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In the Water Before Light

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Chris Grierson

Stop the car. I’m gonna… Just in time Jacko flings the door open and chucks his guts up into the gutter. It doesn’t last long and as soon as he closes the door we’re on our way. Jacko begins laughing like a lunatic. That’s better. Turn the music up.

Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel Like I Do with the voice-box pedal was our rev up music. 4am out of the city on a dawn patrol we’d be in the water before light by 6am. I was fifteen, four years younger than my cousin Phil, waiting outside the house for him to pick me up. He and Jacko had been on an all-nighter so I was the fresh one. They lived in a world full of beer and bands that I hadn’t yet entered. Pity you’re not old enough to drive, Phil’d always say.

They’d start on about the weather, which way the wind was blowing and how the swell was shaping up, from weather maps kept from the previous day’s paper. Boobs was our choice of break on the high tide and we’d jump straight off the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, usually hoping there wasn’t a monster set about to break down upon us.

One morning it was pitch black and I lost sight of Jacko and Phil and I just kept paddling against a rip I thought I was caught in. By the time it was light I was a K up the coast halfway to Winkipop. I’ll never forget the look on Phil’s face when they found me wandering back towards Boobs along the coast road. They’d come in and were looking along the coast for signs from the car. Must have thought they lost me, a great white or simple drowning, thought they’d see my board washed up, or something on the rocks below. I bet Phil was already rehearsing what he was going to tell the old man: It was pitch black Bill, and we just, lost sight of him. He didn’t stand a chance.

We went straight back out but the paddle had taken its toll and I barely caught a wave that morning. 

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