It’s a regular Autumn Saturday morning on the suburban West Coast. He and I are up early, doing our usual surf check at a local spot called Trails. There’s a chill in the air; and my skin shivers every time the light breeze brushes past, but it’s not quite cold enough to put on a hoodie. My feet are frozen solid against the damp beach sand– I should’ve worn shoes. In front of me is the ocean, well, it’s supposed to be the ocean. A dull roar confirms that somewhere out there, is an ocean, but right now I’m just staring straight into a thick bank of grey fog.
“It’s absolutely cooking!”, he says.
I look at him perplexed. “How can you tell?!”
“I just know!”. He replies.
And without a further moment’s hesitation, he runs off to suit up, and I’m left in a space between disbelief and excitement. In this moment I deduce that there are really only two reasonable explanations: either, I need to get my eyes checked; or West Coast surfers have some sort of ‘super’ vision that lets them see straight through thick fog and give an accurate surf forecast.
I remain a while longer, staring with the kind of intensity one usually applies to those 3D pictures, squinting, waiting for the image to reveal itself. It doesn’t. I surrender and head back to the car to suit up.
Upon reaching the car, I pause, and for one last time try to focus my eyes on the area where I know the ocean should be. He notices my hesitation. “Oh come on, it’ll be just like searching for sharks teeth” he teases, making reference to the epiphany I’d had the day before…
12 HOURS EARLIER
It was a beautiful evening for a surf. There was not a breath of wind, the sky was a hazy, dusty orange tone, and the tide had receded so far back that it was shallow enough to walk towards the rock islands that surround the bay on either side. Standing on the lifeguard tower, surfboards in hand, he and I plotted our route towards the North side of the beach, towards a surf break called Kamers.
I noticed a few people up ahead, just along the shoreline. They were hunched over, walking very slowly, eyes fixed to the ground. Shell collectors, I deduced. I myself love shells, so I plotted my walk to ensure a detour past these people to assess their collections.
As we neared the shoreline, I approached one of the hunched-over figures – a weathered looking middle-aged man, in tattered clothing.
“Are you looking for shells?” I called out.
His eyes didn’t break concentration as he responded: “No, lady, Sharks teeth!”. He stopped for a brief moment and opened his hand towards me, just long enough to give me a glimpse of 3 black fossilized sharks teeth. No ways. My curiosity piqued – I didn’t know you could find sharks teeth out here! I put down my surfboard and decided to immediately join in on the search.
With my eyes fixated to the sand , I scoured for any sign of a shark’s tooth. Black muscle shell shards teased me. Shit, this is hard, I thought to myself. I wasn’t having any luck. After 10 minutes, I decided to return to the man in the tattered clothes, who had since found two more teeth.
“So what’s the secret to finding these sharks teeth?” I asked.
“Lady, it’s just like life. The more you look, the more you find. But if you don’t look, you won’t find! It’s all about how you look at things! Life is full of shark’s teeth if you’re willing to look for them”.
I laughed at the simple advice, and with that, I decided to surrender my search. I picked up my surfboard and continued on towards the surf.
By this stage, the weather had gone overcast, and it was getting a bit late. As I walked, I started to think about the parting words I’d had with the Shark Tooth seeker. And in that moment, I realised just how relevant and profound what he had said to me was.
You see, I’ve been living on the suburban west coast for almost 6 months now, and while I’m yet to find a real sharks tooth on the shores of Big Bay, I find proverbial sharks teeth here all the time – moments so unique, rare and perfect that they leave me feeling stoked to be alive. Moments I’ve never found anywhere else; moments as rare as the sharks teeth I’ve spent hours searching for:
There are the constant micro surf trips, checking numerous spots over a 25km coastline, on days when there seems there’s no hope for surf, only to find a perfect bank and perfect peak when you least expect it.
Then there’s that morning, paddling out into the mist, not sure of what I’d find at the backline, but knowing full well that it could indeed be a “sharks tooth” if I braved the paddle out.
And that one time when I spent over 15 minutes playing with the resident seal in between sets at Big Bay.
Or that other time, when I watched the sunset from the backline of Derdesteen, while surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins.
And not to forget, the incredible sunsets, and the perfect backdrop of Table Mountain that comes with almost every surf.
Nearing the end of my walk, I arrived at Kamers – there was a wave, but it wasn’t great. However a few surfers were congregated on a peak to the right. I saw him on the shoreline, and rushed to catch him just as he’s about to paddle out.
“Did you find your sharks tooth?” he asked.
I looked at the scene in front of me before I answered: out of the seemingly messy onshore conditions, a perfect A-frame peak formed against the clearing overcast skies resulting in a spectacular orange sunset. A shark’s tooth moment, I thought to myself. And with that, I found a grin appearing on my face and I replied:
“Yes, yes I did”.