As the Rip Curl Pro approaches again it reminds me of the first time I paddled into the lineup at a professional surfing event.
It was at the beginning of September in the autumn of 2000 and the World Championship Tour of the Association of Surfing Professionals had finally come to Portugal. In fact it had come to my home break of Cabadelo in Figueira de Foz. A beautiful day as I recall but the swell was junky and the wind had turned onshore. Difficult conditions for a newcomer like me but of course I did have the home advantage.
Rob Machado was making it look effortless on his way to a well earned win, hitting that tiny crumbling lip with an ease and grace that only a man of his Catweazley beard skills and surfing experience can produce. And myself? I was starting to look like an amateur, floundering around in the white water like a rubber-wrapped drowning rodent. So when the loudspeakers finally made the following announcement my fate was sealed…
“Can the idiot in the purple wetsuit on the orange minimal please leave the competition zone. If not you will be removed…”
I didn’t surf today. Or in fact in September, 2000.