A modern surf tragedy.
When I arrive at Phil’s, he has just finished training.
The sweat dulls her jersey and gray sweatshirt and makes her already pale skin translucent. With his short, stocky waist and hair salon, he looks more of a rugby than a surfer.
“Sorry bro, still a little juicy,” he said, shaking my hand, before reaching for a towel to wipe off. “Thanks for coming. Welcome to my tablet. “
It is an apartment adjacent to the beach. New building. Privileged location. The view of the lineup we both ride Main Peak is impeccable. Better than any magazine spread. This is the same Peak I grew up on. The Peak I can no longer afford a spot within ten miles.
His place is impeccable. Black leather lounge. Small black flat screen TV. Non-descriptive black library. You would think it was a hotel room, if not for the weight bench and the support of four new boards through the nearby wall.
“New paintings”, I ask
“Yes, the new sleds. I just had them delivered from Surfboard Warehouse. Two black boxes, two DX1. “
“Oh yeah, okay.” I try to think about who shaped them. I haven’t been able to afford any new advice in years. “JS and, ah, DHD?”
“Correct. Both shapers recently won Stab in the dark. I like to try to keep the best gear. “
He pulls one of the DHDs out of the holder and puts it under his arm, but seems to be holding it too far from the middle. I see this is the only GoPro mountless card.
“They all have the same dimensions too, but I have different tail shapes for each of them. Customs. These are my everyday tastes here. “
“Of course, I also like to have a little fun,” he continues, putting the board back in the rack. “I’m not just a high performance guy. I have a mid-length and a beater in the garage for those sludge around the days, as well as an alaia ”
He says it, Aliyah.
Above the boards, I notice three framed surf plans. All apparently taken in the same place, a point break bordered by jungle. Looks like Burger World. All the shots are of an identical turn. A functional but awkward forehand hook. Knees barely bent, upper body stiff. Not a bad spray, I guess. The only noticeable difference is the surfer’s equipment. In the first shot, it’s the knees and the yellow rashie. Second, flowery shorts and an open button-down shirt. Third, plain black boardies and a zipped vest at the front.
“Is it you?” I ask.
“Yes, my patented hack,” he laughs. “I know, it’s a little narcissistic. But hey, you’re spending that much money on a Ments trip. You want something that you remember, right?
He shrugs, answering his own rhetorical question, and throws his towel over the door behind me, spreading cold sweat on my face.
This guy stumbles. It’s time to get there.
“So where is it …”
“Wait, look at this,” he said, cutting me off again. “You don’t get them for free, that’s for sure.”
He goes to the library. Placed between a copy of The subtle art of not fucking and Let my people surf is a small trophy of a surfer riding under a curling wave. One of those inexpensive ones that you would see at any children’s sports presentation.
He takes it and hands it to me carefully.
“Third place, open B division, City boardriders ’17. It was a difficult year, but a good year. We had excellent conditions which suited my surfing and I had the chance to do a few decent events together. I also met a great team.
“Oh yes, that’s right, City,” I said, inspecting the trophy.
The wave lip has a sharp silver cap, almost like a spear point.
“Are these guys still running?”
“No, they don’t. They folded that year due to a lack of competition.
I squeeze the point between my thumb and forefinger.
“You used to do well in comps, yeah?” he asks.
“Oh, that was a long time ago.”
“Come on man, I heard you were a legend back then.”
“Sam ‘Shred Dog’ Smith, with the best forehand in the business. Is it true that you beat Shane Beschen in the final at Huntington one year?
“No mate, it was Shane Bevan in the third round at Surfest. And it was only by interference.
“Oh that’s right. Again. Impressive.”
I look at Main Peak out the window. There is a nice little swell flowing. Very questionable. I imagine myself there, Shred Dog Smith, around 93. Shreddin ‘lips. Heads banging. I haven’t heard that name in ages.
“A long time ago,” I said to myself again.
With the trophy still in hand, I think of my own collection of gongs collecting dust in the back shed. ACC. Regional amateur titles. The two-star QS. Everything is worthless now.
My watch brings me to attention. It is noon. Damn, I’m already late.
“So come on, where is it …”
But the pussy cuts me again.
“I have pictures.”
“Some pictures. From me surfing. I was wondering…”
I feel where this is going. Can’t this guy take a signal?
“… Well I sent it to these top guys at Cabarita but they don’t respond to my emails anymore and…”
I let out a heavy sigh. “Comrade. Look…”
“It’s just a five-minute break. Mainly GoPro and iPhone images. I just want to know if I am turning my arms enough in my upper turns… ”
“I really don’t know if I have much to tell you.
