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Michel Bourez, Teahupoo. Photo: Ben Thouard

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A lot has happened over the past few weeks on the shoreline around here. Well, actually not that much. We had a run of pumping surf, then total flatness.

First it was therapeutic, lovely flatness. Get other shit done, drink beers from lunchtime watching the World Cup type flatness.

Then it started to drag.

The thing is, the flatness was caused by one guy, who I was convinced I was going to watch die. During the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge at Anglet, which I was pretending to work at, I decided to go for a little splash at a spot known as le Club. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a funny little spot. Generally placid, but also kind of mega dangerous. The beach is sort of fake, with two close together jetties so a rapidly risen swell doesn’t really know what to do with itself.

Anyhow, in thick, if wobbly 4-5ft peaks I paddled out next to the jetty. The jetty is made of massive boulders, and protrudes a good height out of the water, even at high tide. As I got to the lineup, I looked back to see a guy in the worst case scenario – caught between a wave and the end of the jetty.

The first one smashed into the rocks with alarming violence. As it drained, he appeared half sitting half clinging to one bolder. The next wave, a solid 5ft-er landed on his face and I was convinced he was dead, if not seriously injured.

I started waving my arms furiously at some people on top of the jetty to call for help. They waved back jovially. ‘Bonjour!’

The second wave drained and he’d been washed higher up the boulders now. His blue twin fin fish dangled by the leash as he braced for another impact. Boom. The next wave, the biggest yet pinged him upside down and up further still.

As it washed off I expected to see him face down with half his skull missing. Another half dozen waves smashed into the rocks. The last one drained, and he was sucked off the jetty finally, and floated towards his board.

He got on it and started paddling off, seemingly unscathed. I literally couldn’t believe it. It was the worst thing I’d ever seen in the sea. Suddenly, there were no more sets, the ocean was calm and it was almost as if it’d never happened.

I think I caught one more wave and came in, told a few crew, they looked at me, like, ‘he must be exaggerating’. No sign of our man.

But even if nobody else saw it, Huey seemed to know what went down. He calmed the swell down overnight to total flatness. And the next day, and then next. ‘Better give that chap a little time to recover’ mused Huey, wisely.

Some two weeks passed of surf-less Biscay. Not a ripple. Even when it howled onshore in fierce storms, it stayed stubbornly flat. On a Friday, I went to the bio store to get some goodness and you won’t believe who I saw coming out of a board repair place in the same street… our man from the jetty!

His blue twin, freshly filled and buffed was ready to go again. ‘You!’ I said, pointing at him, his board, then back at him… ‘You!!!’

He was as surprised as me when I recounted how I’d witnessed the full horror of the incident. He’d told all his mates and no one really believed him either. Admittedly, the dings on the fish were minor. He didn’t have a scratch on him.

We got to talking of the swell forecast for the next day, and to spots that might be working with the early tide, the usual suspects.

He had his eye on a big sandbar up north, far from any man made structures.

“I think I’ll keep away from jetties” he chuckled.

Which was both wise, and unselfish. Another flat spell would surely be the end of us all.

– PE


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