We drove the quiet streets of NaTrang at dawn. Twelve hours on the battered highway from DaNang and we fell out of that mini-van barely able to walk. In a concrete Russian built hotel across the street from the beach, that soft bed should have been the most delicious thing in the world. But, as often happens when you get beyond tired, I couldn’t sleep.
I didn’t even know the South China Sea had surf. It took a while for me to realise what the deep, bass, thump I could hear was.
My Dad is still the best bodysurfer I ever saw. He taught me and my brother to body-surf in the waves at Yallingup one summer, just pushing us on and letting us swim for it. ‘Having a body-bash” has been part of my life ever since. I walked down to this beach I’d never seen before and swam out.
Floating out the back I felt a presence. Then heard a cavernous whooshing sound. I looked up to a wave the size of an apartment block looming over me. The waves I’d seen from the beach were a lull; a lull between much, much bigger sets. I dove so deep my ears popped. Then the monstrous concussion above me; but on that first dive I’d found the compressed, layer of water just near the bottom that’s running counter to the force of the wave; and it spat me out like a watermelon pip – just in time to view the next whispering giant speeding towards me. I dove again.
That was me for the next…I dunno, it felt like an hour. Maybe it was 15 minutes. I was just a lung. I could be nothing else, or I was probably going to die. I just relaxed and trusted my body. Dive deep, relax, wait, surface, breathe, and repeat.
When the lull came, I summoned all of the years of swim training and powered to shore, collapsing on the sand in a kind-of prayer. Feeling the sheer vividness that comes after knowing how truly sweet life is. I looked across and saw this bloke. Squatting on the sand; amused. I don’t reckon he’d seen anyone go swimming at that beach before, especially during a typhoon swell. But for someone who’d lived through the previous twenty years in Vietnam? This probably didn’t even register on his scale of crazy. He just gave me a knowing smile. I went back and took his picture later.