Grumpy OLD MAN AND THE SEA

Finding waves sans the bullshit. Photo: Lachlan Hill

I had to say something to stop the argument. The two blokes arguing were never going to stop.

We were sitting at the top of the line at Mozambique’s most popular wave, Tofinho. An elderly South African man and a young, dark-skinned, Mozambican man were debating almost fucking nothing. The old boy felt like the young man was getting too many waves. The young man was upset because the old boy caved the tube in on his last one.

“Ya catching too many waves,” the old boy says.

“I’m getting the inside ones nobody wants.”

“Other people would go them if you weren’t snaking them.”

“Doesn’t give you the right to cave in my tube.”

“You weren’t going to make it anyway.” And so on and so forth until sparks were shooting from my ears and smoke was rising from the top of my head.

“Guys, there are plenty of waves around,” I say, putting a stop to their petty nonsense.

They both turn to me, shrug and roll their eyes at me like, ‘I know right, what a freakin’ jerk.’

Later on, the same old boy dropped in on a young, pale-skinned, Mozambican man. This incident was a clear-cut violation of surf etiquette. Another argument ensued. The old boy, bafflingly, did not feel he had done wrong. I didn’t stop this one, I caught a wave in instead.

Why did the old South African man have such a shit attitude? He was paddling around like he owned the joint. Odd thing for a South African to be doing in Mozambique.

When it comes to surfing and localism, lines can be blurry. On this occasion, the line was clear as day. The old man had come and gone from the area for the past 10 or so years. He owned an eco resort about a kilometer from the wave. Setting up shop in a small community, taking what you can and giving back the bare minimum does not make you a local. Especially when compared with the two younger lads who were born and raised in Tofinho.

I was trying to figure out the whole scene when an idea grabbed me by the shorts and pulled them down to my ankles. I had seen this happening over and over again. I’d seen it in Indonesia, Central America, parts of Asia and now Africa. All over the world there are old white men sitting at the head of a peak snarling at anyone who tries to get a good one. In their mind, all it takes is starting a surf school, hiring a gardener or blowing a cop to be granted status in a lineup.

Well fuck that. There is a pecking order. At the top of that pecking order are surfers who cut their teeth surfing the area. Guys who put in the work and make a meaningful contribution to a community, regardless of how small that community is. Next in line are guys who have integrated so well people forget they weren’t born there. After that, nobody gives a damn. If you own a business or some property but piss all over the place then that puts you in with the rest of us. Taking advantage of a burgeoning surf community does not make you the man. It makes you a deplorable sycophant. The world needs less of you.

So many people take surfing so damn seriously. Relax a little bit, have some fun, unfurl your eyebrows. At the end of the day, it is just surfing.