surfers tale of survival
by Anthony Ivins@Smashwords
© 2017 Anthony Ivins
No part of this
publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other
electronic or mechanical methods, or by any information storage and
retrieval system without the prior written permission of the
publisher, except in the case of very brief quotations embodied in
critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by
This is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents
are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a
fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
or actual events is purely coincidental.
ladies and gentlemen on this fine Friday morning the 12th of December
2015. We are expecting sunrise at 05-02 am this morning. The day's
high is set to be 90 degrees with a low of 62 degrees. Current
conditions are fair with some high cloud cover. Time to get up and at
'em," crackled the voice over the radio.
Matt rolled over and
opened his curtains slightly, allowing the early rays of the sun to
filter through and brighten up his room. His radio alarm woke him up
at 5 am every morning, on cue for the DJ to give his morning weather
report. Matt loved waking up on Friday mornings, it signaled the end
of the week and he had a whole weekend of non-stop surfing to look
forward to. This Friday was special; it was spring tide and the surf
forecast was for unusually large waves.
He had been surfing
ever since he could remember and had grown up idolizing surfers like
Shaun Thompson and Kelly Slater. Matt had hundreds of surfing
magazines, from ZigZag to Curl, strewn around his apartment. There
was no place you could sit that wouldn't have a magazine within
reach. His walls were decorated with pictures of Pipeline, Waimea Bay
and numerous other legendary surf spots. Matt's ultimate dream was to
tour Hawaii and surf with the big guns. But today he first had to go
Work for Matt was as
a barman at a small seaside restaurant called 'The Shack' that
overlooked SuperTubes, the best surf spot in Jeffrey's Bay. Matt had
tried many jobs but had never truly felt comfortable unless he could
see the sea. He covered the breakfast and lunch time shift which
meant he started early in the morning, but also meant that he
finished early too. He usually managed to be out of there by 5pm
which, in the summer, left him with two and a half hours of surfing
Matt rolled out of
bed and jumped into the shower. He always enjoyed a cold shower in
the morning. This got his blood flowing and kept him on his toes.
After washing his sun-bleached hair and shaving off some of the thin,
fish moth stubble, that had grown during the night, he dried himself
and got dressed in his work clothes.
He tugged at his
curtains, opening them fully and letting the full force of the sun
stream into his room. Matt opened his window and let the fresh sea
air blow into his face, his nostrils sucking in all the air he could
get - he loved the smell of the ocean air. He made himself a cup of
instant coffee, black with one spoon of brown sugar. Matt stood next
to his window and looked out at the sea, watching as the waves rolled
in, wishing he could be out there surfing. He was hypnotized by the
sight of the waves and the smell of the sea, having to shake himself
to break the trance he found himself in.
Walking was the
easiest method of transportation for Matt to get to work, usually
taking no longer than a few minutes. He was always the first to get
there and normally had to wait a few minutes for Henry, the owner, to
arrive and open up. Today was no exception and Matt sat outside
waiting for Henry. He sat on his favourite spot, an old oak barrel,
staring out at the sea, watching the waves.
"They say they
are going to get big today with the spring tide," came a voice
from behind, giving Matt a fright.
Matt whipped around
and saw Henry standing behind him, his arms filled with parcels of
what they say," replied Matt, "and I hope they are right. I
have been waiting to surf some real big waves for years."
"Can you give
us a hand?" asked Henry, looking down at the keys that were
hooked around one of his fingers.
replied Matt as he grabbed the keys off Henry's finger and opened the
padlock on the front door. As he swung the glass door open, he was
hit with the stench of stale alcohol and cigarettes that lingered
from the night before. Matt turned his head away in disgust,
the smell making his stomach turn.
Henry hurried past
him, bumping him out of the way, "Sorry Matt but these parcels
are heavy," he said as he almost dropped them on the floor.
Matt made his way
through the restaurant, dodging some of the pools of beer lying on
the floor, to his bar counter at the back of the restaurant. He put
on his apron and started to clear away the dirty glasses and
ashtrays, placing them on a plastic tray that he would slide into the
dishwasher. It took him just short of an hour to have his bar area
clean and tidy, all the evidence from the previous night’s
festivities rinsed away. The rest of the staff had arrived and were
busy getting their stations clean and ready for breakfast.
Next up for Matt was
his stock-take, and he went to the computer in the back office to
print a copy of the stock sheet. He grabbed a pencil from the
stationary organizer on the desk and began his count. This was the
worst of Matt’s duties, he hated admin work. It took another hour
before Matt had finished his stock take, completing a requisition
form with all the stock he needed to fill up the fridges again. He
walked over to Henry and handed him the requisition sheet.
"It must have
been busy last night," said Matt as he handed Henry the sheet,
"We need lots of stock. It looks like they drank all the Tequila
- there is not even one drop left."
Henry took the sheet
and looked at it, scratching his head while scanning through it. "Yes
it was busy," he replied, "I think I had a few too many
Tequila's myself. Can't remember though."
"One of those
nights Mr. H?" asked Matt, well aware of the reputation that
Henry had in Jeffreys Bay.
"I just can't
say no," said Henry, still staring at the stock sheet.
"Do you want me
to issue the stock?" asked Matt, offering to offload that duty
"If you can
that would be great," replied Henry, "I need to sit down
for a bit and have a cup of strong coffee, my head is killing me."
"No problem. Do
you have the keys?" asked Matt.
