I knew that we had done a stupid thing, I knew that I would meet my end, but when you are fourteen and have agreed your commitment is spittle mixed together on yours and your surfing brother’s sweaty palms, there is simply no turning back.
We had no option there was only one way back and that was on the back of the dragon. I shook my head, how was I, just a fourteen year old boy, having recently lost control of his bowels and terrified into a state of indigence, going to face this dragon, tame its ten meter high back and ride it back safely to shore.
I recall starting to paddle and moving from a slow paddle into a rush of speed and power, everything I had learnt now came into automated action, stand, freefall, keep angle of board correct, smash into a bottom turn knees buckling under force of fall, keep balance, scream, “yes I’m okay”, race the break right, now moving at incredible speed, everything’s working, the terrifying roar of Neptune’s might screaming in my right ear as it protested my success. When the massive two meter wide lip broke in front of me, I felt absolute dread, I threw my weight left and dug the rail of the board and my hand into the ocean, desperately trying to turn out of trouble, the board almost groaning its protest as its fibreglass coating cracked under the strain, but it was never going to be enough. The white water swelled and exploded underneath me and tossed me like a rag doll, for what seemed like an eternity into the air. When I hit the water it was with such force that it felt that someone had smashed my face with a brick, I felt my front tooth snap, my bottom lip torn away from the gum from the pressure and my shoulder ripped from its socket.Then bloodied torn and broken, down and down it pushed me, until it pinned me some four meters under against the sandbank. I could not move, the force of the water felt like I was caught under Vic falls, and slowly I started to give up, realizing that my time had come.
I heard in my mind James Marshall playing my favourite, “All along the watchtower”.
I was happy at that moment. Even though my fate was sealed, we had chased the true dragon, not some chemically induced imaginings, but ten meter high monsters that had been hand picked, built and sent all the way from Penguin land to remind us that nature does not consider innocence as an extenuating circumstance in its sentence of stupidity and boyish bravado.
I thought about the violent destruction of my parents failed union and the insane effects of a mother who found solace in a bottle, calling out in her alcohol induced delirium for Jesus to deliver her the life she was promised as she had been a good girl. I thought about how the Ocean had saved me, how it had given me such pleasure over the years, how it had taught me of myself, who I was, that it had shown me I would be okay. Then why, why now would it claim me.
I felt a jerk on my left ankle, and from the depth of my carbon monoxide induced slumber found the strength to give one last push off the bank.Miraculously I felt my body moving upwards being pulled by the leash attached to my surfboard.
I came up fast and summoning all my strength I climbed on my now life saving trusty board and was deposited by the shore break white water onto our beach.
I lay there, no longer fourteen, no longer a boy, but a bloodied bleeding and almost broken man. I had been given my final lesson from my father the Ocean.Tears streamed down my face as I came to terms with my mortality and I realised that James was wrong, there is no way outta here, who we are is what we have.
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