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.
photo by Chris McClean


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”.
photo by Chris McClean
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.
photo by Chris McClean