The boy sits on the beach.
He’s deep in the adolescent infatuation of surfing, a grom junky for those risk and reward responses that riding waves offers so freely.
Conditions are perfect. A thick, long lined east swell groomed by all day westerly winds. Perfect, perfect, perfect, except for the size, well beyond what he’s experienced before, well out of his comfort zone and well, frankly he’s frozen with fear.
Wetsuit on, board and fins at the ready. Inside a silent calamitous cacophony of nervous energy popping and fizzing and surging and rolling.
On the outside he’s inert. Eyes transfixed on the horizon, as though by staring down the incoming lumps of ocean swell he can make them less frightening, less intimidating. As though by staring he can manifest a mental teleportation from shore line to line up. Skip the terrifying in between.
All that he wants, desires, requires is just there. It’s all right there.
The only thing he need do is to act, to paddle out.
Yet still he sits and stares.
From the line up the father stares back. The connection across distance and time.
He’s sat where the boy sits. He knows what the boy feels. He felt it too, long ago. The titanic struggle between the desire to surf tempered by the inertia of fear.
He knows there’s nothing he can do for the boy, that the boy has to do this on his own, has to find his own courage.
And so the father catches waves, and in between catches glimpses of the boy, still sitting, still stoically vacillating on the sand.
Until he’s gone.
The father’s eyes search the track up dunes, search the headland for the boy’s defeated form, but it’s not there.
Instead it’s on its way through the shorebreak, paddling with frantic purpose.
On the open beachbreak the peaks unload onto the shallow sand bank, spent swells spilling off its back and flooding into the inshore gutter, the inflowing current an obstacle that slows the boy’s progress as he approaches line up.
One final hurdle to defeat. One final effort.
Using all of that adrenalised energy, the boy sprint paddles and breaches the bank during a lull in the sets. He glides to a stop next to the father.
The father smiles at the boy.
” Shitting yourself?”
” Thought so. You’ll be right, you’ve done the hard part now”.
” It’s so big!”
” Yer it’s solid. Whataya say we get ya into one?”
” Can I just catch my breath for a minute?”
” Yer mate, just let me when you’re ready…..”