Session after session I gained confidence at this beastly wave. In the afternoons the crowd would thin and the circus of photographers and spectators would run off to find food and shade. With just a few locals out I began to sit deeper and understand which waves I wanted and which I DEFINITELY didn’t. One afternoon when the swell was coming up, I didn’t catch a single wave. After scurrying over the top of a few frightening sets, I respected my limits and paddled back to the dinghy. Just to paddle and feel the sea’s energy was enough on that day.
A week passed in a blur of adrenaline. As much as I tried to do other things I could focus on nothing else. I was behind on blogging, coming down to the wire on my visa/customs time in French Polynesia, it sure seemed like there was a lot of water in the bilge again, and I hadn’t really made any sort of ‘plan’ about what the next few months held. But the wave and the challenge had hypnotized me; I was lost in a Teahupo’o fog.
One morning as I floated in the channel after an early session, a long time California transplant circled by me in his dinghy. “I sprung a leak,” he declared. He was up to his ankles in water INSIDE the little rubber boat.
“I got patching stuff if you need it?” I replied. Later that day, he came by Swell. We hauled the outboard off his holey old Avon and lifted it up onto the dock to dry out. The engine was giving him trouble too, symptoms: decelerates after giving it gas, then stalls… hmmmm sounded familiar… probably the carburetor.
“Oh, I’ll just take the engine to the shop,” he said, “I don’t know a thing about outboards.”
“Let’s just open up the lid and see how easy it is to access the carburetor at least!” I retorted. It was RIGHT there. “I’m not guaranteeing I can fix it, but it’s worth a try, we’ll have to leave the boat here to dry, though, and patch it later.”
“Can I get a ride out with you to surf this afternoon?” he asked.
“Is it okay if a few of my girlfriends come with us and sit in the boat?”
I felt a pang of selfishness, knowing I was going to be tangled into his afternoon courting gestures.
“Okay, that’s fine,” I conceded, somehow sensing trouble. That afternoon, we picked up his gorgeous harem at the point–three stunning, bikini-clad teens and headed out around the reef.
The swell was on its way down, but there the occasional solid set that kept me at full attention. I caught one of my best waves yet that afternoon, and forgot all about my foreboding feeling as we surfed into our second hour. Then suddenly the girls appeared in the channel where the wave dismisses the surfers into the flats. They hovered there for a while, and then Andy went over and gave one of them his board. She paddled back to the dinghy, while he swam with the other two up into the line-up.
I was too busy concentrating on picking the right waves and not getting smashed by a set to worry about the swimmers that were now past me, frolicking and giggling their way up along the line-up. The whole thing made me nervous. But Andy knew this wave better than anyone out there? He knew better than to bring the girls into the impact zone at Teahupoo? Apparently he’d become a bit overwhelmed by the beauty of his sea nymphs and his better judgment had gone out with the ebbing tide. They had been treading water in the line-up for a solid ten minutes now. I waited in angst as we were due for a set.