I can't remember how it was that I got to share a bunk bed with Clyde during basic training, but man was I glad I did.
A suntanned, fit, focused and very genuine guy became my friend.
I had, and still have a healthy respect for anyone born and raised on the Bluff. I had seen enough fights and agro to know that they were not to be taken lightly, even saying that though, Clyde surprised me.
It began by an offer of a free weekend pass to anyone prepared to volunteer to box in an inter company boxing tournament. It was a huge affair with a real boxing ring, all the top brass invited, and all the troops supporting. It was something the entire camp could be excited about and look forward to in the bleak boring days of basic training.
Experience as a boxer wasn't needed or asked for, just box your best and win or lose, a weekend pass was yours.
Clyde and I volunteered.. I withdrew within minutes on hearing I would be boxing a Transvaal champion. Clyde continued unwavering. In the days leading up to the tournament I realised I had completely misjudged him. We had stood guard together in the early morning hours taking turns to sleep, stolen food from the canteen together, marched, run, trained, sweated, slept, polished, cleaned, laughed and shared so much real concrete stuff I honestly thought I knew him.
But when he climbed through those ropes into the ring I realised he was much much more than I judged him to be. He boxed like a champion, absorbed punishment like a sponge and stood toe to toe with a determined Dutchman. He fought with everything he had, it was only then that I realised that win or lose he was going home with his surfing prize.
May I add that in our company we had springbok and national surfers, but their hunger to surf obviously wasn't as strong as being prepared to get bloodied in the ring. Clyde was undeterred, unwavering and fought for his waves.
I saw an entire army camp change in the way they dealt with Clyde. All the troops and the ranks were sure to greet him now and I could see the respect in their eyes, a respect not easily given. In our platoon he was a hero, we were all very proud of him, and still to this day that boxing match defines the way I see Clyde - a passionate, calculating, totally focused, tough, resilient and an absolute lover of the ocean and surfing that transcends pain and reason.
Wayne Symington. (PS Corp 1984)