Sunday, 31 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (7)


I have no idea how long the bar roulette went on for, it seemed as if the whole of Ferrol was out that night, we kept on bumping into people from the contest then losing them again only to meet up later somewhere else. The boys from Pukas in their Renault Espace, were on a mission, with Pablo and Ignacio leading their charge. They were by far the real masters at this game, I was just a mere apprentice, we could not keep up and always seemed to be a few paces behind them. Throughout the night they seemed to drift in and out of vision as we kept crossing paths, their car always full of laughing girls and raging surfers. If an award for the naughtiest guy on tour was awarded Pablo would have been the winner hands down, if ever there was a problem Pablo was guaranteed to be involved.

The year before in Pantin we had drama in the water, it was solid a good 8 feet, big lumps of ocean, perfect for me, I had 3 Basque surfers, Pablo, Gorka and Jorge in the quarter finals. It should have been an easy heat, semis next almost a sure thing.

We were sitting up against the cliffs and as soon as the heat started I dashed into the middle of the bay with Pablo sticking to me like glue, a perfect left stood up right in front of me and I was perfectly placed to get a bomb wave in the first minute of the heat, a perfect start.

I looked at Pablo he was too deep, impossible for him to go, he was famous for playing dirty, He was paddling over the wave and shouted for me to go, I turned took two digs and was up and gone. As soon as I committed he had turned and thrown himself over the falls, somehow made the drop, bottom turned and was right behind me. A classic interference, my contest had come to an end.


I was not angry I was fuming, I wanted to smash his head in, instead we were getting caught by set after set and getting smashed ourselves right up against the cliffs and rocks of Pantin. Earlier in the day the contest had been called off while one of the Owen twins rescued another competitor who was drowning in the middle of the heat, so this was not a game this was heavy water pushing us up against the rocks. My anger dissipated fast as survival came first.

Eventually there was a break in the sets and we made it safely back into the lineup I was swearing and cursing at Pablo the other two competitors gave us both a nervous glance and moved as far away from us as possible, I said to them not to worry they would advance into the semis as Pablo was not going anywhere. I grabbed his leash, wrapped it round my arm and paddled him out to sea. He was not going to get another wave, not if I could help it.

We sat in open ocean for the next 25 minutes with Pablo frantically trying to get away but I held him like my life depended on it, the whole beach and every other competitor was watching, let this be a lesson. With a minute to go a perfect big right stood up right in front of me, I let Pablo`s leash go paddled for it and went. It was a perfect wave I got a big score and just missed making the semis by a fraction of a point. Pablo came last in the heat, the only wave he caught was the wave of the interference. We had a little scuffle on the sand before we were broken apart and we went our separate ways. Our rivalry had just stepped up a level.

So that night when I saw Pablo being chased out of the disco we were about to enter and down the road by a group of apparently very angry guys and a few policemen, I smiled put my arm around Blue Eyes and walked in.



Saturday, 30 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (6)

The Heroes del Silencio were playing that night in Ferrol. I have never really enjoyed Spanish pop music, it just doesnt do it for me. I had also never heard of the these guys until that night. It was their first and last concert ever in Ferrol and they were awesome.

Bunbury the lead singer blasted out a message I did not understand at the time but 20 years later seem now almost prophetic.


The 31st July 1993 was the night I started to become "Caught between two lands" and as the lyrics clearly state, It was not their fault they had to watch me fall.

A random set of completely unlinked circumstances linked up that night and my carefully planned future was forever changed, as of course, there she was in the crowd staring straight at me.



Friday, 29 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (5)


I swear in Spain there must be more bars than people, it has to be seen to be believed. The way it works is you have a drink or two in one bar then move onto the next as you go along you collect more people into your group and lose others. The night never ends as it began and never ends as you expected. It’s a real life living experiment of the “Chaos Theory” and it is glorious.

Peth, Berto, Blue Eyes, Big Tits and myself were cruising we had gathered quite a number of people in our pack as we went from bar to bar. It is nothing like F1 after every pit stop, you do not go faster your chances of spinning out just become greater and greater. I was learning fast, this was not a sprint like South Africa where everything closed just after midnight or like the UK where the bars closed at 11pm. This was a marathon, the discos only opened after 1am and the parties lasted till long after the sun had risen the next day. After the shock of being abused by naughty Gorilla Biscuits in Tapia, I had learned my lesson. Pacing yourself was everything.

One of Spain´s biggest and best all time bands was playing in Ferrol that night and the town was packed, the streets were full, the bars were full, once again I felt that feeling. South Africa had not prepared me for this I had never seen so many happy young people, freely walking the streets, no restraints, no restrictions of any kind. In South Africa we had just come out of a “state of emergency” where martial law had been declared and no one freely roamed the streets at night. This was a new thing for me.

