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The Essence by Lloyd "Jack" Johnston  


The Essence

by Lloyd "Jack" Johnston in South Africa Mon, 26 Apr 1999

As I pulled into the near deserted car park I just new that the conditions would be terrible. I stopped, turned the ignition off and turned down the blaring live renditions of Jeremy by Pearl Jam. I caught myself expressing my frustration with a single all encompassing and frequently used surfing term "SHIT....". I couldn't believe it. I had been working what felt like non-stop for the past two weeks. My eyes were burning from staring at the stupid computer screen. My head hurt and I could feel the knot of tension in the back of my neck and between my shoulder blades.

I had been dreaming about a surf. I needed to get in the water. I wasn't asking for much. A four foot fairly clean swell without hundreds of people out. Fairly reasonable expectations I thought. It was not like I was asking for six foot offshore steaming barrels all to myself. What I definitely did not request from any higher force was what I had before me. One to two foot cross onshore slop. I languidly climbed out of my car, closed the door leaving the music playing and leaned against the door with arms crossed. I felt cheated. "Shit!".

"You should have seen it yesterday" I heard voice say not much louder than a hoarse whisper.

"I'm sorry?" I replied with more than just a hint of irritation in my voice. Up until that point I had been totally unaware of the crouched figure sitting on the bench beside my car. "I said: You should have seen it yesterday. It was four to six, clean and running right through the second section. Not many people out either."

I was about to retort with some wise-ass quip about people that always tell you how good it was the day before, but I decided I was just being ratty because of the conditions and it wasn't really fair to take it out on some old bum.

I looked at the old guy more closely and realised that beneath his scraggly beard his face was lined yet still youthful. He looked more as though he had been weathered by the seasons rather than aged. He looked up at me staring directly into my eyes. Looking into his pale yet friendly blue eyes for a split second I felt totally exposed, humbled and very young. Staring straight at me he said the strangest thing. "These days are as important as the best conditions you have ever surfed. These days make good days truly epic". Before I could stop myself I found myself asking him what he meant. Instead of an explanation he answered with a series of questions. "Could you imagine surfing perfect conditions everyday of your life? Would each barrel still hold that glorious challenge and preciousness or would you become "surfed out"?" He wasn't looking for a verbal answer and I didn't offer one. I merely smiled, nodded sat down beside him and stared out to sea. The evening sky was changing the colours of the water. We sat like that for about ten minutes before either one of us spoke.

"Do you still surf?" I enquired, now genuinely intrigued by him. "Every day without fail. All year round". "Where? Here?" I asked. "Here, J-bay, Rocky Point, Indo wherever I feel like. The mind is a powerful thing my boy". He smiled.

It was only then that I noticed the neatly folded and pinned left sleeve of his faded "Hang Ten" sweatshirt. He caught me staring and again I felt his eyes take hold of something deep inside me. "I used to be like you." He said. "Always rushing to get to the beach. Hoping it would be good and bitching if it was "too crowded" or "the wind direction was off". What I didn't appreciate was how fleeting this gift is that we are given. You are amongst the most privileged of individuals. You have been given the art of surfing and the gift of the worlds oceans. Enjoy it while you can ‘cos it can and does get taken away." As I absorbed the truth of his words I felt ashamed of my arrogant manor and my inward selfishness.

As the evening crept up on us and the street lights in the car park flickered, hummed and then glowed, we spoke. We spoke about how surfing used to be and were it was going. We spoke of great waves and great surfers. We spoke of great boards, friends, warm evening sessions, dawn patrols and solo sessions. We spoke of surf music and all that was good about the lifestyle we both so passionately loved and lived.

I learned a lot that day, but the most important lesson I learned was never ever to take anything for granted, especially something you hold dear.

Good waves to you all.
Jack

"Listen to the dolphins. They know"


read

Just Another Surf Story by Lloyd "Jack" Johnston in South Africa - 30 Jul 1998

I am now in a place I have never been before. There is noise, yet I hear no sound. There is immense speed, but I feel completely still. Time does not exist. It is cool and beautiful.

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