"Yes, here they
are." replied Henry as he handed over the keys to the storeroom
that held all the liquor. "Please make sure you lock up when you
are finished as we have had a lot of stock disappearing recently."
disappearing down your throat," muttered Matt to himself.
that?" asked Henry.
checking which key I need to use," said Matt as he quickly
turned around and went to issue his stock from the storeroom.
Matt issued the
stock and carried it to his bar. He packed all the beers, ciders and
soft drinks into the fridges, ensuring they would be well chilled
once the lunch service started. There is nothing worse than a warm
beer! He thought to himself. Matt went through all the liquor
bottles on the shelves, arranging each one so they formed a perfectly
straight line, that probably had something to do with his OCD. Once
he satisfied himself that the bar was in perfect condition, he went
to Henry to report that he was ready.
"Bar is ready
for service," said Matt as he approached Henry who had remained
seated, his head between his hands, an empty cup of coffee in front
Henry looked up at
Matt and replied, "Great thanks Matt. Can you help Tracey in the
replied Matt, and he turned around and headed towards the kitchen,
almost breaking into a run.
Tracey was Henry's
niece and Matt had fancied her from the first day he started working
there. At first Tracey ignored him completely, but as time went by,
she slowly started to warm up to him, even talking to him now. He
burst through the service doors and into the kitchen, almost bowling
she yelled as Matt came through the door, swerving to his left and
narrowly missing her.
said Matt as a he came to a halt, "I didn't see you."
just take it easy next time," replied Tracey.
"Henry said you
might need some help, and I have finished preparing the bar. Is there
anything I can help you with?" he continued.
"Yes, I need
some potatoes peeled. There is a pile over there you can start with,"
she replied, pointing to a bowl filled to the brim with the largest
potatoes Matt had ever seen, "I will help you when I have
finished mopping the floor."
"Okay, I will
start peeling. Where is the peeler?" he asked.
next to the bowl, under the dish cloth," replied Tracey.
Matt started peeling
the potatoes. He had never peeled a potato before so this was a new
learning experience for him. At first he found it quite difficult and
kept having to move the potato around to get a clean shave in. Slowly
but surely it got easier and when there were only a few left he had
mastered the art and could peel a potato in a few seconds.
As he peeled the
last potato and put it in a bowl of water, he suddenly realized that
Tracey was still busy mopping the floor. He had been too fast. He
wanted to talk to her for a while, just hear her soft voice and smell
that sweet perfume that she loved to wear. Matt would use any excuse
in the book just to be able to spend some time close to her.
you need me to do?" asked Matt as he looked around for another
task he could help out with, desperately hoping she would find
something so he could hang around a while longer.
Matt, I can do the rest," replied Tracey.
problem," said Matt, and he made his way to the kitchen door,
pausing just before opening it.
he called out.
wondering what you are doing this afternoon? I hear that that there
is a big swell coming in and the waves are going to be huge -
something to do with the spring tide. A few of us are going to the
beach. Do you want to come with us?" asked Matt, sounding a
asking Matt, but I am already going to the beach. Paul asked me
yesterday and I said I would go with him," replied Tracey.
problem," said Matt, feeling embarrassed as he whipped around
and hurried off to his bar area.
Paul and Matt had
been close friends at school but had grown apart when they graduated
and now barely even greeted one another. Paul had been trying to woo
Tracey for a few months and always seemed to get in the way when Matt
made his move.
Matt sat behind the
bar and cooled off. "She is out of my league anyway," he
thought to himself, "It would be better if I rather focus on my
surfing," trying to console himself.
The breakfast and
lunch service went by quickly. Matt kept a constant eye on the sea,
watching as the waves grew bigger and bigger by the hour. The tide
was slowly coming in and bringing with it the huge swell created by
the spring tide. There were already many surfers out there, fighting
for each wave. Matt knew that when the waves reached a certain
height, the majority of the surfers would be scared and would leave
the water and stand on the shore pretending they had just finished a
session. Only a handful of them were brave enough to take on the big
After the lunch
service finished shortly after 4pm, Matt cleaned up his bar area and
waited for Johnny to arrive so he could hand over and head off to the
beach. Johnny was always late and Matt prayed that today would be the
one day he was on time. He wanted to get into the water as soon as
possible. The waves were starting to get big and already only a
couple of surfers remained in the water. Matt could see a line of
photographers starting to appear. He knew if he caught a good wave he
might be featured in the local surf magazine ZigZag.
Matt's prayers were
answered and Johnny arrived almost exactly on time.
"Hey Matt, how
did the shift go?" he asked as he walked up behind Matt.
"Nice and busy,
but nothing I couldn't handle," replied Matt, "I see you
had a rough night last night. What time did you finish up?"
"I only got out
of here after 2am," replied Johnny, "Boy can Henry drink.
He downed Tequila like the world was coming to an end. He must have
one helluva hangover!"
"Yes, he looked
very fragile this morning. He couldn't even issue the stock. I had to
do it for him," said Matt
“Hopefully I can
get an early one tonight. I am still buggered from last night,"
handover quickly, I want to get out on the water, there are some
waves waiting for me," said Matt, and he pulled his stock sheet
out from under his cash register and started going through it with
It didn't take long
to sign off the stock and the cash float as they had done this many
times together. When Matt signed the bottom of the sheet he took his
apron off, grabbed his bag and headed towards the door, passing
Tracey along the way.
