One of the biggest highlights in my life was and is definitely surfing.
I started bodyboarding when I was about 16. At that time I never had a wetsuit and was more of a Christmas surfer. Then when I left school I got a job and decided that with my first paycheck I would buy a wetsuit.
It was one of the best things I ever could have bought myself. After that, I went about three times a week to surf/body-board. Later, I met a guy from the Boland Body Boarding Association. He told me about a competition that was happening over a weekend in Elands Bay.
Elands Bay is a tiny town lying on the West Coast about 3 to 4 hours drive from Cape Town. There is absolutely nothing besides a few locals waving as cars come into the tiny town. There is one shop and a hotel with a bar/restaurant. It’s really beautiful in all its loneliness. The people are friendly and the waves are beautiful.
Just a little warning, if you a beginner it’s not such a good idea to pretend you’re not. Don’t be like me. Don’t look like an idiot.
We arrived a Friday evening and the very next morning I was determined to show everyone what I was made of. There I went, with a big heart and a confident smile. I made my mission down the beach as if I have done it a million times.
We went to a spot called The Factory) I was stunned by the size of these heavy waves. Wait, let me first paint the picture… Imagine facing bigger waves than what you are used to (The Factory is not a place to play games.) My bravery quickly turned into shame. My nerves took over and the sea showed me who’s boss. I was hit, thrown and dumped around like a rag-doll in a washing machine. I walked back to camp with my tail between my legs.
I got back to my tent where my happy friends were waiting. They tried motivating me to carry on because at this stage I was ready to throw the towel in for the competition.
The next day, all I could think was: “Here we go again… Claudia what are you doing??”
Anyway, car packed and ready to go, we made our mission down to a spot called “Famous” (Farmer Burgers).
My friends’ car had to endure a half an hour of dirt road and three girls singing their hearts out to Black Betty. We finally reached the location. As we walked through thorns, sticks, stones, bush and dog poop, we finally saw what I was praying not to see… huge waves, shore breaks and guys flung around by the power of the waves.
I wanted to back out right there and then, but thought: “you know what, we drove so far”. I didn’t want to leave with what could’ve happened if I didn’t take the chance. I didn’t want that regret.
So there I was facing what I loved so much but also what I feared greatly. Even my friend assured me I was insane. As I walked down I said my final goodbye…
When I went in, I froze. Literally. I was petrified, even the waves that had already broken were knocking me around. I just stood there and didn’t know how I would ever be able to get to the back.
BUT THEN, just as I was about to walk out, an “angel” came up to me and said, “I’m going to help you”. Without hesitation, I followed the beautiful face into the water. He took my board by the front and took me in. I felt so safe. He took me on my first and only wave that day. As I took off on the wave, I screamed so loud that people 3km’s up the beach could hear me.
And then I wiped out. It was apparently the worst they had ever seen. I don’t mind. I had fun either way. Every time I was in the water, I was happy even though I was in pain. After that glorious wipeout, I took my board and tried heading out again. I got out to the back this time myself that I was actually applauded for trying.