It was a lazy autumn morning that I pulled into the car park, overcast and drizzly, just the way I like it, and I was really excited to find a pushing tide, with about 4 feet of swell peeling off along a fun-looking right bank, just to the left of the old wreck. I remember there being a bit of an Easter nip in the air, the land breeze having gently and lovingly manicured the waves to perfection overnight ...
Now this is in no way a secret spot, anyone could have been there if they'd wanted to be, but for some reason, maybe being a week day, it was just me in the car park and one other lone surfer already in the water. As I neared back line I recognised the lone surfer as being a close friend of mine - this session was rapidly starting to kick into high gear. Just what I needed, a mid-week sanity check.
There's something really special about trading good waves with only one other friend. In a way you feel that you've uncovered a gold mine that everyone else has somehow missed - it's almost too good to be true. It was one of those sessions where the waves just keep coming - we'd ridden more good waves in half an hour than we normally would have in a week - but things were about to get even better.
As we were sitting in the lineup, tired but happy, chatting about our unexpected fortune in finding quality, uncrowded waves, the water around us was suddenly broken by a multitude of fins, and the previously calm surface was now boiling with life and commotion.
Dolphins, and lots of them!
I'd like to say that I coolly took this in my stride but, to be honest, the survival instinct kicked in and, for a few minutes, I was absolutely terrified - scared out of my skin. We felt totally overpowered and hopelessly outnumbered. Were they hostile or friendly?
Had we unknowingly overstepped some aquatic boundary and incurred their wrath? I immediately started to look for the nearest escape exit, but we were surrounded. It must have been a pod of about 15 dolphins, but they were hard to count because they kept arcing in and out of the water.
You may well ask, "What were you afraid of, haven't you watched Flipper?!" It's not easy trying to describe the feeling of meeting wild dolphins 'up close and personal' in their own element. They're just so vital and powerful and, well ... wild, and they exude such a confidence that it catches you off guard.
You get the feeling that, despite their fun-loving appearance, they could break you in half with the greatest of ease and then have a good chuckle about it afterwards. It's a weird mix of fear and the feeling you get when reuniting with a long-lost friend. As I said, it's not easy to explain.
We soon realized that, as boisterous as these beautiful creatures seemed, they had nothing but good intentions towards us and our uncertainty was replaced by a feeling of pure exhilaration.
As you can imagine, we completely forgot about the waves and just took in the experience of making new friends with the real locals. They were swimming past us, next to us as we paddled, under us as we sat on our boards - they were so close that we could hear them breathing and look them square in the eyes - we could have literally reached out and touched them. And what was interesting is that they seemed to be as curious about us as we were of them.
It was so surreal that I expected at any moment to be woken from a dream.
The babies looked like they were having a lot of fun, darting in and out of the water and when they surfaced, they would sometimes turn belly-up, exposing pink stripes along their sides, running from their flippers through to their tails.
Now, I've surfed with dolphins a few times before, but what made this experience unique was that they were so close, for such an extended period of time - we must've spent at least half an hour with them - it was almost as though they were drawing us into their world and trying to show us something, explain some secret.
I know it sounds funny, but the dolphins knew what we were there for and they joined us in riding a few waves. We weren't trading waves, we were sharing them and that is something you can't understand unless you've done it. Of course, they completely put us to shame. Thoughts of what we could do to the wave were replaced with how to flow with the wave like they seemed to - to be honest I just didn't want to scare them off, I wanted the moment to last for as long as possible.
What was so special about this experience was not just that we were doing what we love the most with some of the most beautiful, intelligent creatures on the planet, but that they were equally as keen to share that time with us. You can't make a wild animal obey you, they do whatever they please and, for that time, they wanted to be there with us. You just can't buy that - it gets given to you as a gift and you're either there to receive it, or you're not.
The rest of the week went by in a haze, I can't even remember anything else about it besides that morning session and how it completely altered my head space.
I wish I could bottle this experience and give it to a world which seems to have forgotten the wild side, the danger and the stoke of real experience in nature - just pure, undiluted blessing. I wish I could explain it in words, but I'm afraid my words will never be enough to do it justice. All I can say is get out there and love every session as though it's your first, as though it's your last - it's a gift and it's there for the taking.