Tracey," he said as he walked past.
replied Tracey, "Are you going out there for a surf?"
miss it for the world," replied Matt.
careful, it looks very dangerous," said Tracey, looking
"Don't worry, I
know what I'm doing out there," snapped Matt, a little annoyed
that she thought he didn't know what he was doing.
"Yes I know.
It's just those waves are really big and anything can happen,"
"You don't have
to worry about me. Have a good time with Paul," he replied
sarcastically and hurried through the door.
"Matt wait. . .
," said Tracey but Matt was already out of earshot and on his
way home to collect his surfing gear.
Matt mumbled and
moaned to himself as he made his way the short distance to his house.
When he arrived at home his mood changed instantly. It was time to
get wet. He walked up the stairs to his apartment and went inside,
ripping his clothes off and throwing them on the floor. He found his
swimming trunks hanging in the bathroom and almost jumped right into
His wetsuit was
hanging in the shower, still damp from the previous afternoon's surf.
He looked outside at the weather and noticed that the clouds had
started closing in. Matt debated in his head if he should wear his
short sleeve wetsuit or the full-length one. Both had their pros and
cons. He decided to wear the short one as it allowed him more
movement on the bigger waves.
He put on his
wetsuit and grabbed his surfboard, a custom board made by
Dutchie, from the corner of the room and started to give it a
nice thick layer of wax. Matt used a special comb to scrape the wax
into a rough finish that would give him a lot of traction in the
water. When he finished he had one last look out of his window at the
waves and made his way to the door.
Matt had walked down
this pathway to the beach hundreds of times. He followed the same
ritual every time, making sure he did not step on any of the cracks
and keeping to the left of the path. He always stopped at the top of
the path, where he had a good vantage point, and planned his entry
into the water.
The tide was almost
full, and the big waves started rolling in. Each wave formed the
perfect break, with a long and clean ride along the reef before
closing out at a place called ‘Impossibles’. They reached as
large as fifteen feet on some sets, with even larger waves predicted
for later in the afternoon. Matt continued down the pathway and when
he reached the beach he decided to sit down and plan his ride.
He liked to make
sure he was fully prepared when he went into the water and he always
took time to check the conditions. As he sat and watched a few of the
surfers he heard the sounds of the camera shutters opening and
closing. He looked around at the photographers and noticed there were
now at least twenty of them, their lenses constantly trained on the
sea, looking for that perfect shot.
After thirty minutes
Matt felt he was ready and he stood up, fastening his leash around
his foot. He made his way towards the water, his eyes fixed on the
waves in front of him. He was fully aware that everybody on the beach
was watching him, wondering if he was really crazy enough to be going
out in these conditions.
As he reached the
water’s edge he bent down picked up some sea sand in his hand and
rubbed it with his fingers, letting it crumble to the ground. This
was a ritual he did whenever he went into the water, although he
could never tell you why he did it. He walked a few paces into the
water, pausing to get his body used to the temperature. When he was
waist deep he grabbed his board, held it in front of him, and jumped
on, paddling as fast as he could to get through the shore break.
He ducked under the
first few waves, powering himself through the water. People were
staring in amazement at the ease with which he was able to go
underneath the waves, pop out on the other side and then continue
paddling. It didn't take long before he had cleared the shore break
and paddled out to the back line to join his colleagues.
There were three of
them sitting on their boards, the wind whipping at their wet hair
when Matt paddled up.
greeted Matt, "How's the wave today?"
answered Barry, "Nice clean break with lots of power. Watch for
the close outs though, I've been dumped twice already."
thanks," replied Matt, "How long you guys been out?"
"I've been here
a few hours but Barry and Mike just arrived about an hour ago,"
replied Jay, "You can get the next one Matt, we have all caught
a few already."
said Matt, never one to turn down a free wave.
The locals at
Supertubes were like a close family. The surfed together almost every
day and had formed a close bond between themselves. On the odd
occasion an outsider would come and surf there, and if they didn't
show respect or wait their turn, they were quickly dealt with.
Matt sat on his
board in the water, his hands resting on his thighs as he scanned the
back line for any sets of waves coming in. The sea was flat with
nothing on the horizon. He turned his attention to the beach and saw
that the crowd had grown quite large. Matt wasn't one to be
intimidated by crowds and he looked back out to sea and waited for
the waves to roll in.
He didn't have to
wait long and within a minute the first wave in the set came in. Matt
knew that it was always the third or fourth wave in the set that was
the biggest so he allowed the first two to pass by before readying
himself. He started paddling while the wave was still a short way off
and by the time it arrived it picked him up easily. When he picked up
enough speed he jumped onto his feet and rode the face of the wave,
all the way to the bottom before digging in the rail of his board and
turning sharply to his right, sending up a spray of water.
He made his way to
the middle of the wave and let his right arm dangle in the face of
the wave as he cruised along it while the lip of the wave slowly
started to move over him. Matt slowed himself slightly, allowing the
wave to move over him, placing him in the center of the barrel. From
the shore it looked like he had been eaten by the wave. He had to
pick up his pace a bit as the wave started to swallow him up. Matt
started pumping his legs, shredding the water with the surfboard. He
quickly gained momentum and as the wave closed around him he shot out
of the tube and along the open face of the wave, a huge spray of
water following close behind him.
The crowd erupted in
spontaneous applause from the beach as he suddenly appeared out of
nowhere. Matt rode the wave a short while longer and then swung his
board over the lip, falling flat onto his stomach and starting to
paddle back to where he had begun. As he was paddling back out, he
watched Barry get dumped inside a monster wave. He held his breath
for a while until he saw Barry surface a few seconds later,
signalling he was okay.
