I told him there’s no escape, you’re gonna fall through the roof, put the tiles back. He begged me not to tell the guards and started crying. I called the guards and asked them to move me but didn’t say why, and they said, “Oh don’t worry about him, he’s been crying for three days, he’s fine.” When you’re inside they don’t tell you anything, I had no idea how long I would be there. Then suddenly, it was time to go. They put me in handcuffs and marched me through the airport onto a flight to Paris. I sat next to a family, in handcuffs all the way to Paris and they were a bit freaked out by me. They thought I was a terrorist or something. I explained what happened but they didn’t believe me. Neither did the hostesses, they’d never heard of anything like it. I basically just met the wrong guy on the wrong day. Thousands of people travel with worn passport covers every single day.
In my mind, despite all that had happened I was determined not to let this one guy beat me.
‘No way I’m missing the contest because of that guy. Fuck that guy,’ I kept telling myself.
I was back home in Zarautz for about an hour, getting ready to leave again. Everyone was telling me not to go back, forget it, but there was no way I was missing that comp. No way. I went to Madrid, changed my passport and flew back to Jo’burg. Clearing customs I was expecting to be on computer or something and my heart was just pounding. But nothing, they let me in. I got to the beach at Durban less than an hour before my heat, four and a half days travelling. I was exhausted. The waves were tiny and hardly breaking, but I was just thinking of the customs guy the whole time, spurring myself on. ‘He’s not gonna beat me, no way.’ That was my fire. In the end I made a couple of heats, got the seeding and later that year fulfilled a lifetime dream of qualifying for the WCT. It’s a freaky story, just bad, bad luck, but when I think of it now, I can’t help but think it happened for a reason. It was a learning experience, about how quickly your fortunes can suddenly change, just like that. I take pretty good care of my passport these days.