I paddled out early and the water was like a mirror, almost too beautiful to touch. Every stroke sent ripples outwards from my hands and I made it out the back without my hair even getting wet. I sat there and only the occasional sparkle betrayed the surface, which vanished like a silver sheen to the plumes of clouds hovering far beyond the horizon. It was early, maybe just 9am, and the slightest offshore breeze began to whisper.
I caught an epic wave, a clean long wall that unfurled towards the shore, the crashing of the lip almost melodic, as if it drew great pleasure from this play. The ocean rolled herself up into a cylinder before spilling back down, and disappearing into her own embrace. I slid upward and then down, almost losing it with an air drop where the wall becomes a hollow racetrack on the inside. It was one of those waves that are too small to get barrelled on, but too big not to. On the dismount I jumped up high and somehow returned back down to land on my fins, thankful for the protection offered by my 4mm wetsuit. I paddled back out and sat contemplating the satin sheet, spread out to the islands that dot the backline of Mount Maunganui.
Then I saw it. A huge black dorsal fin, and not far from me.
Like magic a wave picked me up and I rode it almost to the sand. I didn’t look back and my heart had sank in horror. After the Mick Fanning debacle I have been more freaked out by the prospect of becoming shark food than ever before. My eyes were wide in their sockets when my trusty photographer on the beach signalled to the surf. I shouted, “I saw a shark!” and he replied, “Dolphins!”
By the time I got back out there they had continued cruising down the line. I would have been so close had I not been so scared. It’s my dream, to surf with dolphins and so, in a way, my dream came true. This beach is like a Disney film, with seals, dolphins, orcas (and other things) cruising the lineup every day. It’s testament to how pure New Zealand really is. The water is crystal clear and we live near the biggest industrial harbour on the North Island. I love it here and hope to see the dolphins again. Next time I see a fin, maybe I won’t paddle away so fast – but I can’t promise anything.