When he reached the
back line he was the only one there and enjoyed the few minutes of
silence before Jay paddled up.
Matt," said Jay as he joined Matt.
beautiful, cleanest barrel I have had in years," replied Matt,
"How was yours?"
"Not too bad,"
replied Jay, "I got a bit ahead of the tube so I didn't get
inside it properly. Maybe the next one will be better."
Barry getting dumped," said Matt, "he must be feeling it.
It happened right over the reef."
"Yeah, I saw
that too. I don't see him coming back out so he must have had
enough," said Jay.
Matt caught a few
more waves, enjoying the crowd that was watching. He heard their
cheers every time he shot out of the tube and their groans when one
of his fellow surfers wiped out. Whenever a fellow surfer fell he
would always watch the water, making sure they surfaced and were
fine. The afternoon went by quickly and as the sun started to set
Matt knew he had one, possibly two more wave left before he would
have to get out of the water.
He wanted to make
this last ride his best one, and he looked back towards the beach,
seeing if he could recognize anybody. In reality, he was really
looking for Tracey and it took only a few moments before he picked
her out among the crowd. She was standing on the rocks, her hand
shielding her eyes from the falling sun, watching him.
This fired Matt up
even more and he vowed to make this wave his best. He watched as a
new set came in. In the distance he could see it was larger than
anything else that day.
he thought to himself, "I can finish off with a big one."
He steadied himself
and watched as the first two waves came through, letting them go. He
was about to paddle for the third when he decided to let that one go
too. As the fourth came he had a good feeling in his gut that this
was the wave.
He paddled the same
as he had done a thousand times before and caught the wave perfectly
as it rose to its full twenty-five feet. Matt jumped up to his feet
and steered his board down the face of the wave at a sharp angle,
making sure he didn’t go too fast. He turned sharply at the bottom
of the wave and rode up the face until he was half way. Out of the
corner of his eye he looked to see if Tracey was still watching him.
He suddenly got a
sickening feeling, the first wave of the set was heading towards the
rocks that Tracey was standing on. From a distance it seemed a lot
bigger than the previous waves. Matt instantly knew that Tracey was
in danger. She had seen the previous wave’s crash into the rocks a
few yards in front of her and she assumed she would be safe. However,
this was a much larger set of waves and if she didn’t move off the
rocks the waves would crash into her.
Matt turned sharply
to the left and back down the wave until he reached the foot of the
wave and carried on straight. He started waving his arms frantically
in the air, trying to warn Tracey of the approaching danger. She
didn’t seem to understand and instead started waving back at him.
Matt put his hands around his mouth and tried to shout but his voice
had little chance of travelling that distance.
The wave crashed
violently behind him with a ton of white water falling on the back of
his surfboard, pushing it under the water causing him to fall
backwards into the turbulent water. Just before his head went
underwater he saw the spray shoot into the air as the first wave hit
the rocks that Tracey was standing on. Matt was sure he could see
Tracey’s body also being flung into the air but before he could be
certain, his vision was filled water.
Matt was thrown
around like a rag doll under the water. It felt as if he had been put
inside in a washing machine, being spun around in every direction. He
was pushed down to the ocean floor and then back to the surface
before being pushed down again. For a short while he became
disorientated and did not know which way was up. He used all his
experience to remain calm and soon he saw the light coming from the
surface and made his way up.
He burst through the
surface and took a few gulps of air, just in time too as the next
wave in the set caught him and threw him under again. Matt tumbled
around in the same motion as before, spinning and turning in every
direction. This time he remained even calmer and let himself be
shoved around, making his way to the surface once the turbulence died
He started swimming
to the side the moment he broke the surface, hoping to get into the
clean water before the next wave came. He swam as hard and as fast as
he could. His surfboard in tow behind him, being dragged by the
leash. As the next wave arrived he managed to swim to the side of the
break and safely made it over the lip.
forgot that his surfboard was still attached to his foot, and the
board got caught in the middle as the wave broke, dragging him
backwards. He took a deep breath and let himself be dragged, tugging
at the leash until the surfboard popped out of the wave and floated
on the surface.
Matt continued to
pull the leash until the surfboard came within reach. He grabbed it
and lay on top, paddling as fast as he could to beat the next wave.
He managed to avoid the next wave quite comfortably and as soon as he
went over it he turned around, trying to see what happened to Tracey.
The light was fading
badly and Matt could just make out the rocks that Tracey had been
standing on. He squinted his eyes to see if he could spot her but she
was nowhere to be seen. He could see the people on the beach starting
to turn around and walk away. It appeared as if his wipe out
signalled the end of the day.
Tracey stood on the
rocks watching Matt catch his last wave. She had had a nasty fight
with Paul and decided she would rather watch Matt surf than listen to
him talk about himself any longer. Tracey ventured out onto the rocks
to get a closer look, and to get away from Paul. She walked right to
the edge of the rocks where she was close enough to catch a small
splash of the spray as the waves broke.
Matt was surfing
well and she joined in the applause with the crowd whenever he caught
a nice tube and escaped the close out. Matt was on a really large
wave and she watched him closely, not paying much attention to the
waves in front of her. She saw him waving and assumed it was at her
so she waved back.
“What is he
doing?” she thought to herself as the wave behind him started to
crash down, with Matt directly in front.