I saw her again, almost in the same place, this time we crossed paths going in opposite directions. She gave me a sultry defiant stare and the smallest of smiles as she brushed past into the crowd. She was going to the bar we had just left. Blue Eyes gave me a dirty glance as I turned around and watched her walk away into the ever growing crowd.

At the last possible moment just as she disappeared into the mass of people going to the rock concert, she turned ever so slightly and looked back and smiled.

Bingo, it was game ON.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (4)


I will never forget that moment, it was brief, an instant in time forever imprinted in my brain.

The moment she came across the park towards us, we had arrived in Ferrol it was a glorious summers evening, still bright daylight at 10 in the evening. We had arrived right into the middle of the town`s summer festival and there were hundreds of people in the streets.


She came directly towards me and we crossed paths, our eyes met just for an instant and I swear my heart skipped a beat. I had seen many beautiful women in Spain, there are swarms of beautiful women in Spain they are everywhere but she took my breath away.




She was wearing an amazingly sexy Gaultier black leather waistcoat with silver pointed studs, tight fitting blue jeans, jet black long flowing hair. She was a goddess. Our eyes met she walked past me and she was gone into the crowd. We crossed the park and went into the club. It was packed the whole contest was already there it was going crazy. Grish and Spence pushed into the crowd and that was the last time I saw them that night.

There are times when you can just feel it deep down inside, a kind of shiver, a nervous thrill, you just know that something big is happening. It is not a conscious thing, like a deja vu kind of feeling you just know something is going to happen. The moment I stepped into the club that night, I got goose bumps and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Yes it was going to be a huge night.

Peth was there, Berto was there, they were ASP judges and they had a group of girls cornered at the bar, they knew I had just lost in the last heat of the day they called me over and offered me a drink. We were like a big travelling circus, they knew what I normally drank, Peth handed me a vodka and orange, looked me straight in the eyes and said, you take the short one with the blue eyes and I´ll take her friend with the big tits.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (3)



Spence frowned at me and asked “did you just handcuff that girl to the bed” I laughed, they were real metal but were just toy handcuffs and were broken. She could easily get out of them and unlock the van from inside and leave. Grish laughed anything for another dot on the door.

Everyone knew what the dots on the door stood for, we were the “Surfers from Hell, the Death Division” and we were free on a wild rampage through Europe. I really cannot explain the feeling of freedom and adventure of those years. Before everything had been so structured, discipline was everything in South Africa, first at school then the army. There were always consequences for any deviations and they usually always involved punishment and pain.

C and B

Bullo started the tally. It eventually evolved to the dots on the door, but began with Gorilla Biscuits friends panties tied to the radio antennae of the Kombi, a trophy for everyone to see, proudly flown from town to town, country to country. They eventually blew off and we started using the black dots on the door.

I never made it back to the Kombi that night in Tapia, It was Bullo´s turn. I ended up in the backseat of a two door Peugeot 106 which was parked in the middle of the town square. Biscuits helped me there, I was all of a sudden in no state for anything and started vomiting like crazy, all over her, all over her car, someone must have slipped something into my drink. I was dead on my feet. I awoke the next morning with the blazing sun in my face, totally naked with a bunch of old women dressed in black shouting at me through the car windows. Biscuits had disappeared it was late in the morning and I had no doubt missed my heat and an opportunity to earn a bit of badly needed cash.

That night I realized I was out of my depth, I was not prepared. Growing up in Apartheid South Africa had not prepared me for this. I had always considered myself a liberal thinker, we were a liberal thinking family at home in Durban. It came as shock when I realised I was in fact extremely conservative by European standards.

I had vomited on Biscuits head and without so much as a blink she looked up and kissed me, now that was a defining moment. The moment I realized I knew nothing and was about to enter into a whole new phase of education. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (2)



Grish looked at me and smiled, he knew, he was the best player of all. It had all started with Gorilla Biscuits and Bullo a year ago In Tapia, or was it that first day in France in Lacanau when we stumbled onto the nude beach searching for good waves in the forest. No of course not, actually it began the very first day I arrived in Europe back in April 90.

I had never seen anything like it. South Africa was just so different, nudity was banned. Any kind of nakedness was not allowed the Nationalist government had made it a criminal offence to print or publish any kind of nudity.
Scope the South African Playboy, not a nipple in sight.

 We had been led to believe it was a sin and the NG Kerk (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk ) deemed any kind of moral misbehavior would most certainly end up with you burning in hell for all eternity. After my first night out in Newquay where I just happened to bump into a bunch of nurses on a hen`s night out, I knew I was damned.

Tapia

It was Bullo in Tapia that started to keep a tally after Gorilla Biscuits and her friend had taken advantage of us while we were happily experimenting with the wonders of Cidra, the Asturian apple cider that was freely flowing in the bars of the small port town one night. We never paid for drinks the bars wanted us there, where the surfers were, that’s where the action was and everything was always free. They were crazy times.
Cidra.

