When will your last wave be?
How good has this autumn been for waves? Best in a while I’d have said. Back to back cross-offshores and long distance groundswells - Atlantic facing coasts have been doing their thing - hope you’ve had a fill somewhere along the way.
So a few Saturdays ago I stopped off to see Ben, our old postman, on the way back from one of these great days. Ben lives in an awesome house nestled in the lee of Aggie beacon – solar panels, wind turbine, bio fuel heating etc – all pretty much built himself with beautiful views towards Perran. Every nook tells a story. The surf had been a glassy 3ft with some fun banks. Quite rippy at low tide, but still good with the sun out and I’d enjoyed being in.
To set the scene...probably one of our best friends here is Ben the Postman. He delivered the mail when we were three guys and one dog, he was about 60 back then. Ben’s post delivery became part of our day, he’d turn up full of animated chat, we’d down tools and all have a cup of tea (on his own time). He’d give us a surf report, and the talk would inevitably wander to the old days, favourite boards and what the banks were like at a special spot not far from here, where he’d surfed for years. On his off days, he’d cruise by on his Triumph bike and tell us the latest of his wind turbine or his new eco project. We’d get postcards from Bells. He’s a big part of the place.
Not long before he was set to retire, about a year ago, Ben started to get a bit breathless, and a few tests later, he’s been diagnosed with emphysema. Didn’t know much about this until then (still don’t), but it’s basically a progressive disease that reduces your lung capacity and efficiency. Ben hasn’t smoked and there’s no real rhyme or reason as to the diagnosis. The long and short of it is that it’s pretty unlikely that Ben will be able to surf again. I know folk get dealt bad cards all the time, but this one was close to home.
As we spun the breeze that Saturday, Ben told me that it was a year ago to the day that he surfed his last wave. It wasn’t epic he said, but he remembers it well. Wow. For most people I think you accept that your surfing will gradually slow down as you get older, but Ben’s surfing life had been turned off, just like that. What would that be like? It could happen to any of us, anytime. I know I imagine I’ll surf forever, maybe slow down a bit, but I know for a fact until then, I hadn’t even thought where and when my last wave would be. Would I surf more now if I knew this?
There was I, just out of the water and already planning my next surf. So yes it did slam home how lucky I was (amongst other things) to be able to rock up to the beach, wander down across the sand and paddle out without any problem. That freedom. I love getting in the sea, and hope that I’m not guilty of taking these things for granted, or focusing too much on the next hit. So all in all, I guess the situation is definitely an inspiration to get in when you can, soak it up for what it is, and don’t even think about not going in (or complaining) just because it isn’t 12ft @ 18 seconds and 10 stars.
As for how the chat ended with Ben, we’ve got winter surf DVD nights planned (Morning of the Earth etc) and then, when it’s that perfect, sunny, uncrowded 2ft day next summer, we’re cracking out the belly boards and going to get in with him.
See you out there.