At that same moment
the wave broke on the rocks directly in front of her, lifting her
high into the air. If the wave had landed a few yards closer to the
shore it would have crushed her into rocks.
As her body came
down she landed in the water that had covered the rocks and almost at
once she felt herself being pulled backwards, towards the sea. At
first she was disorientated and didn’t know what was happening. She
knew she was being pulled along and was powerless to stop it. Her
mind raced as she tried to keep her head above the water.
She rolled around
and tried to swim but the current was too strong and pulled her out
to sea with ease. By the time she even thought of screaming for help
she was already too far away to be heard, but that didn’t stop and
she started to scream, “Help. Help me!” at the top of her voice.
Matt was sitting on
his surfboard still scanning the rocks for any sign of Tracey when he
first caught the faint sound of what he thought were screams. He sat
dead still on his board, “Was he hearing things?” he thought to
Then he heard it
again, a faint cry, “Help me.”
He tried to see
where the sound was coming from, looking all around. Matt decided to
paddle out towards the back line where it was a little quieter and to
see if the sound got any louder. He paused every few strokes and
listened for the sound, but none came.
When he was well
behind the waves he looked towards the shore and noticed that most of
the lights in the houses and shops were on, starting to shine
brightly as the darkness descended.
“It’s will be
dark soon,” he thought to himself, “I had better make my way to
Matt turned around
in the water and took one last look towards the vast expanse of
ocean. Then, just as he was about to paddle to shore, he heard the
sound again, faintly in the distance, “Help.”
shouted, “Where are you!”
He listened for a
response for a few seconds and when none came he shouted again,
“Hello! Is anybody out there?”
He sat for almost a
full minute waiting for a response. Then it dawned on him, somebody
must have been caught in the rip current and dragged out to sea. As a
surfer he had been tempted on many occasions to use the rip current
to pull him behind the waves. He would need to kick out of rip just
before it dragged him out to sea.
It had always been
an extremely dangerous option which none of the surfers were prepared
to use although at times they were tempted. Matt started paddling
towards the rip which was only about fifty yards away.
It was as recently
as last summer that a swimmer had been caught in the rip and had been
pulled out to sea and drowned. His body washing up on Albatross
beach, a few kilometres away, the following day.
Matt was not sure
what he should do next, join the rip current and try to find whoever
was out there or go to shore, raise the alarm and try to get help. He
knew that no helicopter was available and the local sea rescue crew
wouldn’t go out at night but would wait for daylight. The skipper
of the rescue crew was a regular at ‘The Shack’ and was more than
likely already drunk.
A bad thought
suddenly struck Matt. That person out there could be Tracey. She had
disappeared from the rocks and that is the exact area where the rip
current starts. When the wave struck she must have been thrown off
the rocks and into the water, then pulled along with the current. If
there happened to be any doubt in his mind about which option he had
to take, it was now gone.
He paddled directly
into the middle of the rip current and felt himself being pulled out
to sea. He started to paddle with the current, moving as fast as he
could and calling our Tracey’s name every few seconds.
After a few minutes
of waiting for a response he sat on his surfboard, trying to get as
high as possible. He scanned the sea looking for any object or
movement that seemed out of place. He cupped his hands around his
mouth and yelled out “Tracey!”
Then he heard it
again, fainter than the last time, “Help.”
She was getting
further away. He started paddling furiously, going as fast as his
arms could manage. He had to get to Tracey before she went under.
After a short while he slowed down and called out again, “Tracey,
can you hear me?”
The reply came
almost instantly, “I’m over here, help.”
Matt sat up on his
board again. In the semi-darkness he just see an arm sticking out of
the water, waving. He paddled across to her and as he saw her he
dived off his board and into the water, swimming frantically to her.
He grabbed her from behind, under her arms and pulled her towards his
“Are you okay?”
he asked as he pulled her along.
replied, water spluttering out of her mouth.
When they reached
the surfboard Tracey grabbed it and Matt pushed her on top, her hands
clinging to the nose. Matt held on to the rail of the surfboard,
keeping it steady. Tracey took a few deep breaths of air and coughed
out some sea water. After a few minutes of coughing and spluttering
she managed to speak.
She looked up at
Matt and gave him a small smile, “You saved my life,” she said,
“I almost didn’t
hear you calling for help,” replied Matt, “I thought I was
hearing things. I was sure I saw a wave knock you down, but then the
wave threw me under the water I couldn’t see anymore. When I came
back up you had disappeared.”
“I didn’t even
see it coming,” said Tracey, “I went for a walk on the rocks and
was watching you surf. All I remember is being thrown upside down
into the air before being washed away. Something kept on pulling me.”
“You got caught in
a rip current,” replied Matt, “The same as the one that killed
that tourist last year.”
“Oh no! I remember
that,” said Tracey, “Didn’t they find his body on Albatross
Beach the next day?”
right,” said Matt, “What were you doing on the rocks? I thought
you went with Paul.”
“We had a fight,”
replied Tracey, “and I needed some time alone so I took a walk…”
Tracey was so
relieved at being found that she hadn’t even realised where they
were. She suddenly stopped talking and looked around her, realising
that she was floating in the middle of the ocean in almost complete
darkness. Tracey felt a chill come over her, the adrenalin that
pumped through her body was fading away.
Her teeth started to
chatter and she started shivering uncontrollably. Matt didn’t know
what to do, he somehow had to get her warm. He unzipped his wetsuit
and took it off under the water. He tapped her on the arm and she
looked up, still shivering.