I was in the first heat of the contest the next day, so I needed to get back to the Kombi, rested and ready for the final day. Cidra is like apple juice and it slowly sneaks up on you and when it hits it leaves you in a mess. One minute I was fine the next I could hardly stand, I needed to get back to the Kombi.

Bullo gave her the name Gorilla Biscuits and she came out of nowhere I had not said a word to her all night but the moment I left the bar she came running after me. She was French, a yoga instructor and I was doomed.




Monday, 25 March 2013

What is a Tokolosh ?

Ok so a lot of people are asking what is a Tokolosh.

Please refer to the link below, its way too good to let slip by. Hopefully this will give you all a better insight as to what a Tokolosh is.




Pure Gold.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Morphine Memories 1 (1)


Morphine Memories 

Pantin, Spain. 31 July 1993.

I am not sure how the handcuffs got into my possession I think they were bought by the boys for psycho slut, the French groupie that had been stalking us for weeks. For some reason they were in my Kombi, I know Miss Piggy had put them to use the night before in the car park in front of where we were staying at Casa Ramos up on the hill above the beach in Pantin. The whole restaurant had marveled at how brightly luminous condoms can shine from behind misted up backseat car windows, but that is an entirely different story altogether that made the mag below.
Miss Piggy ripping and tearing.

The day had ended badly. I had just lost my heat in the round of 32, I needed a pretty low score and slipped and fell on my last wave, ended up 3rd and eliminated with an equal 17th place. I was not happy, I was used to quarter finals or better, this was my last year on tour, I wanted some good results. I was pissed off. For some reason there was a lot of green seaweed in the water it was terrible, slippery and caused a lot of drag, I had decided to surf without a leash and had fallen on my first wave and lost too much time in that green mess, a bad error of judgment, I was not happy that afternoon.
Most of us travelled and lived in camper vans and Kombis, a small flotilla of vans following the European leg of the ASP world tour, we were a pretty tight knit bunch and were on a kind of permanent surfing adventure, from town to town, country to country, it was astounding really.
There were always girls around, they loved hanging out with us in the vans, they were not shy, they were far from shy. None of us spoke Spanish and none of them spoke English. That never seemed to matter we all spoke a common language.

Grish and Spence, stopped at my van, they were going into town, it was going to be a big night, there was a rock band playing, everyone was going to Ferrol, it was Saturday night, summer and we had all lost that day. It was time to let of some steam. I thought about it for a few minutes said, right let`s go. I kicked the girls out and got ready, one of the girls got back into the van and was making a bit of a fuss, I had no idea what she was going on about, but she refused to get out. Clearly she wanted me to stay with her but that was not going to happen.

The handcuffs were on the stove. I handcuffed her to the bed, locked the Kombi, got in the car with Spence and Grish and we drove into Ferrol 20 km away. Little did I know then the biggest night of my life was waiting in Ferrol.







Private Health and Insurance (full chapter)


Private Health, and Insurance (full chapter)

My love affair with morphine had been brief and intense and right then I longed to escape back to that warm sanctuary. The ambulance had arrived, time had blended into insignificance I have no idea how long it took to arrive, 30 minutes, an hour an eternity. My mind was a mess, I was in hell and it was freezing cold.

 He had drugs of course he did, the paramedic ambulance driver. It had not started well, there is no path down to the beach from the top car park up at the whale lookout. He had tried to come down through the aloes and bushes, had tripped, fallen and rolled down onto the beach much too every ones amusement. No not a good start and it was going to get worse, a lot worse.

The pain also started about then, I knew that pain, it was unstoppable. It started while I was being moved into the ambulance, at first a niggling throb, slowly growing, ever growing. I knew then this was not going to be easy when I had to convince him to use the rescue backboard and neck brace collar before moving me. I definitely knew it was going to be a nightmare when he refused to use any kind of medication until we got to the nearest hospital in Humansdorp. Yes “Humansdorp” about twenty minutes away, the town were the humans lived.

The drive in the ambulance was bizarre to say the least. I was all strapped and bundled up, still in my wetsuit full of beach sand on one of those nice bright orange rescue boards, neck, arms, legs all tied down and immobile. All I could do was talk, which I suppose could be best described as a one way flow of profanities directed at the ambulance driver for refusing to shoot me up with a bit of pethidine.

 After only a few minutes we pulled over, which was impossible, no ways could we be there already. Maybe I should not have said all those things about his mother. Of course we had not yet arrived we had just stopped to pick his kids up from school. They climbed in the back with me and off we went, to take them home.

