Alentejo surf and drive……

headed north this morning to meet with sam and louise.
as i crossed the border from the algarve to the alentejo (bandit country) i was in awe of just how sweet this country is.
mainly unspoiled by progress, definately unspoilt by bullshit health and safety issues that strangle most parts of the world.
the sun was out, the skies blue, the road was twisty and lined with eucalyptus and pine, the smell was sweet and the tunes, star guitar (chemical brothers) seemed to fit the drive perfectly.
the roads were empty and free of speed cameras.  people smiling at each other as they passed, waving and joking – just like life should be.
I stopped off at Odeceixe for a surf. a small town glued to the side of the valley walls, the estury below. cobbled streets wind their way through the village from top to bottom, very few places to park a car, when this place was built, no-one had cars.  The main road from north to south twisting around the hills above the rooftops of the houses, just a thin steel barrier between the cars and the houses.  Amazing to drive, and look down on the rooftops below.
the beach was deserted, just two bodyboarders waitint on the sand.  the sun was out, the skies blue, the sand warm beneath my feet.
we walked toward a heavy sea, wondering if we would be able to make the paddle out.  we gazed, looking for a break in the sets, and also counting the sets until the rogue set of three huge waves would hit, would need time to get out beyond where these were breaking.  we stood, looking for rip currents to use that would speed our journey, maybe even spit us far out back.  we were lucky.  two rips, one in the deeper water, one by the river estury mouth, much shallower but laden with rocks.
i tried the deeper rip first but it was fierce as it pulled me southward across the beach without actually pushing me out.  i caught some white water into the beach and walked along to the estury mouth and tried again.
waited for the sets to pass, then – go go go.
with the help of the rip, made it clean out, without even getting my hair wet, into the safety of deeper water. Usual thoughts started to wander trhough my mind……..this is a lot bigger than it looked from the beach.  it was easily two metres (overhead) but the rouge sets had another half metre more, and broke further out.  all i could think about was not to get caught inside.
a rouge wave appeared, peering over the top of a smaller wave in front of it. i knew if i didnt paddle hard, this would hit me full on and wouldnt be easy , infact, i was begining to fear for my life. ´what the f**k did i come out in this for´i thought.  usually, surfing with gentleman jim brought those kind of thoughts on a regular basis.
i paddled hard , out to sea, the big wave had just started to crest infront of me, i paddled and kept my eyes open so that i could watch the nose of my board nudge underneath the begining of the white water as i pushed downward with all of my strength. as the water washed over the front of the board, i closed my eyes and held on.
Made it out the other side, but not well enough, i was being sucked back to shore from the force of the water that had just passed me, a bit like a sinking ship pulling other objects down with it. Sure, i had made it through, but i knew that there were two more in the set of the same size and now i was nearer to the shore, about to get caught inside on a 2.5 metre skull crusher.
the time between the waves was not enough for me to make it out to safety, so, i decided to paddle IN, and try to catch the wave as it broke around me.
a fury of white water engulfed me, i paddled and paddled , and then, like the full thrust of an airliner on take off, the wave caught me and pushed me clear…… all i had to do was get to my feet and NOT fall off! usually, this is where i usually get it badly wrong…..i guess the fear of drowning keeps you a little more focussed.  I made it to my feet, turning gently to teh right and rode the beauty in.  she started to reform as she pushed in over the sand bank and i even felt cheeky enough to tip toe to the nose and stand on the front.
Made it to the beach, safe and sound. looked to see where sam was, and started to paddle back out to do it all again!!
when i finally got out and changed, read a message from Kati telling me that mareta was on, so i headed south for a wave at my local break.
the drive back was more awesome than the drive out, a bit of dave pearce and sunshine, shades and open windows – in december. only thing missing was a hot chick on the front seat, sunglasses on, hair blowing in the wind and feet on the dash board – think it´s about time i started looking to fix that!!!

Have a moan - the beers are on me !!

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