Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Manu Bay and travelling around India with a 7ft surfboard

I went over to Raglan, home to one of the most famous left hand point breaks in the world at Manu Bay, to do a spot of surfing. On arriving at the backpacker hostel I was less than impressed to be honest - it was a bit on the tatty side and my 'double' room left me with just enough space to put the mat down. As I mentioned to a friend who also came down to try out the waves, lucky I don't actually do Garba Pindasana yet because only an expert could have managed it in that tight little spot without headbutting the skirting board.

Anyway, after a couple of days the whole place really started to grow on me - the lodge was in a beautiful little valley full of fern palms, glow worms and sharp contrasting late afternoon shadows and clear blue sky. Even the paltry excuse for a kitchen began to seem adequate.

The surfing itself was perfect for those at the learner stage - not too big but nice and regular and uncrowded. Wainui beach is wide and basically empty at this time of year, even over a holiday weekend. And I just love being in the water! It brings a smile to my face at the time and afterwards too. Wetsuits required of course but that gave over 2 hours of comfort with just the feet getting a little chilly.

Having wanted for so long to learn to surf I am actually now doing it and as luck would have it the yoga is of course a huge help, not just for the balance and rythmn of the activity but also in terms of attitude, physical condition and upper body stamina and strength. I was beginning to catch and surf waves almost at will, though the takeoff needs to get a lot cleaner and the rides can definitely get longer; and they will, in time. The pleasure of paddling out, watching and observing the swell and sets, duck diving the waves to resume sitting on the board, all of it brings such peace and calm, a feeling of unity and exhilaration perhaps best labelled as joy. And just once, unexpectedly and without thinking I turned, paddled, felt the board begin to slide down the little wave face and popped up perfectly onto the middle of the board, steady and balanced, eyes forward and ready to go, the timing absolutely right, the attitude right, the feeling right, the sum of it all just right.

All of which found me in the board shop in Napier yesterday, looking at 7ft4in boards and accoutrements - but the stumbling block for me is the idea of having to lug that thing around Indian railway stations, streets and airports. Talking to a mate last night we both agreed that even a backpack seems like a hassle sometimes. Now, I haven't investigated the Indian surf scene, though I gather there is some, but for me the main focus is Sri Lanka where I know that down south there are some good breaks to be had, handily near to a yoga centre I plan to visit in the new year. So the dilemma is whether to buy now and cart the thing around or rely on being able to get some kind of half decent board in Sri Lanka when I get there. Hmmm.

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