It was such a beautiful Saturday – another of those perfect September days that we seem to be blessed with every year after the tourists have all left and the kids have finished their summer break and are back in school.
We were up early and loading the van with boards and and an icebox full of grub. A quick coffee for me and some cereal for the kids and we headed straight for the beach. Roisin had a morning appointment, so would cycle to the coast and join us there after lunch.
By 9.30am I was clambering down the goat path following our twin 12yr olds and looking out at perfect, clean little waves spinning across the beach. We paddled out and joined a handful of other surfers picking off sparkling waves under the already warming sun with barely a puff of wind. It was truly blissful.
The kids were like happy seals, bobbing about in the waves and I paddled across to a right-hand peak that I knew usually started to turn on as the tide pushed up. Sure enough, luck was on my side, and the next set produced a zippy right that lifted me up before catapaulting me down the line. Even as I was racing across the smooth aqua face I was holding onto the moment, burning it into my memory, knowing that it was a gift of a wave on a near perfect Cornish morning.
It was afterwards, as I waded back in through the rockpools with my wetsuit peeled down to my waist, enjoying the sun on my back that I thought of him. Ray always loved this beach, he’d been a regular here for decades – one of the locals since the early 80s, always happy to chat between sets. I’d heard that they’d discovered a tumour at the beginning of the year and it was about as bad as it could be. The doctors had given him just a few months to live.
Why did I think of Ray on that particular morning? I hadn’t actually heard any news of him for a while. Perhaps, my subconscious was reminding me, as I was counting my own blessings to be out surfing with my children on such a beautiful day, that others were not so lucky. Maybe that’s why I’d thought of Ray, who in all probability would never surf this beach again. So right there and then I silently wrote his name upon the memory of the wave I’d enjoyed so much. It felt right. It felt like we’d shared that wave. I joined up with the children and we headed back to the van to scoff sandwiches and glug down some cold juice. Not long after Roisin arrived and soon we were all back in the water catching waves and enjoying the rest of the afternoon.
The next morning brought an altogether different day – Sunday dawned cloudy and damp with a gusty west wind that would have ripped the small surf to shreds – not a beach day at all. In the afternoon I got a phone call to say that Ray had passed away on Saturday morning at about 9.30am.
(Ray Tovey – RIP)