|Crane Beach, Barbados|
And not in a "Happy Hour 2 for 1 Rum Punch" kind of way.
I am taking more headshots than Apollo Creed in the Drago fight. It's Whack-a-Mole. And I'm the mole.
It's not just the melon. My hip has a welt the size of a mango, my eyes are burning, and it looks like some home makeover show has sanded down my back to be painted. "I think his back would look perfectly stunning in an April Mist Green!"
And dang, this is fun!
I am bodysurfing at Crane Beach, Barbados.
I told my wife we were going to stay at The Crane Resort because it is known as the most secluded, scenic, romantic spot on the island. It sits high on a cliff, above a pink sand beach voted among the ten prettiest on the planet.
She bit bigtime. Seriously, this may have earned me a guy's golf trip for the next decade.
I am The King of Romance. The Sultan of Smooth. I belong on a Harlequin cover.
Truth is, I chose The Crane mainly because of one line I read in a magazine: It has some of the best bodysurfing in the Caribbean.
Actually, two lines: The picturesque setting has been the sight of many photo shoots, including swimsuit shoots for magazines.
Gee. That's... umm... intriguing.
Photographer: "Hey, Petra needs more oil! Hey, you over there, could you grease her up!"
Me: "Ah... sure."
Petra: "Oh my... your hands are strong, yet supple..."
Whoops. Got caught up in the moment. What was I... Oh ya... Bodysurfing.
My fondest memories of a trip to Barbados when I was a kid are from bodysurfing.
I was 15 then. Now, I'm... not 15. Which is becoming more and more evident each time a giant wave tosses me like a javelin headfirst into the bottom of the sea.
The waves at Crane Beach can reach 12 feet. On this day, they are half that, and I'm still getting killed.
The thing about bodysurfing, I'm realizing, is that you better time the wave perfectly, or you end up like a hamster in a washing machine.
On one particular attempt, I catch one a little late, and end up doing Kyle Shufelt's gold medal floor routine (flip, double twist, back somersault, triple reverse twist... Concussion).
"Ya need a boar," I hear a voice say as I dig my face out of the sand yet again.
"God? Is that you? Is it my time? If so, can I bring my PS2?"
It is not The Big Guy, thankfully (nor Petra, sadly). It is a teenager with a deep tan and a wide grin.
I need a boar? A wild pig? The kids here ride wild pigs on the surf?!? That is soooo extreme! Man, I'm out of the loop.
"A BOARD," he clarifies. "Ya need a BOARD."
Oh. That... makes more sense. Still, the boar would have made a better column.
His name is Paul Taylor. He's 15. He's been bodysurfing since he was 6. When you add the bodyboard, they call it sponging. You don't stand, you just lie on your stomach and ride (though the pros will sometimes get up one knee).
At Paul's urging, I rent a board from one of the locals on the beach.
I watch him wait for just the right wave. He paddles furiously as the wave gets close, rides it for a few seconds then cuts sharply into the funnel, just like a real surfer.
Me, I wait just for the right wave, paddle furiously, get too far forward on the board, do an ugly somersault, get whacked by another wave as I'm trying to get up, and do a cheek-plant into the side of my board.
Sponging sucks. I dump the board within a half hour.
(There's an important lesson here for all you kids. If you have trouble with something at first... give up really quickly to save yourself from being humiliated in front of strangers.)
I go back to straight bodysurfing. After all, I'm a purist. I watch a local named Hopper (It's a nickname his friends gave him... long story... involves women... unprintable) who can ride a wave as well as anyone with a board. He sticks one arm out in front, like the Heisman pose, and seems to float on the wave, riding it straight to shore from 30 metres out.
It's something to behold.
Hopper tells me I have to watch the shape of the wave. Most tourists aim themselves straight at the shore. But waves are never straight. They are always angled. Hopper is my Mr. Myagi.
With my new Heisman pose, and my angular wave technique, I slowly become one with the sea (Just so we're clear, I giggled when I wrote that). Near day's end, I catch one just perfectly. It lifts me high into the air, and I'm floating! I feel like Jennifer Grey at the end of Dirty Dancing! (Oh crap. That may have been the single worst metaphor in the history of sportswriting. I am truly sorry.)
Sure, I end up on shore with a mouth full of sand. But I rode it dude.
By mid-week, the locals have nicknamed me White Dolphin.
Well, actually I nicknamed myself White Dolphin, and am now using it in the third person, much to the annoyance of my wife.
"Honey, where do you want to go for dinner?"
"White Dolphin want steak tonight. Must be strong to ride waves."
"Okay, enough with the White Dolphin thing. What are you, 12?"
"Why you angry with White Dolphin? White Dolphin means no harm."
I will keep this routine up all week. And may bring it back to the mainland.
It brings me that much pleasure.
Anyway, must go. The sea is calling White Dolphin.
(Actually the wife is calling White Dolphin to find the remote... but that didn't sound nearly as good.)
TOMORROW: POINT BREAK... DUTHIE ATTEMPTS REAL SURFING
(James Duthie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)