No that’s not me pictured above (I don’t look that good in a pair of bikini bottoms), but it is my teacher. “And who is it exactly that taught you to surf for the first time ever” you might be asking yourself. Oh you know, just our countries top-rated female surfer, Bianca Buitendag – that’s who!
It all started one Monday morning at the Men’s Health offices where our Ed and Malegrams writer were tossing editorial ideas around for the Jan issue. I was sipping away at my coffee and waiting for them to start talking about creative stuff, I am the art director after all. Words and me don’t go together. But then through the haze of their little ‘writers talk’ a few words were catching my attention – learn to surf, beach, hot local surfer. It was fair to say that they now had my attention. Long story short – later that very same week I would be art directing the story and more awesomely, I’d be the guy learning to surf! Cowabunga!!! (Do people still say that? Did they ever?)
So hard-cut to a 5am wake up on a Thursday morning (not cool) and I was up and about drinking coffee in my boardies on Muizenberg beach waiting for the photographer to give us the thumbs up for the shoot to start. Before you knew it we were in the water getting all the shots we needed for the editorial. Yes, I was going to learn to surf, but we are trying to put a world-leading mens mag together y’know, so work unfortunately comes first. But when you have a top-notch photographer like Casey Crafford shooting South Africa’s top female surfer you know things are going to go… 1) well and 2) quickly. And no more than 2 hours later the shooting was all wrapped up and now it was play time!
Now the whole angle of our story is about how accessible long boarding is to the average Joe. And while I know that not everyone has a top international surfer as their instructor for the day but I found it to be true. It was easy, either that or I’m a damn natural at this wave-riding thing… but it’s most likely the former. It was actually insane how simple it was. As I was strapping that leash thing around my ankle (so as not to lose Bianca’s board) she gave me a few tips to adhere to for a successful pop-up. My brain absorbed all of her surfing know-how like a sea sponge and before I knew it I was paddling out and waiting for my first wave.
If you follow my Twitter and Instagram account you’ll know that I’m quite an active individual but for all my calisthenic endeavours I was humbled by just 5min of paddling. I was totally blindsided by how it destroyed my shoulders and trapz. Luckily I didn’t have to sit and paddle around for too long until my wave came along. There she was. Beautiful, building up from a good 30m away, and as she approached I put my belly to the board and started hightailing my way to the shore. Then I felt her come up underneath me. “This is it, this is the one!”, I thought and like Spiderman on a hot tin roof I sprung to my feet in one movement… and wiped straight off the board in another. Nope, she was not ‘my first’. So I pulled my board in and much to my shoulders dismay I paddled out yet again. This time I was forced to wait longer for the right wave to come along, but just as I was about to call it a day I saw her coming straight at me, and just as before, I pinned my ears back and gunned for the beach. I got my speed up and then I got this feeling of ‘support’ of sorts from the wave. It was as if my board latched onto the wave and begun accelerating. It felt more stable than ever and I took it as a sign that now was my moment to ride this thing. So I went for it and low-and-behold I executed my first successful pop-up, and this time it was not immediately followed by a wipe out. I was surfing! I made my way (I say that, in truth the wave was taking me wherever it wanted) towards Casey, the photographer, for a snapshot and threw the obligatory shaka. In hindsight it wasn’t the biggest, most insane wave ever ridden, but at the same time, that’s the great thing about long boarding – you don’t need those ideal circumstances to come together like the perfect storm for it to happen.
After I made my way to the parking lot I got a few high fives (I may have initiated them) and then we all went for a late breakfast and talked shit and looked at the pics. It was such an awesome day, and it wasn’t even midday yet. That was one of the cool things about it. You may be forced out of bed earlier than you’d like but on the upside you get to experience a beautiful sunrise out on a surfboard, share the magic of surfing with mates and like-minded individuals, and then enjoy a coffee in a nearby spot when its all done. Now who can rightly complain with a lifestyle like that?
An hour later we wrapped up our breakie, said our farewells and called it a day on this shoot. As for me – I jumped in my car, hit play on my Beach Boys compilation and left Surfer’s Corner in my rearview mirror, coz I’m a surfer now, y’know 😉