Surf Fiction: The Cove

A surf funk. We’ve all been there. This short story by Jay Rossetti explores how good it can feel to return to the water, even when you think you don’t want to. 

The Cove

By Jay Rossetti

I felt a certain comfort, one that I hear older people enjoy, a comfort I thought would come to me in my later years and not at 28.

I traveled from my home a day earlier, lighter than usual. I’d decided I would not take any of my surfing equipment on this trip. Boards in various in lengths, shapes and characters usually fill the car and keep me company, a form of grown-up security blanket. I looked around my car halfway through the 380 km trip southeast and looked at my traveling buddies. A skateboard. My camera. A stockwhip. A small bag of clothes. A home-distilled bottle of rum the builder next door gave me three days earlier, with a pumpkin, while I was hanging out the wash in the morning sun.

At the coast, I headed straight to the cove. I walked past the usual crew, camera in hand. I saw the same faces. Faces that only a year and a half ago I knew by birth name, nickname, favorite conversational topics and drink of choice. Still they stood, in the same place, talking the same bullshit to each other post surf. They glanced at me, hidden in sunnies and a hat, stained by sweat, salt and dirt, in desperate need of a wash. They seemed to recognise me but were uncertain as I walked passed. They tried to make eye contact, but behind my dark shades I could decide if I wanted to acknowledge them or feign ignorance and just keep walking, without having to explain my absence and current life status.

I found my spot, nestled between the pump house and the walls of the baths. The sun bouncing back and forth between the two warmed me on all sides. The wind was moderate from the west, comforting as it hit the nape of my neck.

I was looking at a break that I had spent many hours over the past eight years seeing with various states of excitement, clarity, anger and love. I saw three-foot walls standing up on the outside reef, combed slick by the westerly. I saw three men I knew well. One was linking the wave’s two distinct sections, from the outside to the inner cove. The inside was inhabited by the man who joined my wife and me in marriage. Paddling back out between the two was an eternal grom who shapes boards and works as a sparky.

I stood there in the sun, my camera at my side, fantastic surf for this spot in front of me, mates in the water. I watched for some time before I felt something blocking the whisper of the westerly in my ear. I turned, and there stood the Reverend, wetsuit barely hanging together, a hand-shaped board from a local mate’s brother under one arm and a grin that suggested he was indeed happy.

He inquired as to when I was heading out, a usual occurrence as we always seemed to meet in the cove and talk on a manner of subjects that always found their way back to surfboard design, music and the Italian doctor who surfed there sometimes, giving away almonds to people before paddling out. I explained to the Reverend that I had not traveled with my usual companions and that I was content in my current world, my camera, the sun and a calm mind. Taken by surprise, the Reverend looked puzzled, unsure if I had lost my mind like a good portion of the crew or if I had simply lost my way.

He looked once more and his manner suggested he knew. He said he’d get one or two more waves and we would catch up by the car. I watched the Reverend catch his wave, as if riding a timeline to the beach. Rails and body working in unison and effortless flow. Surfing from a time lost.

By the car, I found the Reverend already out of his wetsuit. He insisted that I grab it, take his board from the grass and enjoy the great conditions. I declined, explaining once more that I was fulfilled, that I’d decided not to bring my gear instead of simply forgetting.

I don’t know how or when it happened, but I found myself in his wetsuit, his board under my arm and the jump of spot drawing nearer as I rock-hopped my way toward it.

I rode a few waves that morning, a six-foot something, round nosed, pintail widow-maker beneath my feet, a wetsuit three times too big wrapped around me and the water, smooth and clean, dancing with me, leading me.

I rode the waves to within a couple of feet of the northern rocks of the cove which mark the wave’s end, speed running at the rocks before cutting back, spraying in defiance and showmanship as I have learned over the years from some of the older guys.

I got to the car, silent in my excitement and stoke. The Reverend looked at me, out to the break then back at me again and nodded.

“I am truly stoked you went for a paddle then,” he said, as if he was proud of his own ability to break through my stubborn nature.

“You looked bloody comfortable out there.”


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