WELCOME TO THE BEATING HEART OF YOUR ADDICTION
WE ARE THE SPIT
THE TRADE WINDS
THE HOWLING GALE
WE ARE BACKWASH
We got changed in-between squalls, the wet wetsuit slid on, still freezing it engulfed me. I grabbed my gloves from the dregs of water at the bottom of the bucket and rang the worse out as the hail started again. Sheltered by the van I took a moment to watch Mitch paddle through the shorebreak and up the point; a 30 minute paddle as the hail bounced off the saline surface.
The waves were small, the offshore at least 50mph, the rocks uninviting, hail strong enough to tear your face. The van with its heater seemed a more sensible suggestion, again I asked why?
In Herman Melville's tale of Moby-Dick, the narrator finds himself sharing a bed on a stormy night with a curiously tattooed and friendly cannibal, Queequeg. The room, like the streets of the whaling town outside, is freezing, but the bed is warm prompting the narrator to describe the feeling of cosiness: “We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors... because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold... If you flatter yourself that you are 100% comfortable... then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich”.
I make my way slowly across the rocks to enter the water. I mistime my jump as a set appears and I have to dive through it. My face immediately freezes. I duck dive another two and start the long paddle to the peak. The term "freezing" is an understatement. I only catch two waves and seem to constantly find myself in the wrong position, too wide, too far out and after an hour and a half I start to shiver and look to find a wave in. I see Matt and Mitch, scrambling up the rocks. I see the white of an approaching hail storm, it moves off the hills and across the road. I see the tension on the water changing and I turn my back to it. Catching a wave is pointless, it stings the face, the eyes just to look. Once past, I catch the first wave in.
People of our persuasion understand that no tropical beach holiday can ever rival the contrast between a torrential hail storm and the subsequent Guinness by a roaring pub fire. The pinnacle of "deliciousness", as the narrator puts it, "is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.” The lives we think we'd love, lacking contrast, would be full of "the luxurious discomforts of the rich." Warmth is only warmth by comparison to cold; excitement only exciting in contrast to boredom.
With my back to a roaring fire, Guinness had never tasted so good.
Backwash Issue Two is a surf anthology featuring Japan, the photography of Chris Burkard and Sergio Villalba, Hamish Laing and Woody Gooch. Kalani Lattanzi swims at Nazare, whilst Amy Kotch surfs barrels whilst pregnant and John Peck knee paddles out as he has done since 1958.Purchase