“Take an hour for lunch and be back here ready for the dinner rush,” David told me.
Luckily I had my board in the car. I ran out to the carpark where I bumped into my mate, Gary, who told me that the conditions were “two-and-glassy” and that he’d already been in twice. I waxed up and stripped down to my sun-bleached boardies, the strings were worn and only just held them up over my bony hips. I jogged quickly down to the sea, dodging in and out of sun-kissed tourists as the hot sand burnt my feet.
The waves came into sight and, as I reached the cool-wet-sand, I slowed to take in the beauty of what surrounded me. Llangennith is a 6 mile stretch of brown-sugared-sands and windswept reeds, bordered by a maze of moon-crater dunes. Dogs sprinted like furry thunderbolts across the beach, chasing driftwood thrown by their proud owners. And above, brightly-coloured kites crashed violently into the wet sand whilst fighter jets painted white lines across the sky.
The paddle out is always a bit of a killer at ‘gennith, especially on a big day, but on this day the swells were predictable so I waited for the lull and paddled hard and fast before the next set pummelled me. I’d surfed every day for months, even on flat days I’d get in the water just for a paddle, so my shoulders were over-developed compared to the rest of my body. I could have paddled all-day-every-day and still have had energy for more. Within a minute I was sitting comfortably out back, my 9 footer floating rock-steady and high in the water. Looking back towards land felt strange, as it always did. 100s, if not 1000s of people all squeezed into one section of the beach, even though there’s an almost limitless supply of space available. I felt calm, disconnected, content, happy. The sun blinded me as I looked to the horizon and I waited patiently to choose my wave. The first one always sets the tone so I took my time, making sure it was a good one.
As the set rolled in, each wave bigger than the last, my heart raced as I crested the third and picked the one.
I leant back, pivoting my huge longboard into place like an old cargo ship, and began paddling towards the beach. Looking back over my right shoulder I could see the wave peaking behind me, they look so much bigger and aggressive than they do from the shore. I felt it shunt me forward, tipping the back end of my board up and forcing me nose-first down the wave. I popped-up early and stepped gently to the front of the board, forcing it to speed faster down the face of the wave. The sea was a clear green colour and the only sound was the wind rushing past my ears and the board skimming across the water.
I caught about five to six good waves, the sun was burning my back and I had to get back to work, so I ran back up the beach, feeling amped. I’d got my fix for the day and I decided I’d go back in again after work if the waves were still coming. Within 10 minutes I was back at Eddy’s Restaurant, making coffees and serving customers. Everyday I’d do the same, running in and out of the water in between my shifts. I camped at Hillend campsite, it was part of the package: I worked for Eddy’s and got free camping as well as a small wage. We’d spend the evenings at the King’s Head, which was the only pub in the village. Such happy memories.