There is MUCH more energy on the reef this morning. Its thunder is like a constant itch. I can’t focus. I’m scared again. I want to go, but I don’t. I want to catch a big one, but I don’t. The jet skis buzz by and a flash orange boat loads up across the way with a French pro and his photog posse. I’m scared. I go inside. Lay down on the settee bench”¦take a few deep breaths”¦I’m up again. Eat a banana. Put on some sunscreen. Lay back down. Close my eyes. Open them. Sit up. Shuffle through some bikinis. Gather more stuff than I would need for a two week surf trip and finally make my way over to the circus that’s gathered at Teahupoo*. Teahupoo* is doing what it does in the pictures today. It’s big, it’s barreling, it’s beautiful, and I’m, yes, scared. There’s a crowd of maybe 15, not all THAT bad, and I sit a while and watch the guys take off from way inside, boldly set the rail, and slingshot through the perfect water vortex. They make it look SO easy.
I paddle out. I’m scared. I hang at the edge. I realize the crowd factor is tricky. No pressure, I tell myself. I wait. It’s perfectly glassy. I drift up the line-up and then paddle back down. And wait. And watch. The boys paddle around me like I don’t exist, but my uncertainty is visible.
Raimana, the king Tahitian waterman, stands outside on his stand-up paddleboard–calm and content and poised–as he strokes easily into a thick set at the west bowl”¦I hold my breath beholding his steep drop just in front of the explosion of whitewater…but there’s no need, I can tell it’s like a Sunday stroll in the park for him. He paddles back up, calling the sets and running the line-up like an auctioneer. I wait and watch. He’s brought a 13-year old local charger, Keoni, today. Observing his every order to Keoni, I watch his tight adherence to Raimana’s words”¦the trust between them is clear. I catch a small one and paddle quickly over to the shoulder. Raimana calls Keoni into another west one. But this time there are two and I am left alone with the second…the other’s are too deep.
Raimana has seen me surf before. I introduced myself at the pass a few miles down. He’s seen me waiting here, but I’m not sure if he’s sure that I’m sure if I actually really WANT one of these waves. But suddenly I really DO. I’m NOT scared. The wave is all mine if I want it…
“Go Liz! GO!!!!!! Paddle in!!!!!!! TO THE REEF!! To the reef!!!!! GOoooooooooooo!” I paddle with everything I have, just barely getting under it. It curdles up under me, thick and bottoming out. I’m late but here we go! I don’t even think”¦anymore as my body switches over to muscle memory. I am air dropping with my rail in hand. There’ water in my eyes and a lot of foam but I somehow recover from the drop, momentarily hear the foamball, and go rocketing out the other side. I survived! And who could guess what I want now…MORE!