Zigging when you'd expect to be zagging sometimes pay off.
Over the four or so days of this Easter break, venturing to the odd spot instead of the most popular spot paid off with high quality waves with virtually no one in the water three times out of five go outs.
Last Thursday, after getting all things on my list out of the way I did a quick run to a spot I had a suspicion about. A spot that is usually a beginner crowded semi close out that is legendary for occasionally turning on. Inside a bay and rarely above three feet, it is one of those novelty waves that can surprise. The swell was quite large, very south in direction and long period, the tide incoming and massive, being about as high a tide, at 1.8 metres, as we ever get.
Rounding a bend and looking to the point I saw perfect rights reeling off with a flotilla of longboards and kids on the end section.
Once out and in the water I could see up the line that with the sets, sets that were occasionally touching five feet, there was an inside peak with a tapered wall that ran the full length of the 150 yard reef. Scrambling up there and minutes later I found myself flying down a perfect wave, that wave setting up a couple of hours of surprisingly uncrowded, near Indonesian like tapered watery fun.
On the hull and perfectly suited to the down the line speedy thing, well... you couldn't paint a better or more surprising afternoon.
Come Friday afternoon, Sue and I hit it to stay at my good mate Rod's, where, the morning after a fine evening meal and a fair amount of laughter we scored a reef about fifteen minutes away that had very serviceable three to four foot peelers with just two of us for a while, while only one point away a crowd of thirty or so jockeyed for the marginally better but oh so busy pickings on offer there.
That afternoon I opted to give the wonderful but potentially crowded offerings of Winki a miss to try a reef twenty minutes south. Two hours of me and one other guy on a power packed little slab, touching six feet, the odd one slapping me as I adjusted back to the 6'2" MC, before mostly finding my readjusted feet and getting into the turns after all the hullish trimming. The only downside was on my last wave as I straightened into the darkening channel and found it wasn't a channel at all. I ran slap bang into an inch of water , took all fins out and barely got away without losing my head as well as I hammered across the reef.
Old and blind. I wonder if they have bifocals for the surf.
Next morning, Easter Sunday and a dawn patrol with Marky now, at perfect Winki. This time it was busy, four to six foot and rising, the crowd intense but strangely mellow. Derek Hynd was out, and between chatting we shared the odd wave, he blew the odd mind and I discovered the four foot and under hull goes quite well on set waves at six foot plus Winki. The thing goes like a rocket and as long as I set the rail correctly she holds like a beauty, and flies.
After four hours out there and a wonderful final wave all the way to the valley it was time to watch the finals.
Right from the outset it was so clear Parko was on a roll and poor Mick Fanning's dice were rolling the other way. Make no mistake Mick ripped when he had the chance, but Joel was born for Bells, and this day. Swooping perfection on a wave made to carve on. The guy has such a relaxed way of putting himself into and extricating himself from the most extreme situations with flow and balletic elegance. Full of joy.
His last wave was a masterpiece, I doubt he remembers a single turn, it was so in the moment. At the end as he disappeared into the white water his arms flew happily out, and after Mick's congratulatory hug in the shore pound the arms flew up again as he greeted the crowd waiting on the sand.
Chaired high and doing his victory parade down the beach, just as he passed where I stood amongst the thousands Joel looked at the crowd with this big, white smile.
I felt that at that moment one man's life couldn't get more perfect.
Pics: the various offerings I scored over the weekend in after the fact imperfect and quickly snapped moments that don't do the waves justice, plus an Iwo Jima like Joel raising on the sands of Bells.