“Here put on my
wetsuit, it will keep you warm,” he said, holding his wetsuit out
of the water, “It will be a bit big, but it will do the job. It
will be easier if you get into the water and put it on.”
Tracey looked at the
water and shook her head.
“Please, you have
to,” said Matt, “Just slide over the side and hang on to the
board. I will put the suit on for you. Close your eyes and imagine
you are in a big bath tub.”
moved to the edge of the surfboard and slipped back into the water,
clinging on to the surfboard. Matt managed to get her feet in first
and pulled up the wetsuit above her waist. He gently took one of her
hands off the board and put it into the arm of the wetsuit then
placed it back, doing the same with the other one. Luckily the zipper
was at the back of the wetsuit so he could easily zip it up.
Matt lifted her back
onto the surfboard and she lay down, her head resting on her arms.
Matt continued to tread water, clinging on to the surfboard. After a
short while he broke the silence, “I am not trying to be funny but
if you pee in the wetsuit it will warm you up.”
disgusting,” replied Tracey, scrunching up her face.
“Yes it is but it
will keep you warm,” said Matt.
“What’s going to
happen to us?” asked Tracey, “Do you think they will send
somebody to look for us?”
“I’m not sure,”
replied Matt, “Nobody knows that I am out here and I have the
weekend off work so I will only be missed on Monday morning. What
about you? What time will your Dad expect you home?”
said Tracey, “I told him I was sleeping at Pam’s house.”
“What time is Pam
expecting you then?” asked Matt.
“Well, she isn’t
expecting me either. I was going to sleep at Paul’s house, I just
told my Dad I was sleeping at Pam’s. After our fight Paul is not
expecting me so nobody will miss me until tomorrow morning,” she
“I suppose we are
on our own then,” said Matt, looking around.
The sea suddenly
became calm, the small ripples that surrounded them died down and the
surface became flat. The surrounding air started to feel heavier and
a small chill developed in the air.
happening?” asked Tracey, looking around anxiously.
“We have moved out
of the rip current and we are now floating in the regular current,”
“Are we going out
to sea?” continued Tracey.
“Yes,” said Matt
honestly, “But in theory we should float back to shore at some
“How long will
that take? I don’t fancy being out here all night,” asked Tracey.
will take a long time. Remember that swimmer that washed up on
Albatross beach? Well he stayed in the water for a day and a half,”
“That’s a long
time,” said Tracey, “And we don’t have any food or water. What
Matt had been
avoiding that subject. This area was well known for its population of
Great White sharks that enjoyed snacking on the local seal
inhabitants. Although shark attacks are quite rare, there had been a
few instances in the last few years around Jeffreys Bay.
Matt felt a cold
shiver down his spine. That remained his number one fear - being
bitten by a shark. Whenever he surfed he always tried to remove the
thought from his mind. Sometimes he would sit on his surfboard
waiting for a wave and imagine those huge beasts swimming around
He knew that sharks
fed mainly at night and loved deep water. With them floating on the
surface, and with a full moon above them, they were sitting ducks for
a hungry shark.
been a shark attack for a few years,” he replied, trying to ease
“So do you think
we are safe?” she asked.
“We should be
fine,” lied Matt, “the sea is a big place so the chance of a
shark even finding us is very small. Besides, they would more than
likely be more scared of us than we are of them.”
“Ok good,” said
Tracey, “because I am terrified of sharks.”
“Don’t worry, so
am I,” said Matt as he placed his hand on top of Tracey’s hand
and gave it a small comforting squeeze.
“Thanks for coming
after me,” she said, looking straight into his eyes, “I know you
could be sitting safe and sound at home watching TV. You are very
brave to risk your life for me.”
“I would never
have forgiven myself,” replied Matt, “Leaving you out here in the
middle of the sea was not an option.”
again,” she said, and she leant forward and gave Matt’s hand a
small kiss and then looked up and smiled at him.
Matt felt a warm
sensation go through his body despite the cold water all around him.
He decided to take a chance and keep the momentum going.
“So what happened
between you and Paul? Is it over?” he asked.
“We were never an
item, just good friends,” replied Tracey, “Paul only thinks of
himself; he is so self-centred. I asked him to do me a small favour
which he said he was too busy for. I have done so many things for him
in the past and he cannot even do one small favour for me!”
“Yes Paul is quite
selfish,” said Matt, turning the screws as much as he could, “So
the two of you were never going out?”
“No, what gave you
that idea,” asked Tracey.
“You always seemed
to do stuff together,” replied Matt, “and whenever I asked you
out you were always busy with Paul.”
“As I said, we are
just good friends. Or should I say we were good friends,” said
“So what are you
doing tonight?” said Matt, feeling a lot better now and trying to
lighten the mood.
around,” laughed Tracey in reply.
They floated in
silence for a while, Matt hanging onto the surfboard with his body
dangling in the water. He looked at his watch, it was 9pm. They had
been floating for an hour and half.
The clouds had
cleared and the full moon provided them with enough light to see each
other clearly. Matt looked up at the stars, they were a beautiful
sight. If the circumstances were different he would be a happy man
Tracey had put her
head on her arms again and closed her eyes, she was exhausted. As she
drifted off to sleep she felt a small bump against the bottom of the
surfboard. She ignored it and carried on trying to sleep. A few
moments later she felt another bump, this time half way up the board.
