By Dan Dobbin.
The old man shuffles down the slight incline.
God, when did he stop striding and start shuffling. Hell, he used to run, sprint down this hill to check the waves.
Used to drive down a dirt track with a car full of mates, punk tapes blaring the soundtracks from bodyboarding videos, timing the hand break yank perfectly to skid to a stop just in front the wooden barriers in the carpark.
Then the mad sprint to be the first to check the waves.
Conditions in the little cove on the way in gave a fair indication of what you were in for, but until you set eyes on the little reef ledge, you could never be totally sure.
Resigned to the slow shuffle of the aged, but the old impulse to run, to sprint, tickles the back of the cortex. A Pavlovian response.
Mentally willing, but physically weak.
So the shuffle mearly increases a little in speed.
Still, a slower pace enables one to notice the details that are often missed with haste. The little circular grove of trees to the right? A generational meeting place for the area’s traditional custodians before whitey starting sniffing into the area chasing red cedar.
The wooden retunda where he once found a local chef hanging from the beams early one new years morning on the way to a surf check.
The way the granite pavers laid so long ago don’t quite match the length of a normal step, making the shuffling even more awkward now.
The narrow track, fringed by coastal bansksias and low grass, opening up to the foreshore headland. The headland of a countless viewings and shit talk, story swaps, and debate on conditions.
He should have got married here, not in the church with the measly mouthed old priest who couldn’t even remember his name during the ceremony.
His place of worship and devotion.
The sickies pulled from work, arguments and pleading and bartering with the wife to fit in a go out when he just knew it was on.
Taking the kids diving the ledge when it was flat, showing them the best way to get in and out as their confidence and ability grew to joining him in the line up too.
Hug the big round rock, and if you come in too wide, don’t try to paddle against the sweep, you have to go out and come around again.
Watch the crevice halfway out to the jump spot as you walk up, it’s covered in water, but it’s there, ready to be fallen in to twist a knee or ankle, a good bark scrapping at the least.
He stands on the edge of the slight cliff face, in line with the edge of coastal heath that never seemed to grow any larger, even after all these years.
This was his line of sight marker for the deepest makeable take of spot, adjusted 5 metres either way to allow for south or east in the swell direction.
Huge days, onshore days, grovel days, perfect days.
Days spent out there just to learn, to become intimate with the what makes the ledge tick, building the base of understanding that comes to be called local knowledge.
Days all now past.
His days all now past.
Wife past a year prior.
The big C.
The same evil shit now riddling his body. Considering how much time he’d spent in the sun, it was always coming.
Without her, not much point going on anyway.
He surveys the track down the headland. Dirt and winding, but not that far. Manageable.
Maybe it’s time for one last go out.
One final session.
Eyes close, a few deep lungfuls of air, for a few moments in his memories he’s fifteen again.
One last look around at his place on earth.
He starts to shuffle down the headland to the jump rock.
One last go out. One final session.
This is the way and the place he wants to go out.