tags: Great Rock 'n Roll Surf Swindle, Gummiberry Juice, Top 10, Ultimate Frisbee
I’ve never been much of a team player, and competition is something I care very little about. Never that quick on my feet (often quick to get off them), athletics was a no go and they didn’t know where to put me on the rugby field. But I could shoot the odd hoop, swing a club, and take some wickets. And only later in life, when I played with cross-eyed hangovers, did I figure out how to bat. I even tried my hand at Ultimate Frisbee, but it soon rubbed away at the raw love I feel for those flying discs. I work much better one on one, or better still, on my own.
So the last seven days have been quite unsettling to say the least. First the newsletter came out, 10-30am on a Monday morning, with a link to a page promising to reveal the Top 10 – a page that would either end these carnivorous, bulging butterflies gorging on my insides, or ply them with Gummiberry Juice. I took a long, slow, deep breath as I clicked…but the page hadn’t been updated yet, which simply pissed them off.
It was only at 10-30pm on that Monday night, about 12 merciless hours later, when I clicked on the page and the Top 10 were indeed revealed, row by row, three faces at a time. Mine wasn’t on the first row, and beads of sweat burst immediately from my forehead. Mine wasn’t on the second row, and they ran down my face onto the keyboard. Until the third row, when I saw what was definitely my own head and face coming into view. I knew I’d make it through. There was no doubt in my mind…but even in a sure-fire world, fear has a front row seat.
Nine men now stand between me, in my way, and I know their faces. I see them every single day. Some even show their eyes. It’s a very, very peculiar feeling and it messed with my head something silly.
I went for a quickie during a recent lunch hour, with a wave I know, and drove past someone pulling his board from the car. Normally I’d steal glances at the board itself, but I looked instead at his face, wondering if he was one of them – one of the nine. It was the first time I’d felt it…this rivalry, almost some kind of paranoia. I didn’t feel it when there were 34 of us.
As I’m paddling out, I watch someone rip the shit out of a slow, knee-high wave, which demands a rather intimidating level of skill. He hops off the back, looks at me, I look at him, he looks at me, he looks away, glaring.
“I’ll be damned…it’s him.”
Immediately I think I’ve clocked an adversary, which did to my vibe what a father does when he walks in on you and his beloved, innocent daughter. At the dining room table.
I push too hard on my first two waves, because I feel this sudden and wayward need to impress. It doesn’t work (never does), which tempts a regression in the mood. And then I have the epiphany – the tipping point – after days, if not weeks of sleepless nights. Each pulse of paradise-coloured water passes through me, snatching the worries from my head, dragging them by their ankles to the shore (where they sadly so often sit, waiting for your return).
I contemplated this feeling until I realised I can’t actually rip the shit out of knee-high slop. And then I remembered that this isn’t a surfing competition; the gig I’m after is a writing one … and I relaxed.