“Please stop that,
you’re scaring me,” she said.
asked Matt, “I am not doing anything.”
funny,” said Tracey.
“I swear I did not
do anything,” said Matt, lifting his hands off the surfboard.
At that moment
Tracey felt another bump on the surfboard and she screamed out load,
“What was that!”
“I don’t know,”
said Matt, “Just stay calm, don’t make any sudden moves.”
Matt looked around
at the water, hoping he would get a glimpse of what bumped the
“What is it?”
asked Tracey anxiously, “Is it a shark?”
trying to see,” said Matt as tried to peer down into the water. He
put his face under the water and opened his eyes, hoping he would be
able catch a glimpse of what was down there. All he managed to see
was a black blur of the dark ocean. He suddenly felt exposed dangling
in the water and pulled his legs up to his body. It felt as if he was
on death row, waiting for his execution.
Tracey was looking
around, her head whipping left and right. She let out a blood curling
scream when a small black shape emerged from the water right next to
her arm. At first Matt assumed a shark had bitten her but as he
looked at the creature he quickly recognised the long nose, whiskers
and puppy dog eyes as those of a seal.
Seals are naturally
curious and this one was no exception, wondering what two people were
doing floating in the middle of the ocean. Tracey was still in shock
when Matt spoke to her, “Ok you can relax now it’s only a seal.”
She was breathing
hard, almost hyper-ventilating. Matt put his hand on top of hers and
reassured her again, “its fine, seals are harmless.”
The seal had had
enough, and blinking his eyes a few times, he dived into the water
and disappeared into the dark abyss.
Tracey let out a
huge sigh of relief and burst out into tears. Matt moved his arm
around her shoulders and spoke softly into her ear, “its okay, we
“Yes but for how
long, “sobbed Tracey, “We are going to die, aren’t we?”
“No we are not,”
said Matt sternly, “We are going to survive this. This time
tomorrow night we are going to be safe on land, sipping on cocktails
and laughing about this.”
scared,” said Tracey.
“So am I,” said
Matt, “but we can’t give up hope.”
“Close your eyes
and try to get some sleep, you will feel a lot better,” said Matt,
although he didn’t particularly want to tread water alone and
preferred the company, it would be better if she slept.
Tracey closed her
eyes and tried to sleep. She kept having visions of being eaten by a
shark and had to open her eyes to get that mental picture out of her
head. Matt continued to cling to the surfboard, trying to kick as
little as possible to conserve his energy.
Tracey moved her
arms and put them under her chest with her head resting directly on
the surfboard. This seemed to do the trick, and she managed to doze
off. Matt stared at her while she slept, using his finger to trace an
imaginary line on her forehead, tickling her gently while she slept.
Matt felt himself
starting to doze off. His head would fall towards the sea and jerk
him awake. He looked at his watch, it was 1-00am. Tracey had been
sleeping for three hours. He took his hands off the surfboard and
stretched them into the air, relieving some of the tension in his
“If I fall asleep
I have a good chance of drowning,” he thought to himself, “I have
to stay awake.”
Matt decided the
best option he had was to dip his head under the water, which would
definitely wake him up. The last thing he wanted to do was to make a
splash and wake up Tracey so he slipped quietly under the water and
held his breath. He was good at holding his breath and managed a full
minute before coming to the surface.
As his head broke
the surface his ears suddenly filled with screaming. He looked around
frantically and saw Tracey staring at him and screaming hysterically.
what’s wrong?” he asked, looking around nervously.
“I thought you
were gone,” she said, tears running down her cheeks.
“I just went under
water to wake up, I was falling asleep,” he replied, “I didn’t
mean to scare you.”
Tracey managed to
calm down after a short while and they continued to float in what
became their normal position, Tracey lying on the board and Matt
clinging on the side.
“Do you want to
lie on the surfboard for a while?” asked Tracey, praying he would
Her prayers were
answered, “Thanks but I am still fine,” he replied.
“How are you
holding up?” he asked.
“Okay, I guess,"
She looked around at
the dark ocean and then blurted out “I just want to go home.”
“Well get there,
don’t worry," replied Matt.
“What is the
time?” asked Tracey
thirty,” replied Matt, glancing at his watch.
“What time is
sunrise? We can hopefully see where we are when the sun comes up,”
“Sun comes up at
5,” he replied.
“How do you know
that?” she asked.
“I normally like
to watch the sun rise from my bedroom window. There is no better
sight in the world.” replied Matt.
They continued to
float in almost complete silence. The only sound came from the small
waves splashing gently against the side of the surfboard. The air
became thicker and when Matt looked around, he noticed that it was
getting harder to see far off into the distance.
something too and was getting nervous, looking around anxiously,
“What is happening?” she asked.
“The fog is coming
in,” replied Matt, “it normally forms in the early hours of the
morning when the air is colder than the sea. When the sun comes up it
heats the air and the fog disappears. I’m afraid we will have to
wait for sunrise before we can see where we are.”
said Tracey, “Something bad always happens when there is fog.”
“You have been
watching too many movies,” said Matt.
The air started to
get thicker and the fog became denser, enclosing them in a thick
cloud. Matt could barely see a few yards away. He gripped the
surfboard tighter and lifted his feet to his chest, that creepy
feeling was contagious.
The sea remained
perfectly calm with the thick cloud lying just above the surface. The
combination of the fog, silence and calm sea was eerie and Matt
decided to try to take their minds off their predicament with some
idle conversation, “So how did you end up working at the Shack?”
