I knew I shouldn’t have bothered, but sometimes you just need to get your scales wet. It’s onshore surf, crunching on to some kind of sandbank. The wave are really just folding over all along their length – but once in a while, an unpredictable shoulder appears. It’s just enough to tempt me in.
After last week’s glorious mat session, I elect to go in on that. Getting out through the crunchy shorebreak turns out to be really hard work. Several minutes of paddling and about halfway out, I’m starting to feel a bit like Katie Price: the airbag seemed a good idea at the time, but now I can’t get rid even though I’d like to.
I finally make it out the back just in time for a cleanup wave to sweep through. Unlike the Buddha Wave, I’m most definitely not in the spot. I make a try at getting through the cresting lip, but without really thinking it’s going to work. Almost straight away I get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that Captain Matthew Webb must have had, the moment when he realized halfway that his attempt to swim across the rapids at the foot of the Niagara Falls wasn’t going to come off.
I’m pulled back over the falls, and get royally rinsed. Bounce on the sandy bottom a couple of times, and come up in waist-deep water, still clutching Katie to my chest. I’m standing in the shallows trying to decide whether to paddle out again when I hear a whistle. Turn round with a sinking feeling: this can’t be happening. But horrifyingly, it is; the lifeguard’s whistling me in. The thing is, I qualified as a lifeguard myself, years ago, and I’d be whistling me in too. What a kook.
In the end we have a chat. His name’s Junior, which is a hell of a misnomer: he’s the biggest, most muscle-bound, most heavily tattooed Portuguese man I’ve ever met, and looks more like a member of Da Hui than a municipal lifesaver. Junior tells me it’s OK to come back with a surfboard – but “Not this thing”, he says, pointing at Katie. I can’t blame him for doubting.
Poor Katie: some you win, some you lose.