Skinny Cappuccino's Ocean Adventure

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16 years 6 months ago #1378 by Steve Co
The crack of the starter?s gun shatters the darkness and competitors swarm across the cold sand and into the surf. Arms and legs surge like pistons as boats are hauled through shallow water. Paddle blades whir furiously, whipping up the murky water and sparring with encroaching skis. An anxious shout reverberates as a ski collides with a collapsing wall of white water before corkscrewing spectacularly up into the air.

Skinny Cappuccino could not believe his luck. The start was not usually one of his strengths. Something to do with him always being late. But this morning his timing was in sync with the ocean rhythm and he slinked through the angry impact zone whilst the less timely paddlers ahead and behind him fought with lines of closing-out sets. In a flash he was rounding the turning buoy with the elites and being drawn out deep, guided by a red carpet laid out by the rising sun.

Skinny had always known he had talent. Occasionally over the years he had produced performances that had raised eyebrows in the paddling community. Such as the time he waited for the speedy Bartho brothers at Connought Bridge during the Blue Lagoon Challenge after burning up the field with cunning intervals. And the time he completed the 4-day PE to East London epic in torturous conditions, having duct-taped a pepperoni pizza to his deck for nutrition. But he had had more than his share of disappointments and he was not sure if it was his imagination when he overheard disparaging whispers in the club locker room.

All this had deepened Skinny Cappuccino?s resolve. He had meticulously prepared for months for an assault on one of South Africa?s toughest one-day races, the Sardine Classic. Sacrifices had been made. Swapping the heady nightlife of Florida Road for grueling pre-dawn sessions at Battery Beach was rough. Countless interval sessions, ins-and-outs, pull-ups, down-wind runs and meditation were all part of a grueling programme that had honed Skinny?s lithe body and mind. Everything had gone according to plan. Changing his pre-race tracks from Johnny Cash to Rocky (Eye of the Tiger and Hearts on Fire) had really upped his mental state and had almost caused a high-speed collision on the way to the race.

And here he was, delivering the goods in one cracker of a race. Comfortably in front of his bench-mark, Marcus Lewinski, the grisly sea-legend who had slowed a yard in his autumn years, but was still the accepted marker of achievement for up-and-coming campaigners.

The pack of elites had by now left Skinny to pace his own race as the south-west began to puff. He thought back to the ?small craft advisory? that had flashed across his Blackberry before the race and afforded himself a grin. During training he had consulted surfski Yoda, Big O, who had bequeathed to him a trove of secrets pertaining to the mysterious art of downwind riding (interspersed with a volume of other advice on life and the Universe).

The gusting wind began to sculpt a wrinkled seascape, which soon transformed into a panorama of fast moving hills and valleys. A fine sea spray whipped off the surface of the sea and stung Skinny?s neck. The rumble from omnipresent crumbling waves formed a haunting duet with the high-pitched whistle of the wind. The wind tugged impatiently at Skinny?s blades as he tried to lock onto the high-speed runs and escape the chasing sea.

Skinny was starting to become flustered. The unusual combination of the wind direction and swell direction was creating a seemingly random pattern of surging water. He found himself either stalling in troughs or flooding his cockpit on peaks whilst anxiously envisaging Marcus and others hurtling from one run to the next like hard hit pinballs. In desperation, he recalled the secrets of Big O. He started to relax and repeated his mantra. Then, as if a lens had been sharply focused, the wave patterns came into brilliant focus. With a few strokes he coaxed his boat from one steep wall to the next, effortlessly connecting the dots of the watery puzzle.

In the distance he could make out the branding flags and the bright orange turning buoy at the finish. Had he been going that fast, he thought incredulously? With just a few minutes to go he allowed himself to visualize the finish: catch a classic wave in, jog up the beach whilst victoriously pumping fist in the air, claim that top ten gold medal and enjoy the admiration of the Powerade Girls. He screamed involuntarily as the realization of his achievement sunk in.

Skinny?s day dreaming was interrupted by the drifting sound of the PA system from the finish. There was a sense of excitement in the announcer?s voice: ??having an un-be-lievable race its Skin-ny Cap-pu-chi-no pushing hard to claim the final gold medal? being chased hard by Marcus Lewinski and an armada of 4 boats!?

The information had the effect of a defibrillator on Skinny heart. Head down, eyes bulging, he pulled hard on his paddle as he approached the back line. The wind had roughed up the surf considerably and waves were crunching hard on the shallow sand bank. He felt himself staring down a mine-shaft as a powerful set took shape. He had no chance. The breaking wave consumed him. Deep in the bowels of the violent wave Skinny refused to panic or give up. His feet seemed to extend from size 9 to 12 and his toes curled around the foot strap in an eagle-like grip. His stretched out his arms above his head, using his paddle as a drogue. His body stretched to snapping point as he bounced into shore like a piece of flotsam.

Leopard crawling on to the beach, covered in sand he picked up his boat and staggered like a drunk across the finish line. ?Tenth!? the announcer screamed as Skinny turned to see the armada desperately running up the beach. As Skinny lay sprawled on the sand, Marcus lent over him, squeezed his hand and gave him a little nod.

?You?re the man!? Skinny thought to himself as he cocked his head and scanned the beach for the Powerade Girls.

[If you enjoyed this story please go to www.surfski.co.za/forums/showthread.php?p=897#post897 and vote for the story in the Thule Feedback competition. The winner earns a trip to Sweden to do a 90km snow-ski marathon!! Every vote counts. Thanks.]



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