I never got to see those kids. I never got to see the ambulance driver. I never got to see the doctor in Humansdorp. I never got to see anyone that afternoon, all I got to see was the point I focused on directly above me. I regret that, I wish I knew who they were, I need to thank them.

 In hindsight stopping to pick those kids up was a master stroke, I was starting to panic. Fear of what was coming was starting to take over. Those kids sitting next to me brought things back into perspective. I assume they were young, the age of my boys, they were inquisitive and calm we chatted about what had happened, they asked why I had a big hole in my forehead. Really!!!  a big hole in my forehead, Jesus no one had mentioned that before.

Everything was so calm and civilized, was this an African thing, did African kids take blood and gore as just another part of any normal day or was this just a normal day for these kids who had an ambulance driver for a dad ? My mind was working again I had stopped obsessing on the pain and the fear it was almost good, almost. Kids seem to bring things into perspective.

 After we had dropped them off, it was only a few minutes more and I was being pushed through the doors of the hospital. I am not a religious person everyone who knows me knows that but when I heard the sound of those horrid swing doors swing open as my stretcher banged into them, I closed my eyes and silently said a little prayer.



Is it just me, or do these crazy situations bring things into crystal clear focus. Is it looking death straight in the eyes that makes you sort the important and the bullshit out in a question of seconds. Maybe it’s the drugs, like some magical serum that clears the debris from your brain.

 You can do a lot of thinking when you can´t move and can only see the same spot on the ceiling, maybe that’s the reason, back in 85 I sorted a lot of stuff out staring at the ceiling. I made some huge life changing decisions, not one have I since regretted. Maybe it is the drugs. You can kind of look down on your life and see it for what it is, sort of like some crazy medicine man inside your head telling you the truth, telling you what needs to be done.

Yes, what needs to be done, I had a lot that needed to be done that day. As I was being hurriedly pushed down the corridors through the hospital, I swear amongst all the millions of thoughts that were going through my brain at that moment, in the background I could hear the Talking Heads playing. I had not listened to them for years, this song was from the album “Stop Making Sense” we had listened to it that morning back in 1985 at 121 Battalion. I suddenly felt an even colder shiver run right through my body.

I made a promise to myself then I would sort things out. Lately life had gotten out of control. My wife was threatening to throw me out. I had almost stopped doing the one thing that really made me happy, surfing. All I did was work all day I never seemed to have time for my boys. I needed to make it through the day. I had my family depending on me. I had a lot to sort out.

I had a secret beautiful daughter in France that no one knew about. I really needed to deal with that.
Meanwhile the Talking Heads turned up the volume in my brain.



The blackmail was at first subtle, very subtle and I did not even realize it was even taking place, but once it had begun the screws got ever tighter and tighter. I was most probably handpicked, a perfect target. Yes a perfect target carefully selected and hunted down.

Thank goodness the doctor arrived then, my mind was drifting off into negative thought. The pain continued to grow the pressure of my wetsuit pushing down on my shoulders became a torture, a weird pain, a new pain, a burning pain. Millions of burning needles being pushed into me, every single nerve ending on fire.

Things speeded up the lady doctor was good, she made things happen. Hundreds of questions, x rays, she kept me actively engaged in what was going on, she kept me positive but I could hear the concern in her voice. When she returned with the x rays her tone was serious it was bad, worse than even I had thought.

I needed to go to Port Elizabeth, nothing could be done for me here. She had called the neurosurgeon he would be waiting, she pleaded for me not to go to the public hospital, but rather to go to the private hospital in Port Elizabeth. I had 3 different insurance policies, no problem, I was covered. It would take a little over an hour from Humansdorp to Port Elizabeth in the ambulance with my same driver who never for a moment had left my side.

I could not see her but I am sure she smiled as she pushed the needle into my right shoulder and said to the ambulance driver, take him to St George´s.



Miraculous and instant is the only way I can describe the effect of morphine. The moment you feel the sweet bite of the needle, the moment that liquid enters your body, tension and worry instantly disappear and the pain miraculously ebbs away. Amazing warmth grows from the entry point of the needle, it grows in ever increasing circles of pleasure, it is unstoppable and it is heaven.

I knew that feeling, I knew the craving for more would grow, I knew the effects would soon seem to last less and less, I knew I would soon want more. I knew I had again crossed over into the realm of pleasure and pain. I was back in heaven, I was back in hell.

It was useless trying to fight it, it was useless worrying, the dice had been cast. I had played my part my fate was now in the doctors hands. I closed my eyes, the tension slowly slipped away and I let my mind wander freely.

A lifetime of memories flashed through my brain there were no constraints, no false moralities holding them back. They all came back, the good memories, the dark scary memories, the ones I had filed away and had tried so hard to forget. They came in waves, as of course they would, random flashes, recollections of a short life.

It all came flooding back and at first it was amazing.


Saturday, 23 March 2013

End Chapter (full chapter)


END CHAPTER.

