15 Nov Palm Tree Reef
“Moments of Insanity: Part 1″ was written by Ithaka, and published in Water magazine for his column “Fishdaddy Chronicles”.
First time in ten years
that I’ve lived within
walking distance of the beach.
And not just any beach, CARCAVELOS.
In the summer,
a beautiful, but crowded destination
for working-class Portuguese beachgoers.
The sand is clean and the
surface of the water lake-like.
But in the winter,
the wide belt of golden sand
almost entirely disappears
and is replaced by sea and river trash;
(Oil barrels, logs, hypodermic needles,
plastic tampon applicators,
dead fish and birds,
and the occasional dead dog or dead cow)
that get washed up
with an almost endless
succession of storms.
But more importantly
aside from the unwanted
addition of trash,
also bring with them
powerful well-shaped waves.
Carcavelos is one
of the best beachbreaks
No, it’s not paradise,
but it used to be a lot worse
when I first arrived here five years ago.
At that time,
it was polluted not only with junk,
but also raw sewage.
have since rerouted
(to ease strains on the tourism trade)
to a less accessible part of the coast
so now it’s mostly the trash,
junk and dead animals
you’ve got to deal with.
Like I said, it’s not Eden by the Sea,
but it sure as fuck beats
not surfing at all.
my own personal equilibrium,
I need both
stimulating urban culture
and close access to rideable surf.
And THIS is as good
as a combination
as I’m likely going to find
anywhere in the world.
I’m a twenty-five minute train away
from the center of Lisbon.
I’m a fifteen-minute train ride from
the record company
(Valentim de Carvalho in Paco de Arcos).
And best of all,
a ten-minute walk
I’ve even got an ocean view.
I can’t actually see the waves
breaking from my window,
there is a small pine forest
(eagerly awaiting to become
blocking my vision,
but I can see the swell lines
on the bigger days.
I get up around dawn,
spark up some coffee and exit
(with blue ceramic mug in hand).
Elevator from the fifth floor
to the ground level,
cross the corner of the parking lot,
through a tiny park,
across a small road,
through the fields
between the Sao Goncalo Estate
and the N.A.T.O. building,
(this time of year the fields
are covered with a zillion
yellow sour flowers)
and across the coast highway
to see if Atlantida is in a good mood or not.
the word OCEAN is masculine,
but I know better than that,
She is PURE female,
a temperamental sugar-bitch.
I love her. I hate her.
She loves and hates me too.
She never lets me get too satisfied.
So I’ve got choice but to return daily.
Usually a thirty-second check
is all I need
to know if I’m going to ride
If it’s on
I’ll walk home,
suit up, wax up
and walk back to the beach.
If it’s no good,
I’ll stay in and continue
to pretend being an artist
(like I’ve been pretending
for a long, long while now):
paint, sculpt, scribe…whatever.
Yesterday was too small to surf
and today was windy and rainy,
so I skipped the morning check altogether
and got to work on some new songs.
But at my big window,
(with pen in one hand
and microphone in the other),
a movement on the distant horizon
caught my attention:
A five-meter peak rolling off
some forgotten sandbank about
a couple of kilometers
out to sea above the tree tops. SHIT!
I get down there to take a look.
It’s HUGE, out of control.
Windy and beginning to rain again.
Out of the question.
I stand there a good thirty minutes,
just feeling the ocean’s anger,
then walk back on the muddy red trail
through the sour-flower covered fields
back home to the EMBRYO,
my laboratory of illusion.
I have a good day with the pen and mic
and hours disappear,
(a kind of cerebral holiday).
And about five in the afternoon,
I finally complete a rough draft
of a new song idea.
For the first time since noon,
I take a good long look
out the window.
The rain had stopped.
The wind had stopped.
The sun shone through
a crack in the black storm clouds
and I had the urge, desire, whatever
to say goodbye, good afternoon, good night
to that bitch, that babe,
my lover, my sister, my mother
my friend, my enemy
my life, my death,
my gain, my loss,
my focus, my distraction,
my sport, my art,
Back through the mud
with headphones on my dome
(lately, I’m more addicted
to sound than ever before.
If I’m not creating it,
I’m listening to it…CONSTANTLY).
I arrive at my usual check-out spot,
just over the small hill
looking across Marginal .
It’s still huge,
but the texture of the surface
is now mirror-like glass.
The swell has somehow organized itself
during the last several hours
and perfect double AND
EVEN TRIPLE overhead rights
are dumping (absolutely SLAMMING!)
on what I call “Palm Tree Reef”
then reeling off into
a deep water channel.
Actually, Palm Tree Reef
is not a reef at all,
but a very sturdy sandbar
that never seems to relocate.
And there are no palm trees
on the beach either,
the palm trees are paintings.
The flat cement seawall protecting
the Marginal Highway (from swells like these)
is covered with
giant block-letter graffiti murals,
mostly from the same crew of artists
and all similar in style and color.
From the water looking back to land,
all the murals bleed together into an enormous
strip of intricately patterned wallpaper
stretching from one end
of the 2km long beach to the other.
And is only interrupted by two,
three-meter high brush-painted palm trees
about three quarters of the way
south of the beach’s center.
Easily visible from three-hundred meters
out in the ocean.
And Palm Tree Reef,
is located directly in front of them.
On days with excessive current,
it’s useful to use the palms as a line-up marker
to make sure you’ll be over the sandbar
and in position for the sets when they arrive.
Running back to the Embryo,
I slip in an oily-slick mud puddle
and land on my ass,
(drowning my two-week old Discman).
But seventeen-minutes later,
with a freshly waxed 7’2″under my arm,
I’m back at the water’s edge.
