I glance down at my watch. It’s just after nine a.m. Over the top of my coffee cup, I scour the ocean. It’s a wild and bumpy canvas smothered with mood today. There’s only going to be one decent spot, I think aloud. Jumping in my car, I leave Currumbin, heading south.
Turning the corner at Snapper Rocks Road and getting your first glimpse of the lineup is an experience every surfer should have at least once. Today is busy. I crawl along eyeing any potential spots to park whilst also trying to calculate how good it is and also how crowded it is; the answer to both is “very.” I dodge kids on skateboards and oblivious pedestrians as I begin to turn back up the car park. Lo and behold there is a free spot and not even a sign of the recently vacated car, an omen perhaps? I allow myself a little smile, slip in, and give the handbrake a good yank.
Zinc on my face, wetsuit on, a rub of wax and car keys hidden behind the front wheel, I head for the beach. The crowd is a lot bigger than I first thought. It’s nothing new though, the Gold Coast has this uncanny way of making surfers magically appear at any time and on any given day. Dropping my board to the sand I begin to do some stretches, the smell of now-warm neoprene hits my nose. Squinting, I make out a surfer paddling into a head-high bomb behind the rock. The sandy wall slows for a second as he gracefully stalls, slips behind the veil and out of view for a couple of seconds before reappearing. He doesn’t make the next section and is eaten up. It doesn’t matter as there are already three figures scrambling for the remaining wall that is still breaking. People are all about business today.
I make my way out into the lineup after waiting out a hefty set. Every man and his dog are out here today. South American students with mustaches, middle-aged rippers, acne-faced boogie boarders, golden-haired groms, cool kids on mid-lengths, and everything in between.
It doesn’t take me long to witness my first altercation of the morning. I have an unhindered view from the shoulder as one of the better shortboarders airdrops into possibly the wave of the day. Charging down the line toward me, he is eyeing up his first maneuver. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an elderly kneeboarder wearing a retro wetsuit and Speed Dealer sunglasses decides to drop in. It seems that the kneeboarder is on a kamikaze mission. His disappearance over the ledge is followed quickly by a loud yell. How did this altercation go down? Who triumphed? And did the kneeboarder lose his sunnies? I surely hope so.
Time limps by while the melee around me continues. I finally snag a little one on the inside that involves a twisting game of dodging heads and loose boards. It’s all too reminiscent of Whac-a-Mole. I make eye contact briefly with a certain blonde-haired three-time world champion as I paddle back out. He nonchalantly steams his way out the back and within seconds is locked into a perfect teal tunnel, to which I have a front row seat. I notice now that there is a spattering of guys swimming with cameras added to the mix; the elite are out and shutter clicks make money.
The standout of the morning though is a middle-aged guy. He looks as though he would turn up at your house to fix that leak beneath your sink, all the while his beer belly poking out from beneath his shirt, hinting at long afternoons spent at the local bar. With tenacity and agility that shouldn’t match his physique, he shouts his way onto a handful of the biggest set waves to roll through. His style isn’t anything to get excited over and his board looks older than most of the guys in the lineup, but his smarmy face as he paddles back out is priceless.
Another altercation pricks everyone’s attention and adds to the electricity in the air. The offender paddles back out with swiftness as his victim gives chase. Thrashing the water and snarling like a demented dog all the while shouting expletives that might turn a nun’s hair white. The offender then stops and turns to confront his aggressor and so begins a tennis match of insults and finger pointing that, well, is actually quite funny. I have to hide my smile.
I patiently wait to position myself with careful consideration, and eventually, Snapper Rocks delivers. I turn off the bottom and am casually joined by a boogie boarder for the next section before he decides to go off the back. He’s seen that it’s about to go fat and he doesn’t want it. How considerate. I duck a couple of waves heading back out before coming up to a voice that is somewhat familiar. Another world champion is now caught on the inside and tangled up with a confused gentleman who I believe very possibly to be Brazilian. He berates and gesticulates that the guy should use his eyes next time. It quickly becomes apparent our wrongdoer doesn’t speak English and likely doesn’t realize he has just committed a cardinal sin against one of the greatest athletes to ever pick up a surfboard. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind as they part ways and I catch myself shaking my head. I decide I will try for one more before heading in.
Walking up the beach pulling hair from my forehead, I take in the line of cameras along the footpath. There are seven in total and not a bikini in sight; after all, it is winter in Coolangatta today and only a top of 22 degrees Celsius. The line of cars into the car park is longer and slower now. An SUV matches my pace as I walk before the passenger window buzzes its way down. A bushy-haired grom flashes me his big white buck teeth.
“Any good ones, mate!?”
I give him a grin. “Yeah, mate. It’s not even crowded”