The Transient Barrel

Sometimes your home surf break comes to life in ways that are unexpected, even to the most die-hard of locals. This happened recently at our local surf spot. What is usually a small, straight hand close-out morphed into a mini version of Backdoor Pipeline, with barrels unravelling in both directions.

It was epic. I checked myself several times when I wandered down the beach path and saw 20 plus guys at my spot. This couldn’t be right. Conditions seemed somewhat blustery, with a light cross-shore breeze ruffling the surface.

Mount Maunganui beach

Then some lines began to march towards our powdery sands. The first set peaked up before spilling into a reeling, airbrushed A-frame. I had mind-surfed this moment over many mediocre months, imagining our often tiny shore break being magically enlarged. Imagining myself transformed into a surfing rat, for whom the micro set waves would be overhead. Imagining a rogue set powering towards me with the potential for more than a close-out pump or two.

Hold on. No more imagining. This was real.

Surfing and the Barrel

It’s the prize, the goal, the tantric release for our chosen lifestyle. You get barrelled and all else melts away.

perfect wave

Every barrel is different and needs to be approached as such. I find that for me the key is patience. You have a tendency to want to get out of the barrel the moment you get in. It’s the great irony of the thing. Being inside the barrel is like watching heaven curl around you. Projected through the tunnel walls are the stories of life, a saline womb of sorts, and you can never focus upon just one spot. Everything is motion, everything is transient.

As you find the shade beneath its cover you want to get back out into the light. To be reborn a surfer, to have escaped a beating.

What a dance surfing is!

surfer in barrel

The local crew scored plenty of deep green tubes. The ocean was kind and for those with the shoulder strength to battle a surging current, they made it to the spot more than a few times.

I was the last one there. I guess the time I spend out in this spot – mostly all alone – paid off. Because I know where to sit. It’s programmed into me. You paddle just beyond the green house and the current relents. But don’t stray too far on either side, for you’ll get ripped away and in moments will be up in front of the lifeguard tower and car park.

Almond shaped barrels continued to pour their hearts out and I caught a few.

wave and surfer

Being in New Zealand, there were smiles all around. Even amongst the crew who didn’t know each other. A couple of pros arrived with GoPros protruding from their mouths (literally) and boards plastered with stickers. They scored the best waves, but lost interest when the wind grew stronger and the current dragged them away.

surfer riding wave

Waiting for Perfect Surf

I wait all year for these surf conditions, so there was no way I was giving in. I paddled until my back burned and made sure I surfed my spot until it turned mushy in the afternoon. There are no second chances in life. It is all motion, all movement.

There’s no dress rehearsal. When the waves are good, you just get out there and surf them like you’ll never surf again. . Watch the stories unfold in the moving walls of each wave, but don’t look too long. The magic lies in feeling, not analysing. Success is moments like these. Being part of the great infinity of wave energy, the motion with no beginning and no end. Just a cacophony of movement, which sometimes forms a pattern with a regularity that is expressed in A-Frame waves, large enough for a human to fit inside. When you find yourself in this place at this time, the universe is looking at you.

It’s your turn. So, in the words of Mr Dane Reynolds, “Expect nothing, do your best, clear your mind, be present, turn off, tune out, drop in.”

bradley hook