So Long and Thanks for all the Slides
written by alaia shaper and surfer Andrew Strode
Muizenberg winters – colder than ex wives hearts, darker than corporate lawyers' souls, bank accounts drain as dam waters rise, kitchen cupboards are evacuated until they resemble the echoing interiors of beauty queens’ heads. I’m no stranger to a bit of poverty, the wolves have been at my door since it was just a door frame and there is no shame in being poor but when the southern ocean swells are lining up past the horizon to take their turns at running full tilt, mouths wide open down the length of the Eastern Cape points and I’m stuck in the city, well then it gets a little inconvenient.
So when the opportunity came along to earn a small pile of filthy lucre in the arms trade, faster than you can say “so Satan, where do I sign?”, I was in.
Cut to a double volume workshop space hidden behind a non-descript garage door in the labarinthine Salt River, wailing grinders, the hiss and flicker of welding machines, cold rainy days that pass unseen, nothing exists aside from metal – cutting, bending, welding… Now cut again to the red eye bus to J Bay, it’s just me, Trav from the great unwashed. Out boards are in the belly of the beast and I’ getting gently lulled into rigamortis but the evangelical Christian TV that the bus hostess is battering us with. Finally the pot of gold at the end of the red eye rainbow materialises in front of us as we stand shivering on the beach while the sun crawls out from under its Indian Ocean duvet to reveal 4-5ft supers looking every bit like the best right hand point break in the world.
I paddled out on my little 3’7” agave planing hull, not too sure at how that experiment was going to end, only knowing that I’d rather hang around the frontier towns of my surfing than revisit the roads of my youth. It took me a while to get my first one but as soon as I realized it was possible I relaxed into a rhythm of high speed sliding. Derek Hynd, the master at left field surfing appeared and dissolved our brains in a display of a possible future. He is so far ahead of the curve that the language barely exists to describe his performance.
For my second suf we go down to the point and I paddle out on my alaia. The waves down here, run at the perfect speed for alaias. About 40 minutes into the surf I snag a wide set, taking off in a blizzard of foam, unfortunately the wave closes out and I nose dive as I try to straighten out. With no leash on, my board disappears off and I wait for a good wave to bodysurf. It’s a long swim in and I’m hoping my board will be waiting there in the shallows for me like a faithful dog. But no luck, I get in and search the beach, a fisherman spots my board and I swim in its direction but my arms are heavy and the rip is strong, the sun is sinking and I’m too blind to find anything that doesn’t want to find me.
I go back to shore and the fisherman spots my board. It’s 500m out and heading north fast. I let go. So long and thanks for the slides.
I’m left with the daydream of the gods delivering by board to a young kid somewhere. Hopefully a kid that recognises it’s potential as a wave sliding platform.