ALL SMILES ON A FRIDAY MORNING AT SNAPPER
I glance down at my watch, it reads just after 9am. Over the top of my coffee, I scour the ocean, It’s a wild and bumpy canvas layered with mood. There’s only going to be one decent spot on a day like today I think aloud. I jump in the car and leave Currumbin heading South. Turning the corner at Snapper Rocks Road and getting your first glimpse of the lineup is an experience every surfer should have at least once. Today is busy. I crawl along eyeing any potential spots to park whilst also trying to calculate how good it is and also how crowded it is; the answer to both today is ‘very’. I dodge kids on skateboards and oblivious strollers as I begin to turn back up the car park. Low and behold there is a free spot, and not even a sign of the recently vacated car, an omen perhaps? I allow myself a little smile, slip in and give the handbrake a good yank.
Zinc on my face, wetsuit on, a rub of wax and car keys hidden behind the front wheel- I head for the beach. The crowd is a lot bigger than I first thought; nothing new though, The Gold Coast has this uncanny skill of making surfers magically appear at any time and on any given day- other commitments can and will wait. Dropping my board to the sand I begin to do some stretches, as the smell of now warm neoprene hits my nostrils I see a surfer paddle into a 6-foot bomb behind the rock, the sandy wall slows for a second as he gracefully stalls, slips behind the veil and out of view for a couple of seconds before then reappearing. He doesn’t make the next section and is eaten up, not to matter though there are already 3 figures scrambling for the remaining wall that is still breaking. Business faces appear to be well and truly on today. I make my way out into the lineup after waiting out a hefty set. Everyman and his dog are out here today. South American students with moustaches, middle-aged rippers, acne faced boogie boarders, golden-haired groms, cool kids on mid-lengths and everything in between.
It doesn’t take me long to witness my first altercation of the morning. I have a perfect view sat on the shoulder as one of the better short board riders airdrops into potentially the wave of the day. Charging down the line towards me he is eyeing up his first manoeuvre, but out of nowhere an elderly kneeboarder wearing a retro wetsuit and speed dealer sunglasses no less decides to drop in on this guys fun. The kneeboarder is on a kamikaze mission it seems. His disappearance over the ledge is followed quickly by a loud yell. How did this altercation go down? Who triumphed? And did the kneeboarder lose his sunnies? I surely hope so.
Time limps by whilst the melee around me continues. I finally snag a little one on the inside that involves a twisting game of dodging heads and loose boards. All too reminiscent of that fairground game where you are armed with a hammer and the aim is to hit mechanical heads that pop up. Paddling back out I catch eye contact briefly with a certain blonde haired three-time world champion, he nonchalantly steams his way out the back and within seconds he is locked in a perfect teal tunnel, to which I have a perfect front row ticket. I notice now that there is a spattering of guys swimming with cameras added to the mix, the elite are out and shutter clicks are here to make money.
The standout of the morning though is a middle-aged guy. He looks like he would turn up at your house to fix that leak beneath your sink, all the while his beer belly would poke out from beneath his shirt hinting at long afternoons sat at the local bar. With tenacity and agility that shouldn’t match his physique, he shouts his way onto a handful of the biggest set waves to roll through. His style isn’t anything to get excited over and his board looks older than most of the guys in the lineup, but his smarmy face as he paddles back out is priceless.
Another altercation pricks everyone’s attention and adds to the electricity in the air. The offender paddles back out with swiftness as his victim gives chase. Thrashing the water and snarling like a demented dog all the while shouting expletives that might turn a nun’s hair white, if not already. The offender then stops and turns to confront his aggressor and so begins a tennis match of insults and finger pointing that, well, is actually quite funny. I have to hide my smile. I patiently wait positioning myself with careful consideration, and eventually Snapper Rocks delivers. I turn off the bottom and am casually joined by a boogie boarder for the next section before he decides to go off the back, he’s seen that it’s about to go fat and he doesn’t want it. How considerate. I duck a couple of waves heading back out before coming up to a voice that is somewhat familiar. Another world champion is now caught on the inside and tangled up with a confused gentleman who I believe very possibly to be Brazilian. He berates and gesticulates that the guy should use his eyes next time. It quickly becomes apparent he doesn’t speak English and likely doesn’t realise he has just committed a cardinal sin towards one of the greatest surfers to ever pick up a surfboard.
As the two-part way the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ comes to mind as I catch myself shaking my head. I decide I will try for one more before heading in. I walk up the beach pulling hair from my forehead and take in the line of cameras along the footpath. There are 7 in total and not a bikini in sight; after all, it is winter in Coolangatta today with only a top of 22 degrees Celsius. The line of cars into the car park is longer and slower now. An SUV matches my pace as I walk before the passenger window buzzes its way down.
A bushy-haired grom flashes me his big white buckteeth,
“Any good ones mate!?”
I give him a grin,
”Yeah mate, it’s not even crowded”
He’s not listening though as the car pulls away, his eyes fixed on his home break.
Text: Alex Mitcheson