot facing the main buildings where she was parked, she was met with the muffled sound of heavy wood striking the back of her skull.
When she awoke, the impetuous girl was tied up by her hands and feet on a rocky ground, with a headband over her eyes and a gag. Judging by the few sounds of the natural environment around, she could nervously feel and assume that she was in a quite isolated spot and started to try to break loose.
She soon recognized the smell of gasoline and tasted the pool of blood near her head as a downright panic started to hit her.
She could not discern a presence but knew there was someone.
She was so terrified, that she did not understand what was happening, for she could not even imagine a greater agony.
Everything slowed down as she heard the click of the lighter.
The heat came over her in a breeze and the smell of her own flesh burning overcame her.
For the last seconds of her dreadful anguish, she became in turn filled with the brute realization that it was more serious than she wished to think, with the crude reality that it was too late for hope or help, or anything now that the game was over, now that she was going to fucking burn.
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