“Oh please, you’re still tearing up. I saw you take Hands apart last winter when I moved here and I’m amazed. Actually, it’s a little embarrassing to say, but… ”He turns and looks at Main Peak, so I can’t see his face. “I model my surf on yours.”
For a second, I pity him. This guy is crazy, but he has money. All the attributes of success. Brand new apartment. New boards. What did he do while watching a piece of crap was like me? He doesn’t want my life.
“Well, shit, thank you, but …”
“So just watch my video. Tell me where I’m going wrong. I will pay you.”
“I can not. “
“Yes, you can. That’s what I want. That’s what you will do for me.
He turns to face me. “I want to be like you. I want to dominate Main Peak. I want people to call me ‘Shred Dog’ Phil Davies. I want to be respected.
He’s looking me in the eye now.
“As you were. “
Like I was? Does this cock taunt me? What the fuck does he know about respect?
I left that to him.
“Look, fucking kook, I didn’t come here to talk about surfing. I barely recognized your name when you called. I am a plumber. You called me because your shit is broken. I’m busy. I still have three jobs to do today. I haven’t surfed for six months. The wife and children have left me. I have nothing but a bad back and a bunch of old trophies that nobody cares about anymore.
I throw him his crappy trophy.
“And you. You have all the gear and no idea, buddy. You moved to Mains not even a year ago and act like you own the joint because you can chain a few turns together and ride several times a week. The point is, if it was fifteen years ago you would have had your head knocked in. Probably by me.
He stands there with a stupid look on his face, the trophy by his side.
“But these days everyone is too scared to put their finger on them in case they get sued. So you are able to strut around the joint with your shithouse style and pull out weak pussy planks and trophies acting like you own it. You don’t own anything.
I take a breath, calm down. It felt good. Too good.
“Now. Are you going to show me that damn leaky dunny, or what?
“I’m sorry. It’s over here,” he said pointing to the hallway. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
So I get down on my knees and get to work, sifting through his shit. But my mind is back on the halcyon days. The comps. The parts. Waves. The cheers I received from the crowds as I sank tracks, dribbles piss, sinks. Then there was the rash of amphetamines. The chain of toxic relationships. Money lost on questionable real estate transactions. The fact of settling down with the children whom I hated a little less than my wife. And now they are gone.
I’m only left with a burnt pterygium and the occasional heart murmur, while pussies like Phil can live in their beachfront investment properties, pissing on everything I’ve ever accomplished.
I think of the monument that compromised my life as I finally flush the toilet.
My watch beeps again. Shit. I am really late.
I return to the living room. Phil is in the descending dog pose, the WSL podcast goes through his phone speakers.
“It is done.”
“Oh cool. Thank you,” he said, standing up. “Look, I’m sorry before, I really am.”
I head for the door.
“Hey Sam, before you go…” He grabs his phone and turns off the podcast.
“Can I at least have a selfie?” I have a large social media following and can mark your business for a take. It could definitely lead you to more work. “
“Yeah ok. Whatever.”
“Here, hold this.” He passes me the trophy and stands next to me, his arm stretched out in front of us for the shot. I can feel her moist, clammy skin against mine. Disgusting.
“Thanks,” he said, “can’t wait to download this. Do you have TikTok? No? Cool.”
I’m almost out when he grabs my arm.
“Wait! You have my trophy.”
I forgot that I still had it. I guess it was comfortable having one in my hand.
“Oh by the way,” he said. “I know you quoted me in cash, but can I pay by card and ask you to bill me?” That way I can write it off for tax purposes. “
Something in his request triggers me. Maybe it’s his daring. Perhaps it is a long-dormant anger awakened by nostalgia.
I see a bright light, and a wave of rage comes over me. I feel… full of energy. Like it’s 1993 and I’m about to mark the end section to break the combo and win the lineup.
In a flash, I lift the trophy above my head, its silver cap glistening in the early afternoon sun now streaming out the window. From the line up, a small lightning bolt would be seen as I lowered the trophy above Phil’s head, the sharp metal of the silver lip slitting it like a watermelon.
That’s it. Shred Dog Smith’s final forehand. I hear cheers coming from the beach across the road.
But then the bright light fades and I realize I haven’t even moved. The trophy is still in my hand, and Phil is still there, waiting for my answer, with that same stupid look on his face.
“Of course my guy. Would you like Paywave?”