I’m anxious and ready to go,
but also weak and tired
from forgetting to eat all day
and downing cup after cup of black coffee.
But fuck it,
I’M OUT THERE.
The first wall of whitewater
rolls over me blasting about twenty liters
of icy Atlantic through my wetsuit
and pushing me back almost all the way
to the beach.
I make a little progress,
then another descends upon me.
Then again and again.
For every five meters of progress,
three meters were automatically deducted
with every coming wave..
ONE wave, TWO waves, THREE waves,
FOUR, FIVE waves,
coming in at about fifteen-second intervals.
But instead of coming in sets like most days,
(with lulls in between),
today they were marching in
one after another.
I began calculating the time
using the wave intervals.
EIGHTEEN. NINETEEN. TWENTY waves
(about five minutes, I thought).
Some waves were significantly bigger
than others and dragged me even father back.
And even though my arms
were beginning to feel like pudding,
Number THIRTY-FIVE was lighter
than those preceding it
and I made double time.
THIRTY-SIX, FORTY-ONE, FORTY-SEVEN.
SIXTY-THREE was a nasty mother
that ripped the board out of my hands
and pushed me three meters
below the surface.
about twenty-five minutes I calculated.
My arms completely Jello
at this point,
but not about to quit.
NOW GOING THROUGH THE IMPACT ZONE,
seemed like there was
more time between waves,
but when they landed they EXPLODED.
I lost my board several more times.
Exhausted as I was,
I became concerned for my own safety,
(glad I’d used the heavy-duty leash).
I ascended and descended the monster
without taking any water on the head.
Free at last
(sitting two-hundred meters off the beach).
The sun had already gone down
and most of the cars on Marginal
had already begun using their headlights.
I can barely make out the palms on the seawall,
but I can see that I’m about fifty meters
off my mark to the south,
so I start paddling up to the reef.
While I’m still in the safety of deeper water,
a bigger than usual group of waves appears,
stands up to attention,
then on after another
(like missles dropping out of a plane)
the payloads DETONATED onto the sandbar,
transforming millions of liters of water
into contorting black dinosaurs.
There was a long enough lull
to allow me to get situated just right.
But minutes later,
the black walls appeared again,
(the first one beginning
to break much farther out
than I’d predicted).
I scratched for the horizon
barely making it over
and saw the second wave,
easily five-meters on the face.
She came right to me.
What could I do?
It was TOO easy.
The drop effortless.
And the water so smooth
my board cut the surface
like a surgeon’s scalpel.
There was no tube on this one
but the wall was near-vertical
for the next 70 meters
eventually backing off in the channel,
where it reformed
into a long left across the inside.
This inside section alone
would’ve been a memorable
wave for me on any other given day.
I didn’t offer much of a challenge
to my liquid sister,
letting her to do most of the work.
She took me all the way in.
I stepped off my board directly onto the sand
between an old tire and a dead seagull.
I walked up the seawall stairs
and up into the parking lot.
There were several people
in and outside of their cars
mostly upper middle-classers (betinos).
A couple of them nodded to me,
some smiled and others stared.
I nodded, smiled and stared back accordingly.
Had I met them before?
Were they in awe of my stupidity
(to be only the person
dumb enough to be in the water
on a night like tonight)?.
Had they been watching me
get the shit kicked out of me
by a hundred and seventeen waves
before being rewarded the payback?
Had they been watching too much TV
and seen one of my videos?
I’ll never know.
But what I do know,
is that this afternoon was a gift
and mine alone,
a reminder to stick it out.
It’s sometimes worth it to take
a hundred and seventeen failures on the head
for a few precious seconds of happiness
I crossed Marginal at the street light,
then back through the fields,
across the small road,
and tiny park.
The complex’s parking lot.
I tracked mud
through the building’s entry way
to the elevator.
But the elevator was broken,
so I tracked mud all the way up
five-flights of stairs too.
(leaving at all of my beloved neighbors’
doorsteps a subtle reminder,
that I was among the living,
Scalding hot shower,
(even washed the mop that I call hair).
Then split back out the door
to the station
and trained to town.
She met me at the station in Lisbon.
We ate at a restaurant in Cais do Sodre
amongst the druggies and whores.
We’d planned on going to a party
up at Soul Factory after dinner,
but by the time we’d eaten dessert
and had coffees
at Espaco Agora Student Center,
It was already two a.m.
Time passed quickly with her.
“Let’s go”, she said,
assuming I’d be sleeping over at her place
(I usually did on Sundays,
Monday being her only day off work).
“Can’t….I gotta go”.
I can see from her face
that she immediately
assumes the worst (another girl).
“I’m gonna surf early”, I say,
“It’s going to be EPIC”.
she SAYS, with a forced smile on her face
and walks me back to the station
before taking a cab to her crib.
When I get home,
I make the necessary preparations,
(get all of my shit together
for the dawn patrol):
earplugs and dry towel on standby.
At seven a.m.
no need to check it,
(skip coffee too).
I’m out of the house trotting through the mud.
The wind is light offshore,
the sun is glimmering,
the tide (I know from looking at the chart)
is medium-low coming to high around ten a.m.
Gonna be classic.
My heart is pounding.
Fuck, I hope it didn’t get any bigger.
But as I reach the hill I don’t see any waves.
Great, (I think naively), there are lulls.
At least it’ll be easier to paddle out today.
I wait for the green light
to cross Marginal
and into the parking lot.
I stand there for a few minutes
to survey the best peaks,
but none arrive
and No One is in the water.
But this time,
not to avoid danger,
but because it’s dead calm.
“At least it’s a beautiful day”
I say out loud
trying to reassure myself.
THE *%$#%$ ing Bitch !! !