3 February 2009.

It was the sound that got my attention, two terrible different sounds that brought me back. The second I had heard many years ago and it created instant fear, the sound of vertebrae snapping and being crushed, this time it was my neck and the explosion seemed amplified a million times underwater. The first I had no idea where or what that sound was or where it came from, it was a horrible sound a dull wet thud, kind of like if you hit a ripe watermelon with a baseball bat.

The sound however was not the only thing that had my brain in a state of total confusion it was the light which exploded in my head, an absolutely pure radiating bright white light that left me blind and confused for what seemed ages. It most probably was only a second or two, I guess I´ll never know for sure how long I was out for. Believe me when you are in situations where you are in real danger of dying time expands and slows down and everything seems to move in ultra slow motion. I know that day I should have died.



The dull wet thud I now know was my skull cracking against an underwater rock at my favourite surf spot in Jeffreys Bay in South Africa. The blow was horrible and when I came around I was very dazed and confused. I cant remember actually falling off my surfboard, I remember talking to George as the set of waves approached, I remember it was a stunning hot summers day, the waves were small and playful the water was emerald green and we just had to go surfing. George caught the first wave and I got the next one, I laughed as I flew past him as he paddled back up the point.

I knew I was in serious trouble when I saw the blood. I had been in a kind of dream state watching my hands floating and waving around in front of me, I had no idea what was going on, absolutely no idea where I was, what the hell those hands were doing slapping me in the face or what I was doing underwater bashing my face up against the rocks. The blood which was quickly staining the foamy water was what brought me to my senses.

The blood, the blood made me scared, scared of what I had no idea just yet but it made me scared, as only lots of blood can, I knew it was mine and something bad was happening. I had to concentrate, what the hell was going on, why was the water so clear. I could see the seaweed, a fish darted into my vision then disappeared into the foam and blood, everything was happening in slow motion.

Ever since the army days I have had this recurring nightmare, I have never talked to anyone about it. It´s been my nightmare, it´s always the same it never changes. I am in a tunnel underground crawling away from danger, the tunnel just keeps getting smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter and then it collapses. Total darkness dirt suffocating me, it never changes. I wake up in a sweat gasping for breath, I haven’t had this dream for years but things have been stressful lately, business is suffering with the global crisis, family life is going down the toilet, I had just come back from the police station to report my house had just been burgled and all the furniture was gone, even the coat hangers and pegs had been stolen for god´s sake. Real life had become a nightmare, but why had my nightmare transformed into this new version, it never changes. I needed to breathe, there was no tunnel, no dirt but I was suffocating all the same. A couple more seconds and I would wake up and breathe, it never changes.

The blood, the seaweed, the fish, those horrid sounds, this was not my dream this was real, I was drowning in waist deep water I needed to focus and fast. Survival mode kicked in at last and it came back in an instant, I had hurt myself surfing and it was bad. All I needed to do was stand up and walk the few metres onto dry land, help would be there soon George was there he would help.

Most probably only about 30 seconds had passed but my concept of time had moved into another realm, those rubbery arms and freaky hands that kept bashing around like a crazy rag doll were mine, why the hell did they not work, just push me off the bottom and stand up for God´s sake. The next few seconds I have no way of accurately putting into words, I was by now fully conscious and aware of what was going on and my brain was working at hyper speed while, everything else was in slow motion. I was in about 2ft of water face down bleeding like crazy, the only thing that actually worked was my brain, my arms and legs just did not respond to instructions and I needed to breathe NOW.

The wave saved me. It must have been a bigger set, as it pushed through with more force than any other. Up to that moment I had been pretty immobile just floating around face down trying to get a grip on what the hell was going on. That wave was a life changer, a small foamy a few feet from the beach was by far the most important wave I had ever come across.

Every surfer has caught waves they will remember forever, I have a few. My first wave caught at Ballito Bay way back in 1973, The day of the oil at Garvies when we were groms in the 80´s. The wave I paddled over at the SA champs in 1987 wanting the next one which did not appear. The 12 footer I got at G Land in 1997, my last wave as a pro in 1993, the list goes on and on. As a surfer waves have guided my life and in those quiet moments if I close my eyes I can surf them over and over, but that one I will never forget.



The wave saved me, it hit me side on and rolled me over face up. Breathe, breathe, breathe, instinct took over, I sucked in oxygen, water, foam, blood absolutely everything I could. To this day I wonder how I did it, do we get some kind of super powers when the adrenaline kicks in. Try sucking a glass of foam down your throat and not cough, that day I sucked in litres of water without so much as a splutter.

