(Vairao, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia)
Like you can’t picture Kevin Costner standing out in that cornfield with the memorable If you build it, they will come line running through your head. I know I certainly can, and I’m beginning to think everyone is bestowed one Field of Dreams moment in their life to fulfil to their greatest abilities.
I’m slightly chuffed I used mine up bringing the first ever Saskatchewan Surf Rescue Team to life.
After moving anchorages with the crew from Teahupoo to Vairao today, we loaded up the dinghies and headed out to the surf break. Being the pre-beginner surfer that I am, I know that I am absolutely no match for the big, heavy, pumping reef breaks of Tahiti. Therefore while everyone else loaded up with their boards I packed a cooler with a bottle of wine.
Out at the break it took a while to find a safe place to anchor the dinghies, and by the time we did we were quite a distance from the lipping break. No problem though, it just meant everyone got a proper paddling warm up on the way out, and I would get to play a gripping game of who’s who guessing which tiny rider was which.
With Marie’s anchor down Kuhela and Asgard simply tied off to her, the mothership, and everyone starting dropping in the water. Gregory was first out, eager to catch a wave after days of watching Teahupoo go off. Josh and Tab were not far behind, with Adam hot on their tail giving paddling a shot. By the time Annie was amped up to go, a paddling partner emerged from behind us. Gregory, possibly a little too keen, had caught a deep wave, got closed-out on, got caught in the hot zone, and washed himself up and over the reef. As he made the massive circle around and back out, he picked up Annie to head for the break.
Finally, I was free to drink my wine! Or was I?
As I watched Greg and Annie turn into tiny specs on the water, I started scanning the break for signs of success from the other boys. None to be found, but they were probably just waiting for the next big set. Another large preoccupation I had was playing the inconclusive and slightly maddening game of Is The Anchor Holding. The spot we had finally chosen was right on the edge of the channel next to the small but breaking reef. Despite my intense concentration and inappreciable irritation that I had been left on a questionable mooring with three dinghies to account for, I could not determine if I was steadfast or incrementally inching ever closer to the destructive reef. By the time I got back around to Gregory and Annie I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. There seemed to be a lot of waving, as far as my poor long-range vision could decipher, and it looked like Gregory had started to paddle back towards me.
It’s now that I’d like to mention the fleeting conversation we all had while the boards were first dropping in the water. We had all just spent the last three days watching the power and sometimes destruction of Teahupoo. The skilfulness and pure nerve of the jetski rescuers was every bit as impressive as the barrel riders. Darting onto the reef in mere inches of water to save a fallen surfer before another wave came in and demolished them as well. And it was these masters that came to my mind as I looked out on the thumping reef break everyone was about to endeavour upon. So as everyone was gearing up, my misguided humour saw it fit to voice that it’s every man for themselves, because I sure as hell did not possess expertise nor the gumption to save any of their butts. There’s a lot of surf rescue teams out there, but I doubt there is any Saskatchewan Surf Rescue.
Field of Dreams moment initiated.
So as the waving continued I could only assume that my limited assistance was somehow required. Now if you remember, Marie was questionably anchored to the reef with Kuhela and Asgard’s dinghies tethered to her. So unless I wanted to pull up anchor and perform a three-dinghy-train-rescue-mission I needed to commandeer myself a new ride.
With Jack Sparrow ability I leapt over to Asgard’s dinghy and fired it up. (I know, even impressing myself.) You know the phrase about everything not being created equally? Well it definitely applies to dinghies. Marie, bless her soul, is a beast. She’s big and she’s incredibly heavy. Sweet for ripping around, not so sweet for pulling up on the beach. Asgard’s dinghy is not of the heavy-set type. After feeling like I was going to flip it more than once I had finally reached Gregory and Annie who informed me that Tab, Josh, and Adam had disappeared somewhere out to sea.
Alright, Saskatchewan Surf Rescue was now a reality. Thank you Kevin Costner.
I tore out, as fast as I could without losing control, and thought I would come upon them just over the next big roller. I did not. I continued to motor far off the back of the break in search of our missing friends. By the time I came upon them, their calm floating selves did not mirror the frantic, distraught state I would have been in should the tables have been turned.
I picked up three surfers, but between them they only had one surfboard. The story goes like this.
Josh was in the hot zone attempting to catch a wave, when a particularly large set broke his leash and took his board. Tab, the ever-helpful guy, turned tail to go check on Josh when he got smashed by the same massive set that had claimed Josh’s board. Tab duck dove the monster though the power could not be stopped, his board was snapped clean in half. With half a board between the two of them they made their way to the back of the break to find themselves and Adam in a roaring riptide. An unseen river was taking them out to sea.
Fast forward now to Saskatchewan Surf Rescue being called into action and everyone is safe and sound. We even recovered Josh’s lost board and both pieces of Tab’s busted shred stick. All in all a successful evening. Well for me anyways. Saved some lives and still found time to drink my wine on the water…
* after note: we learnt days later that a second pulse of huge swell had hit Tahiti-iti this evening. Down the road at Teahupoo they were strictly towing in because the sets were so big. This may explain why the boys got worked so hard, and why the rips were flowing so fast.