Even though I’ve never actually run the Surfers Challenge, what we’d always referred to as The Surfers Marathon, it literally ran through my home town of Gonubie, and so I’d always kind of been involved.
And not just as a spectator either. Back when I was a nipper I’d help the lifeguards to ferry runners across the Gonubie River on rescue craft, or we’d set up a rope from one side of the river to the other, so that the guys who can’t swim – and there are more than you’d think – could pull themselves across. But then sometimes guys would want to try and get across without lining up for the rope and that’s when we’d have to swoop in. I’m happy to report that in all the years that I worked the river there was never any drama.
The drama came a few years later when the teenage angst was literally perspiring from my person and I’d sooner dunk runners in the river than help them to cross it. Still, I was roped into the event when myself and some other surfers were appointed to work the water truck. Along with the thousands of water sachets that we needed to get to the various water points there were some six-packs of beer on the back of the flat bed truck, and when you’re 16-years old all it takes is a a bit of beer…
At first we only targeted our friends running the race, panning them with the water sachets from the back of the moving truck. The beers made us braver and we then turned on everyone: runners, spectators, vehicles and bystanders. Now I can’t remember if it was Pip or Fish or Bugsy or Proccy or Salty that cracked the Red Alert security vehicle’s windshield, but what I do know is that it wasn’t me, and anyway, I think Border Surfing ended up footing the bill, so that’s fine. The rest of the complaints, which ranged from dehydrated runners to water-sachet sustained injuries to indecent exposure (there was a lot of mooning going on), I’ll share blame with the rest. Our punishment? We weren’t allowed to attend the after-party and none of us received our promised six-pack of Ohlssons Lager.
Which, as I’m sure you can agree, is more than enough retribution. So then why have I decided to return home like the prodigal son and run that 18km stretch between Yellow’s Point and Nahoon Reef? With absolutely no training and a gammy-hammy? Well, because Discovery is paying for my ticket, and when a man phones you asking if you run, and saying yes gets you a plane ticket home, then you run.
Look, I’m not an absolute basket case, I’ve run a half marathon before, OMTOM, got the T-shirt and a medal to prove it, but then that was at a time when I was doing strict boxing training. This weekend’s race is about seeing if I’ve still got it; if I can throw myself into a tempestuous situation and make it out alive. Because there will be no sms alerts when the Zombie Apocalypse comes.
Also, the whole point of The Surfers Challenge is to show runners that surfers are waaaaaaay better than they are. That even though runners can’t surf, surfers can show up on race day and run. This isn’t just my opinion either. This is documented fact.
In 1975 what had begun as banter between local runners and surfers at a ‘Slunden watering hole, resulted in a challenge: the runners would meet the surfers on their turf – the beach – and tackle the sand, shingle, rocks, loose boulders, gullies and rivers between the right-hand point break at Yellow Sands and Nahoon’s world-class reef.
The Surfers Marathon was born and, having grown from 36 enthusiastic runners and changed it’s name to The Surfers Challenge, now boasts 3000 participants that include non-athletes, juniors, women, rugby players, veterans, masters, walkers, single ski paddlers and double ski paddlers. This year – the 40th anniversary of The Surfers Challenge – it will also include me: that guy who wasted water, injured runners, damaged property and broadcast his arse to the world from the back of a flat-bed truck.
I deserve everything I get.