The law of physics states every action has an equal and opposite reaction, that day was no different the backwash of that set wave pulled me off the rock shelf into open water in the channel between the Point and Tubes and much to my horror back onto my stomach and face down. My brain was still in hyper drive and things seemed to be speeding up, which at the time worried me a bit, but my brain was at maximum revolutions. I had semi filled my lungs with air, I had a minute or two to work this out, George was there he would come.

Yes George was there he would come, GEORGE where the hell are you.



It´s not like in the movies, floating face down. No nice outstretched arms and legs floating nicely on top of the water like a starfish. My legs where hanging straight down I could see them just waving around in the current, the same as my arms, what the hell was wrong with me, lift your arms and legs and swim, do something for goodness sake. Nothing happened, no reaction at all, just those jelly arms and legs dancing around in the pink blood stained water like some kind of fantasy below me in plain sight.

Think, think, think, have a plan work this through, brain redlining, heart rate just ticking over, I could hear it clear as a bell, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. I felt no pain, not a thing actually, nothing and that was a worry. If you have ever snorkeled you will know underwater there is a lot of noise and when your eyes are seeing everything in slow motion I promise your ears hear everything with the volume pumped up and the sounds were amazing.

That morning I did something I never do, it was a stunning summers day, no wind, hot as hell, the sea was warm I could just tell it was. From the house you can tell, when the sea is that emerald green the warm Mozambique current has moved down the east coast and warmed the normally cold J Bay water to a very nice 20 Celsius. Why I chose to put on my wetsuit that morning is a mystery, normally I would have just run down the hill in my boardshorts, I always do. There was no one surfing, it was small but looked pretty fun, as I ran past Georges door, I stopped and shouted for him to come for a surf.

I knew the wetsuit would keep me afloat even in this bizarre posture, torso floating, arms, legs and head all hanging down. I could see flashes of daylight as the gentle splash of the ocean lifted my head up and down, my mouth and nose was only centimetres from fresh air but I might as well have been at the bottom of the ocean, it was no good. I must have been knocked senseless my whole body had turned into a jelly.

The feeling of helplessness is impossible to describe, fresh air and life was literally 5 centimetres away, all I had to do was lift my head and breathe. Come ON, concentrate for gods sake concentrate, my life depended on moving my head 5 centimetres, nothing else mattered at that moment every single ounce of mental power went into that thought.
Just like that my head moved, it lifted a little, not much but enough to raise my eyes and mouth half way out of the water and I managed to again suck in a small mouth full of water and air. I was floating by now out in clear water and by a chance of luck I could see up the point, I could see George. He looked a hell of a long way away he had his head down and was paddling back up the point and away from me.

What made George stop paddling sit up and look back I am not sure, one day I will have to ask him, but he did. He sat there looking back at me floating like a sack for what seemed forever. It was getting harder and harder to hold my head up I had to do something, I tried to call out. The sound that emanated from my mouth was startling to say the least. Jesus this was just not my day, a series of grunts and groans, my tongue was like a slab of rubber in my mouth and along with pretty much everything else was just refusing to follow even the most simplest of instructions.

Apart from confusing the hell out of me this really made me angry and I tried to shout for help. I made some really weird noises, but they got Georges attention and he started to move towards me, he seemed such a long way away too far away.

I had not read a book for years, I always was too busy, the twins, the surf shop, the business, the ASP, WPS it seemed never ending, I hardly surfed anymore. Why I picked up that book a week earlier and read it cover to cover in five days finishing just the night before I will never know. I had been given it as a present and it was just sitting on the bookshelf untouched for months. The reason I picked it up and read it haunts me, why I put on my wetsuit and why I read that book is a mystery I am sure I will take to my grave. Late at night when the lights are out and my mind is free I continue to search for the answer.

The name of that book by Tim Winton is “Breath”.



Breath, my whole life has been troubled by just that breath. For as long as I can remember and especially when I was young, I have had trouble breathing. As a child I suffered with bad asthma, it has always been a daily struggle to breathe, an ever present struggle for air it never goes away.

I could see George coming towards me, slowly at first but as he got nearer and nearer he was paddling more and more frantically, he was still so far away. I was not going to make it, I had swallowed and breathed in too much water, I couldn’t hold on any longer, my head slumped down and It felt like I started to sink. Reality and imagination from now on become a blur, I was dying, slowly drowning and I could not do a thing about it.

My life did not flash before my eyes, I could see the shafts of golden sunlight dancing in the water making amazing patterns on the sand below, my thoughts were crystal clear and I knew I would die. I was not afraid, not sad, not angry, I was actually at peace almost happy. I thought weird things, I thought about my life insurance, my wife could sell the house on the hill, she would be ok, my boys would be ok they would be cared for. My boys they needed me, they needed me. Concentrate hang on, hang on, not like this, not today. I had unfinished business I couldn´t leave it unfinished. I saw my wife`s face, my boy`s faces, they were worried and they looked sad, they gave me an inner strength, they gave me focus.

