Well I’ve figured you heard enough bragging about our epic ‘Tropical Surf Escape’ in June. Yes and it was truly epic. However, it seems to be an in-built feature in people to only remember the good things and a tendency to not talk about the rather challenging memories ;-)
So we had a few hick-ups – some slightly more entertaining than others. I guess these days I always try to learn a thing or two rather than getting too upset…how’s that saying sometimes you win sometimes you learn…So…
…here are my top 3 jungle lessons
Never drink a coconut before you board a speedboat
Sleepy gidgets were waiting for the speedboat to our jungle destination at 6 am. At the time, I thought it might be a good idea to have a coconut instead of proper breakfast. I really did not want to be seasick so I thought an empty stomach might be better. And I did not get seasick but add a liter of coconut water with a bit too much excitement and halfway through the trip I was absolutely busting. What to do? What to do? No land in sight and no toilet on the bloody boat…I just could not handle it any longer. I made my way to the back of the speedboat, hanging off the back of the speedboat with strict instructions to the 20 guys on the boat to keep their eyes on the horizon in front of them. Lucky, there was no boat behind us…that would have made for an interesting view. Anyway, I did not go overboard (well only a little bit). What a start to the trip and an unforgettable boat ride that was :S Oh well, at least I did not get seasick…
Always check your equipment (and always carry a fin key with you)
First day (yes, the same day as the coconut incidence), we made our way to one of the secret uncrowded spots. I had been there before and I knew the conditions were perfect for that spot. I was absolutely frothing and could not wait to get there. We got dropped off by our ‘Jungle Taxi’ and asked for a pick-up in two hours. So there we were. All by ourselves in the middle of nowhere. After watching the break for a while, we wanted to paddle out. I’ve picked up my board and one of the fins fell out!!! I hadn’t screwed the fins in properly. I could not believe it. There I was standing in front of one of my favourite breaks after 11/2 years, it was absolutely pumping and my board was missing a fin. I was devastated. Our inner bear grylis came out straight away and we started looking for seashells or twigs or something that we could use in place of fin key but no we did not find anything. Lucky for me, one of the gidgets wanted to take it easy and watch us surfing first before heading out, so I got to use her board in the meantime.
From then on I’ve always double and triple checked the fins before I was heading out.
Never panic (and keep your swimming training up)
I had the best surf that day. Pretty sizey waves. Some of them definitely double overhead on the sets but super fat with a big wall. Just a fun fun fun wave a couple hundred metres offshore. We had an absolute ball out there. There was only four of us to start with, then maybe eight which is hardly a crowd if you are used to Bondi standards. We were surfing for three hours. I could feel my paddle arms getting more and more tired but I caught one more wave before the boat was meant to pick us up. It looked like it was shutting down a bit at the end and I wanted to save myself a long paddle back to the line-up so I jumped off the board into the whitewash. When I was about to hop on my board again, there was no more board. And I was in the middle of nowhere…Well, actually I was in the middle of a massive rip about 200 metres offshore. The other guys did not see me. They were sitting behind mountains of waves. Oh dear… I was in for a looooong swim. I felt ok at first and as much as I’m annoyed by the yearly Surf Life Saving swimming requalification you need as a surf-coach in Australia, I was so very grateful that I’m a fit and confident swimmer these days. It only got a bit hairy at the end. There was a nasty shorey, it was rippy as, sharp reef under my feet and I was not wearing any booties. I was close to panicking, very close, which could have ended up badly. But I was only about 50 meters from shore, no way in hell I would give up now… I kept reassuring myself, that I’ll make it and I did… I was exhausted and my board was nowhere to be seen. I thought I had to write that one of (including the new fins I just learned to screw in so skillfully) and again I was in the middle of nowhere. The others blissfully unaware that I was gonskies were picked up by boat. I already saw myself trekking through the jungle by myself for an hour to the way back to our jungle camp.
But my guardian angels worked a double-shift that day, not only did they make me survive the nasty shorey but they sent an Aussie dude who was very helpful and climbed over the reef to rescue my board about 500 metres down the beach. And some of the other guys from another camp were picked up by the jungle taxi rather than boat. They were happy to welcome a gidget on board and a lift back to my camp even though she resembled more a drowned rat than a frothing gidget.
Thank god for that happy ending. In the end the jungle sessions has taught me some valuable lessons. Lessons that are not only valuable in the jungle but even for surfing on your local beach.
You don’t need to be in the jungle to get into a bad situation. Most of you would have read the sad news about the surfer who drowned in Tamarama last week right in front of my doorstep.
Surfing is awesome but it does come with some risks and it is important to be aware of these risks. So next time you are heading out there, think about the following:
- Could you get in, if you lost your board? When it’s big out there, it’s not just about your surfing ability but also your swimming ability.
- Don’t stay out there until you are absolutely exhausted always leave some energy for emergency situations (ie. losing your board).
- Always check your equipment before you head out…fins, leash
- Don’t let anyone push yourself into conditions that you feel are not right for you. Only you know what you can handle. Trust your instinct.
- Know your exit strategy. Many surfers look where to get in but forget to look how to safely get back to the beach.
- Most importantly, if you ever do get into a tricky situation out there, don’t panic. Talk to yourself, reassure yourself that you’ll make it.
Happy (and safe) surfing, Gidgets!