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Toward the coast I went with Bellbrook behind me, a feeling of social turbulence in my wake, new friends left behind so quickly opening a void of desire – silent acceptance sighs through the longing. I had mentioned my direction toward Crescent Head to a few, perhaps in effort to gain favour to the destination, to fulfilling my own wants of continued interaction before heading off where the sunset would show later in the day.
I pulled into Kempsey for a break and saw Elle and Hayden – those who I delivered to the barbeque their fuel tank all but dry in their olive green kombi. To my delight they were going to check out Crescent Head, I felt happiness upon a reunion post gathering.
Back at the van dust poured like water as I opened the back door, the few hours drive to and from the gathering leaving a grey brown film everywhere inside and out. An envelope that had been sitting on the table lifted to reveal the spotless surface underneath, I could feel a spring clean coming.
At the Crescent Head car park I saw the familiar kombi van and a parking space right next to it, Elle and Hayden were still in the front gazing through the window to the ocean beyond. I got out and went for a walk, finding myself moving toward the bluff overlooking the town, I climbed it and saw the magic of the area – yellow sands curving toward me like the rim of a wine glass, against it lace washings of surf coming to a shallow rest before again drawing back to the open sea. Below the bluff scores of surfers dipped over plentiful waves ever waiting for the right moment, a break and a satisfying ride to shore while others gave in to hopeful observation.
On the walk back I caught sight of Emily from the gathering, her and Jack had just arrived and they were preparing for a surf. We spoke gladly having that instant connection from a past – recent – recognition. I spoke of going for a swim, Jack said “why don’t you come for a paddle with us? We have a spare board”.
“I’ve never surfed, nor even touched a board before” I said.
“No worries, we’ll teach you” spouted Jack giving his confidence in place of my void.
Accepting the moment, throwing myself in, this was the feeling, say yes to everything my internals shouted. I listened and appeared back at their van a minute later in shorts. My resolve tested as Jack and Emily donned their wetsuits, I would be the most underdressed surfer on the beach.
They discussed a board for me, a foamie, all foam, no fins, good for a beginner to ride without standing up. I accepted all judgement from my teachers, surrendering, trusting. We walked the path to our entry point, once there Jack asked if we could practice the Five Tibetan Rites, an exercise akin to yoga that I had been teaching at the Vanlife gathering. The three of us stood on the edge of a golf course stretching and moving to precede our foray into the ocean.
Jack and Emily went through the basics of catching a wave, the waiting, the choosing, almost an instinctual decision to take or leave. The surf was populated so I had to be on the ball, words and reminders bounced around my head as our trio stepped carefully over the forest of rounded rocks making up the head.
Into the water, we went prone on our boards and paddled into the fray. My arms and shoulders complained of the sudden propulsory effort, I moved back on the board and held onto the sides, shakily breaching over waves so intent on pushing me back to shore. Closer to the line up I came, Emily far in front checking up on me every so often, thumbs up – I was still on the board.
So many people, so many waves, I was lost in a sea of internal confusion as I attempted to choose a ride. Emily, Jack and I had a meeting, the two sitting comfortably upright on their boards, I attempted the same and convulsed wildly trying to find a balance before helplessly falling under the waves – I decided to take part in the discussion from a prone positon. We spoke of how to choose a wave, I gave it a go and caused a traffic incident, back to the drawing board, look left, there were so many things to be aware of in a full crowd of surfers.
I paddled toward shore with Jack, he was swapping boards and I wanted a break – I got one, alone and closer to the sand a rogue wave picked me up and carried me in, the exhilaration of movement without effort, the ride lasted forever in the arms of the strong and gentle roller and eventually I found myself at the rocky shore. My first wave, the satisfaction, the excitement!
Back at the line of vans Elle was reading peacefully, I walked in wide eyed – “I caught a wave!” my voice full of boyish enthusiasm. Elle smiled and listened as I described the scene in elaborate gestures and excited words.
The four of us set up a photographic picnic on the rocks while Jack went out for another surf. Hayden gave me his telephoto lens to play with – an exciting toy that given enough spare cash I may wind up owning – I snapped remotely as Jack rode the curling wash in style.
The sun was going down over the curving shore, our eyes adorned by the changing colours, the saturation of hue over the earthly terrain increasing while the sky above changed from blues to yellows to blues, a perfect natural gradient leading to the night sky. A crescent moon mirrored the crescent beach, crescent Cheshire smiles reflected our own.
Jack led us to a pizza bar and bottle shop, the quintet waiting for the boxed banquet out front creating secret handshakes and open conversation. We took the cargo back to a grassy strip near the shore to share and relish as the night air soothed our minds.
Cameras came out again, Hayden sharing his knowledge as Emily, Elle and I – eager students – learnt to capture the heavens above.
We took the equipment plus the last few beers up to the bluff passionate on the photo at hand and snapped through the night. Stars, galaxies and ambient light a swath to the lens as Jack and Hayden posed precariously on cliff edge with torches projecting beams of blue to the night sky.
We returned to the grassy patch not far from van singing and reciting story until slowing into the desire for sleep. I crawled to the mobile nest and closed my eyes, head spinning with drink and engagement.
The morning light filtered through cream curtains lifting my slumber in a golden glow, the gang were up already and enjoyed the sunrise, they encouraged the sleep from my eyes with smiles and chit chat. We agreed on breakfast through the recommendation of Jack and found ourselves inside a bakery boasting rows and rows of pastry delights. The quintet satiated stomachs and watched the world go by fancy free and lost in time.
We all walked back to the vans, a bond formed, effortless dialogue. Five strangers united in trust and love and learning. Embracing vulnerability – a scary place – we can learn to be more genuine, to be true to ourselves and true to others, all imperfectly perfect, striving and sharing what it is to be me.
Thanks Hayden for the great feature photo 🙂