Breathe I needed to breathe, my whole life I had unknowingly been preparing for the next few seconds. The countless nights with asthma, the countless nights dealing with oxygen starved lungs. The memory of 1985 all those years ago when I had my lungs crushed my spine smashed and I nearly suffocated to death on dry land, my tunnel nightmare, I always pulled it off, I could do this. I felt a newfound energy, a new focus, everything was crystal clear, I put every single bit of my mental power into one thought. Do not breathe, do not breath, do not breathe underwater, whatever you do, do not breathe underwater. I had just read the book.

The bright light started from the outer circle of my vision, slowly at first but increasingly brighter and brighter, getting smaller and smaller. The smaller my circle of vision got, the brighter the light became, the brighter the light got the quicker it closed until in a flash of white, everything switched OFF.



No, there was no tunnel of light, no cool guy in robes standing with a smile on his face to greet me, just a black nothing.

What happened next is just a big confusing mess, George was there, out of focus inches from my face speaking to me, but the volume was off I could see his lips moving but nothing was registering. Then BANG the sound was back on, I had no idea what he was saying, I tried to talk, but again my tongue was on strike, just garbled sounds. I could see fear on Georges face, this snapped me back and words came out of my mouth, I can´t be sure what he was asking or what I said. I know I was swearing at him that much I can remember.

 Ever since that 3rd Feb 2009, I have sat and stared at the ocean from those rocks down at Tubes, I have run this through my mind a million times, tried to work it out. How long was I under the water? How did I survive? Why did I wear a wetsuit? What if George arrived 10 seconds later? Just questions, never any answers.

From out of nowhere a longboard appeared, George and someone else were rolling me onto it and they started moving me towards the beach as they worked their way through the surf zone a set broke, my board which was still attached to my left foot on its leash it was being dragged behind me like some kind of bizarre accessory to this whole drama came crashing into us with the foam of that wave. It bounced nose first into me, it should have hurt like hell. I did not feel a thing.

I had spent 24 years trying to forget the last time I had been dragged from disaster on my surfboard, but right then it all came flooding back. Freddie was there for me in 1985, my surfboard had saved my life and spine then. Some things you can never forget no matter how hard you try. The memories poured back, I could not believe it, it was happening again.

They say fear is all in the mind. Bullshit. Fear is a real tangible touchable thing. People watching Discovery Channel who cover their eyes when they see a spider or a snake, no that is not fear. No not that fear, real fear based on real life events, the kind of fear you silently fight every day, the kind of fear that keeps you awake at night, the fear that drives your nightmares, the fear that changes your life.  When that fear strikes there is nothing you can do.

I was being dragged up the beach we had made it in through the channel easily my mind was clear and extremely focused. Self-preservation mode was fully activated I had done this before it came automatically as if in a trance. I heard myself rattling off instructions, go to Glen and Cathy´s house call the paramedics, don’t move me, someone call my mother, get my phone and wallet from the house, nobody panic. A small crowd had gathered by now, I was lying on the sand on a slight slope, I was safe. I had to stay focused, keep talking, keep talking , keep spirits up, don’t show any signs of fear, tell jokes, keep talking.



Until now the struggle had been to stay alive, there had been no time for fear, no time for anything else. The struggle had been to float and to breathe. I knew now I was safe, I knew I was doing the right things, it was by the book. I had been a lifesaver, I had been a safety officer with a St Johns certificate, just follow procedure, do not move, not even an inch, stay warm and get into a hospital as soon as possible.

How bad could it be, this seemed a walk in the park, the sun was shining, I was staring into an impossibly blue African sky, I was surrounded by friends my home was just a few hundred metres away. There were no terrible sounds of impacting screeching, grinding, crunching metal. There were no sounds of screaming pain. There was no sign of collective fear and panic. There was no copious amount of splattered blood. There was no death. Compared to 1985 this seemed a walk in the park. How bad could it be?

George was standing talking to me, I was watching him he had my hand in his, he was talking I was not listening I had to force myself to come back, to concentrate. George had my hand in his, what was he doing, concentrate, concentrate. George had my hand in his he was asking me to squeeze his hand, oh ok yes of course, what for?
That was when the fear struck.

George squeezed my hand, I could see him doing it, I could hear him doing it. Jesus, I could not feel him doing it and no matter how hard I tried I could not squeeze back.

Fear struck in the form of ICE, an icy cold came over me. There was no pain, my brain went into overdrive again. George was now fiddling with my feet, again not a thing. Those freaky jelly arms and legs I had watched dancing in the current just a few moments earlier were mine. At the time of course I knew that, the harsh reality just did not register. I had more pressing needs then. Suddenly I was cold, not even the harsh African summer sun could warm me.

