Below is the full version of a little piece called "On its Day" that I wrote for Wavelength Surf Magazine recently. The idea, I think, was to take a photo a build a story around it. Hope you all enjoy it.
ON ITS DAY
It’s not the same. That is, surfing when you have a beautiful wife and children; it’s not the same as surfing when you had no beautiful wifse and children. At least for me anyway.
On the day this photo was taken I had spent the morning with my little 2-year-old daughter. One of my newborn twin boys was in hospital 60 miles away and the other was in hospital 180 miles away in a very serious condition. Not going into detail, life was tough and completely upside-down on Wednesday 16th February 2011.
I welcomed my wife home late morning with a kiss and a casual “I thought I might go for a surf this afternoon darling” type of greetings. The eyes don’t lie though. She could see the urgency in my eyes. That “If I don’t get down the beach in the next 30 seconds the waves might stop FOREVER and I will NEVER get to surf again” kind of a look.
We all like to keep an eye on the swell. Lets not lie about it. If you are in church on a Sunday morning or preparing for an exam the night before, even if you were planning to attend your grandmother’s funeral – we’re still tuned into what is happening down the coast at our local breaks. We can’t help it.
I thought that I might miss the best of the waves but as they say, “better late then never”. From a surfing perspective our waves in Kerry on the south west coast of Ireland don’t tend to be epic very often. We don’t have the same kind of reefs that dot the coast more north of us. We don’t really have much on offer when the wind is west or more often southwest. But every now and then, for the surfer who has put in the time and had his fair share of being “skunked” even though he has driven around the county twice… every now and then, on it’s day, Kerry shines!
My journey saw that lovely morning blue sky surrender to a more grey and cloudy one. The odd squally rain shower didn’t put me off while I hoped most of the lads would be having a break by the time I got there and I might even catch a few on my own.
All I can say is that not too far from Inch Beach there are rights and there are lefts and on its day there are waves for everyone!
The clouds passed as I drove over the hill. I could see the spray coming off the backs of the waves that were still dotted with the surfer silhouettes in the February afternoon sunshine. My right foot became instinctively heavier and my pace increased. Finding parking was as always a bit of fun. I was going to have to block someone but the crowd was mellow and seen as nobody would be leaving before Mr. Sunshine did, I just parked it up and did a Clark Kent wetsuit change.
Wading out into the water I began to think of my van. My work. My wife. My girls. My boys so many miles away in their hospital cots. “Dear God in Heaven, keep them all safe and each one out here surfing today too.”
I love that first duck dive.
There‘s a point in between wet and dry when the world is blurred. You can breath but the water hasn’t quite cleared from your face. There are lights and shapes. There’s confusion. You can hear the water crashing and moving everywhere around you. Up and down are distorted and then you pop up. It’s like being born. You breathe as if it were your first. You feel alive! You are thankful. You do it again.
The waves were a nice size, offshore with 4-5ft sets. The crowd was content and the sky cleared again.
All the usual crew were out and some unusual. For a long time very few or even no surfers lived in the immediate area. Most of us that surfed here would find ourselves out alone or with 2-3 others back in the day. Now there is a genuine local crew, there is the crew that have surfed here since day dot and there is a fresh breed of regulars that don’t live anywhere near the spot but I guess they would consider it their local break.
Whoever owns it? I don’t know. One thing was for sure though. Everyone was surf stoked on perfection and in the midst of the good vibes there was a cup of tea for everyone on the shoreline.
I struggled to catch a wave. My fitness was not at its peak so I had to be patient. Lets just say I was born again, and again and again for a while.
Finally getting to my feet I cruised down the glassy face of a 4-foot right-hander. “Nothing fancy Shane” I said to myself. “Get one good one under your belt and then try the manoeuvres”. Ah but when a lip feathers up in front of you and whispers “Come hit me”, what can you do? Big bottom turn gouge into vertical position up the wave face into layback off the lip top turn into “Where did my board just go?” into the ‘down with the lip without your board’ manoeuvre, into that distorted wet/dry place I spoke about and into that first breath again.
…into lets do it all over again!
After my surf I placed my camera and myself along the banks of a left. I spent the evening clicking away while chatting to the guys getting in and out. Some old faces, some new faces but all happy faces.
Coming home I began to think of my family again and to wonder.
It’s almost one year later now and it’s still not the same. Surfing that is. Its not even the same as it was this time last year. I get out more. I enjoy it more. I fall a little less. And my two girls and two healthy twin boys are sizing up their wetsuits and boards for the summer ahead. I don’t think it will ever be the same but ‘on its day’ it is still amazing!