“When I finished
school I didn’t know what to study, so I thought I would work for a
year and then decide. Well one year ended up being eight and I still
don’t know what I want to study. My uncle keeps telling me he wants
to retire and he wants me to take over the restaurant,” replied
“Wow, eight years
is a long time. Don’t you get bored?” asked Matt.
“Not really, I
love what I do and you get to meet different people all the time. In
case you haven’t noticed, I am not the type of person that likes to
sit behind a desk. This job gives me the freedom to move around. Of
course it also has the best view in the world,” added Tracey.
“Yes it does,”
agreed Matt who chose to work at the Shack specifically for the view,
“Do you have any brothers or sisters”
“None, I am only
child. How about you?”
“Also only one,”
replied Matt, “Do you miss not having a brother or sister?”
“I guess you never
really know what it feels like to have one. It gets a bit lonely
sometimes being by yourself,” said Tracey
“Yes I know what
you mean. I think that’s why I enjoy surfing so much, it is a
lonely sport. There is nothing better than that peace and quiet when
you are sitting on your surfboard waiting for the next wave,” added
“You are really
good,” said Tracey, “I was watching you from the rocks.”
Matt, feeling slightly embarrassed.
“You should enter
some competitions,” added Tracey, “I am sure you will win.”
“Well for the last
three years I have signed up for the Billabong Pro but then I have
always backed out at the last minute,” said Matt.
“Why is that?”
“I think I am
scared of failing. If I didn’t it make it through the qualifying
rounds I don’t know what I would do,” said Matt, surprised at his
“But how will you
know if you don’t try?” she asked.
“I guess I just
need some confidence. When I surf everyday there is no pressure, no
consequences if I fall. But in a competition there is lots of
pressure. If you fall, it’s over,” answered Matt.
“But today you
were surfing in front of hundreds of people and you were fine. What
if you just imagined it was a normal day and surfed as you usually
do? It is all in the mind,” she continued.
“I suppose I could
give it a try,” he replied.
“When is the next
competition?” she enquired.
“It’s in July,
three months away,” replied Matt.
“So why don’t
you enter? I will be your coach,” offered Tracey.
“Wow, are you
serious? That would be great!” said Matt.
“I am dead
serious. I will make sure you are ready mentally. You can work on the
surfing stuff,” she added.
Matt, and the two of them shook hands.
Matt was kicking his
legs gently when the pain suddenly shot through the calf muscle on
his left leg. He scrunched up his face and screamed out loud in pain,
“What is it,
what’s wrong!” screamed Tracey, seeing the excruciating pain on
“It’s my leg,”
said Matt, “OUCH!”
“Matt what is it!”
screamed Tracey again, getting hysterical, “Is it a shark?”
“No, it’s cramp”
said Matt, just managing to get his words out before the pain took
His calf muscle was
seizing up, contracting into a solid ball of pain. Matt knew he had
to stretch his leg. That would mean letting go of the surfboard and
going underwater so he could use both hands to pull his toes
backwards, stretching out the muscle.
The pain was
becoming unbearable, “I need to stretch my leg,” said Matt
through his clenched teeth. “I’m going to go underwater for a few
“Okay but be
careful,” replied Tracey, looking concerned.
Matt let go of the
surfboard, took a deep breath and slid under the water. He felt for
his toes and used both hands to pull them back towards his body,
stretching them as hard as he could. He held them tight for a few
seconds, feeling the muscle loosen up. He let go and wriggled his
toes but still felt some tension in the muscle. He reached down and
pulled his toes back again for a few more seconds and then let go and
shot to the surface for some fresh air.
This time Tracey was
expecting him and had a look of relief on her face when he broke the
“Are you okay?”
she asked as he wiped the water from his eyes.
better,” replied Matt, “That was unbelievably sore. I have never
felt pain like that in my life. I thought cramp was only for old
“It’s your body
saying it’s tired and thirsty,” said Tracey.
“I agree with it,”
said Matt, “I am tired and thirsty. I wish we at least had some
water to drink. It’s ironic, being surrounded by water that you
“Are you sure you
don’t want to lie on the surfboard for a while?” asked Tracey, “I
will be fine to hang on.”
“Actually if I can
just rest for a few minutes that would be great,” said Matt,
starting to feel exhausted.
slid off the surfboard and into the water, “Oooh its cold”, she
said as she submerged her body in the water, filling up her wetsuit.
“Give it a few
minutes and you will be warm,” said Matt as he climbed on top of
the surfboard and stretched his legs out.
perfectly still in the water for a few moments before piping up,
“Huh? Right about
what?” asked Matt.
advice,” she replied.
advice? Ah….Okay…,” said Matt, remembering what he had told
Tracey to do in her wetsuit to keep warm.
“Don’t you worry
about what’s underneath?” said Tracey, looking down at the water.
“Yes, but I try to
keep my mind off it. Imagine the first thing you are going to do when
we reach land,” said Matt, “I am going to have a huge Mexican
Pizza and a litre or two of Coke.”
“I am going to
have a huge plate of prawns, soaked in garlic butter sauce and served
on a bed of rice. I will wash that down with the biggest glass of
white wine anybody has ever seen,” added Tracey.
said Matt, scrunching his face in disgust.
“Don’t you like
prawns?” asked Tracey.
“No, they are the
roaches of the sea. Do you know what they eat?” said Matt.
“No and please
don’t tell me, I really enjoy them and don’t want to be put off,”