Not fifteen minutes had passed since I had glided past George laughing on what most surely was my last wave ever. This time I was done, it was over for sure, the unthinkable flashed into my mind, I felt a twinge of anger that I had made it. It had been so peaceful under water, I had been ready, life had treated me well, it had been good. I felt so cold all of a sudden, a lifetime of emotions in such a short space of time. I felt so cold and suddenly so very tired.

I know I am a logical person, science over faith any day. Logic, science and faith all kicked in at that moment.  I had done this before I had lived through being told I would be paralyzed before and it had worked out, keep positive, keep the faith, never give up. The emotional rollercoaster I felt on the beach in front of the channel at the Point that day is absolutely impossible to put into words. There was no pain and that terrified me, last time the pain was all consuming, nothing has come close since, not even the day I crushed and pulled the end of my right index finger off came close. There was no pain, it was very, very cold and it was terrifying.

I was going into neurogenic shock. The danger was very real and it was far from over.



Friday, 22 March 2013

Private Health and Insurance(5)



Miraculous and instant is the only way I can describe the effect of morphine. The moment you feel the sweet bite of the needle, the moment that liquid enters your body, tension and worry instantly disappear and the pain miraculously ebbs away. Amazing warmth grows from the entry point of the needle, it grows in ever increasing circles of pleasure, it is unstoppable and it is heaven.

I knew that feeling, I knew the craving for more would grow, I knew the effects would soon seem to last less and less, I knew I would soon want more. I had again crossed over into the realm of pleasure and pain. I was back in heaven, I was back in hell.

It was useless trying to fight it, it was useless worrying, the dice had been cast. I had played my part my fate was now in the doctors hands. I closed my eyes, the tension slowly slipped away and I let my mind wander freely.

A lifetime of memories flashed through my brain there were no constraints, no false moralities holding them back. They all came back, the good memories, the dark scary memories, the ones I had filed away and had tried so hard to forget. They came in waves, as of course they would, random flashes, recollections of a short life.

It all came flooding back and at first it was amazing.





Thursday, 21 March 2013

Private Health and Insurance(4)



The blackmail was at first subtle, very subtle and I did not even realize it was taking place, but once it had begun the screws got ever tighter and tighter. I was most probably handpicked, a perfect target. Yes a perfect target carefully selected and hunted down.

Thank goodness the doctor arrived then, my mind was drifting off into negative thought. The pain continued to grow the pressure of my wetsuit pushing down on my shoulders became a torture, a weird pain, a new pain, a burning pain. Millions of burning needles being pushed into me, every single nerve ending on fire.

Things speeded up the lady doctor was good, she made things happen. Hundreds of questions, x rays, she kept me actively engaged in what was going on, she kept me positive but I could hear the concern in her voice. When she returned with the x rays her tone was serious it was bad, worse than even I had thought.

I needed to go to Port Elizabeth, nothing could be done for me here. She had called the neurosurgeon he would be waiting, she pleaded for me not to go to the public hospital, but rather to go to the private hospital in Port Elizabeth. I had 3 different insurance policies, no problem, I was covered. It would take a little over an hour from Humansdorp to Port Elizabeth in the ambulance with my same driver who never for a moment had left my side.

I could not see her but I am sure she smiled as she pushed the needle into my right shoulder and said to the ambulance driver, take him to St George´s !!!!!!!.



Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Private Health and Insurance(3)



Is it just me, or do these crazy situations bring things into crystal clear focus. Is it looking death straight in the eyes that makes you sort the important and the bullshit out in a question of seconds. Maybe it’s the drugs, like some magical serum that clears the debris from your brain.

 You can do a lot of thinking when you can´t move and can only see the same spot on the ceiling, maybe that’s the reason, back in 85 I sorted a lot of stuff out staring at the ceiling. I made some huge life changing decisions, not one have I since regretted. Maybe it is the drugs. You can kind of look down on your life and see it for what it is, sort of like some crazy medicine man inside your head telling you the truth, telling you what needs to be done.

Yes, what needs to be done, I had a lot that needed to be done that day. As I was being hurriedly pushed down the corridors through the hospital, I swear amongst all the millions of thoughts that were going through my brain at that moment, in the background I could hear the Talking Heads playing. I had not listened to them for years, this song was from the album “Stop Making Sense” we had listened to it that morning back in 1985 at 121 Battalion. I suddenly felt an even colder shiver run right through my body.

I made a promise to myself then I would sort things out. Lately life had gotten out of control. My wife was threatening to throw me out. I had almost stopped doing the one thing that really made me happy, surfing. All I did was work all day I never seemed to have time for my boys. I needed to make it through the day. I had my family depending on me. I had a lot to sort out.

I had a secret beautiful daughter in France that no one knew about. I really needed to deal with that.

Meanwhile the Talking Heads turned up the volume in my brain.


Once in a lifetime.