- In The Thick of ItThe North Slopeadvertisement
Fog and the Farm Pt.2
We strapped our boards onto a white Subaru and drifted through the fog like a ghost ship. The car dipped and wove en route to the coast, between paddocks and native trees. Soon we arrived at a farm gate that guarded the entrance to a point. A ‘No Trespassing’ sign stood by the entrance.
“What do you think, should we go through anyway?” Paul asked.
“Let’s do it, what’s the worst that can happen?”
We crept down the farmer’s road and came to a second gate. I stepped out and looked around. The farm appeared to be empty. I opened the gate, followed the car through and latched it behind us. As I climbed back in I heard a voice behind me. I turned around, scanned the hills, but saw no one.
So we drove on. Our tires sliced through gray pudding—mud and sheep excrement—and the cool spray dappled the car’s belly. We approached a third and final gate. Beyond it, a meadow ran to the sea and waves broke along the point.
Again I stepped out to open the gate. The car passed through, I followed behind, and then turned around to clip the latch. Suddenly a scream pierced the air. I spun around to see the farmer racing over a hill on a four-wheeler, heading toward us. I hurried with the latch—maybe he’d leave us alone if we made it through this gate and closed all the latches…
But this latch was different than the others. I bent over to weave one end of the chain through the mesh of the gate and reached with my other hand around the fence post to clip it to the opposite end. Suddenly I lost grip and the chain slipped from my hand like a wet fish. The gate swung wide open.
I stood up just as the farmer skidded to a halt in front of me. With his mouth bent, he screamed an uninterrupted line of profanity, spit flying from between his yellowed teeth.
“Didn’t your mothers teach you any manners!”
Following our banishment from the point, we drifted in the ghost ship once again—still eager to surf, but with no guarantee of finding waves. Treacherous rocks, sea monsters, these were obvious deterrents for surfers in the region. But none of us had known farmers to be so territorial.
We stopped at a bay where jagged cliffs walled the sea like a fortress. The beach was deserted, and it caught only tattered wind swell: shifty, stormy peaks with little substance or focus. We suited up anyways—it was better than sitting in the car.
“See that?” Paul said as I waxed my board. He pointed to a large crater on the bottom of his board.
“How’d that happen?”
“It’s from a sea lion a few months ago. I was trying to fend it off and it bit my board. Sometimes those things can get to be as big as a cow.”
A rip pulled into the sea at the far end of the beach. We walked the tide line all the way down and paddled out. Black kelp swirled beneath the water’s surface. Thick strands writhed like squid tentacles. A stream poured silt into the bay and clouded the water. We found our place in the lineup and waited. At times a hollow wave appeared down the beach, but it was difficult to find the right spot to sit. As soon as we’d paddle down, the peak was gone.
Further out to sea, a long, shiny shape broke the surface. It was sleek and black, and it glided back into the water as quickly as it had appeared. Feeling uncomfortable to be sitting away from the others, I headed toward Shea and Trevor. They had seen it too. High above, fog stalled against tall cliffs, oblivious to the black dots below that huddled together in the middle of the bay.
The creature emerged close to Shea. It’s square head broke the surface only a few feet away from him and snarled, revealing a row of sharp yellow teeth. Then it began ducking and weaving through the chop, swiftly rounding us up, its crazy cow eyes twisting in their sockets as it kept its gaze fixed on us. The beast came nearer with each lap. We paddled closer together and pulled our feet out of the water.
Then a bump appeared on the horizon. It was a gutless wave with no push, and we scrambled to catch it with all our might. I kicked and thrashed, but it was of no use. Shea and Trevor were closer to the peak and had better luck. Trevor took the left all the way in and was soon walking up the beach. Shea flew down the line, with the beast in hot pursuit.
Absolved from the sea lion’s fury, I now had time to find another way in. I turned around for the next wave but nothing seemed to be coming. Then, looking toward the beach, I saw the sea lion give up on Shea and start racing back toward me.
I’ve often wondered about the purpose of surfing, why surfers do what they do. What is the end goal of riding a wave—is it for the adrenaline rush? Exercise? Recreation? Most likely it’s a mix of all of these. But as I caught the next wave and began to frantically pump down the line, it came to my attention that I’d never known surfing as a way to escape a dangerous animal.Sponsors: