The young friends finally heaved themselves out of the water and walked up the sand bank before dropping their surfboards and sprawling out on the soft, warm sand, letting out satisfied sighs...
I. Riding the Surf
The day had been highly rewarding - the weather remaining balmy, with a lovely offshore wind aiding in the well groomed and immaculate waves... glassy, with perfect breaks and well formed barrels. And with not a soul out there, other than the two of them, and an odd fishing boat bobbing far out in the distance, it had been a surfer's paradise.
"Gosh, the waves, they are awesome here..." Mayank exclaimed in a hushed tone, looking up at the clear blue sky, "surfing such perfect swells, you don't need to search any further!"
"Phenomenal," replied his companion, equally awestruck, "some of the most perfect waves I have ever surfed; we really got lucky!
"That was one of the most wonderful conditions I've ever encountered," observed Mayank, still captivated. "It was great to be out there, on that wave, wow!"
"You know, when I came here, the first time, I had heard about the beaches, and the breaks, but it wasn't all that awesome and then, on the last day, the sea decided to reward me, and what a day, I'll never forget!" gushed his companion, "The waves were amazing, just like today and I promised myself that I'd be back here..."
"And so you got yourself a cottage built, eh?" Mayank asked, rolling over on his side, facing Sandeep, "Thanks, for telling me about Gokarna, and getting me along..."
"And later, I discovered this spot," Sandeep continued, eyes closed, body stretched out, totally relaxed. "You know, it's no dream, just think, we have over seven thousand kilometres of coastline, mostly empty, largely unexplored, never surfed, never even seen by surfers... just waiting to be discovered, wow, it boggles the mind!"
Mayank nodded silently as they lay in the late afternoon sun, both lost in his own thoughts, no doubt thinking of the hours they had spent out there, catching waves...
Dominated by the famed temple, Gokarna was a small, sleepy, one-street town with ramshackle wooden houses jostling for space along the labyrinthine alleys. And as they drove in that Friday evening, Mayank had been genuinely amazed, "Here too?" he had asked indicating the scruffy westerners in ragged undress, sporting colourful beads and other trinkets, "The place is crawling with them!"
"Yea buddy, once they've had enough of Goa, or have run out of cash, they all head here..." Sandeep had informed, "it's close, a mere three hours drive away, and has some of the best palm lined, sun-kissed, white sand beaches around, and, with a sparkling blue sea. You'll see in the morning."
"They live in the doss houses and hovels dotting these by-lanes; and the cafes around the beach," he explained as he negotiated the narrow alleys, past cattle and pedestrian, driving out of town, climbing higher...
"And we will also be staying in one of those 'doss-house' or 'cafe'?" Mayank had asked with mock horror, knowing pretty well that with Sandeep that was an option not even to be thought of.
Sandeep laughed as he swerved the Land Cruiser off the main road... "You'll see..." he finally said as they left the dirt road and turned into a well laid concrete path. Another fifteen minutes of smooth drive later they entered a gateway. A neat little cottage stood in front of them, "That's mine, and we'll stay here!" Sandeep announced, cutting the engine. And as he opened the door, Mayank saw three men rush towards them from behind the cottage, hands folded in greeting.
The cottage stood on a cliff with a sheer drop, looking down on a semi circular beach, "That's the Om Beach down there and on the other side of this cliff is the Half-Moon beach," Sandeep had said as he took Mayank on a guided tour of his property. "There are two more. We'll visit all of them tomorrow, and trust me, they are all different, and Sunday I'll take you to my very special, my favourite secret beach..." he had said with an enigmatic smile.
Hearing the roar of a bike Mayank rolled over and looked up across the sand bar, seeing a red bike come to a stop right next to their parked car. Two very young boys, probably teens, got off and walked down the slope, heading towards the rolling sea, carrying a surfboard, a fat Fish, held aloft over their head. One was tall, probably around 6' and amazingly slim, yet not skinny, with longish hair that reached below the neck and the other, younger, much shorter and plumper. Both wearing board shorts and half sleeve, colourful shirts, buttons undone.
"So, there are more, bitten by the surf bug..." he thought out aloud.
"Well, it might still be rare in this part of the world, but we sure don't hold the patent for being surf bums," Sandeep replied, rolling over on his stomach, not even bothering to look up at the new arrivals.
Up on his elbow, Mayank watched the two boys walk up to the edge of the water, and dropping the board the older one took off his shirt. He flopped down and Mayank saw him attach the leash before standing up once more, tousle the younger boy's hair and turning, ran into the water... his bright yellow, sleeveless tank stark against the dark sea.
Mayank heard the younger boy yell out something, but couldn't catch the words as the shifting breeze carried it away...
Curious, and fascinated, Mayank slowly sat up and watched the boy paddle... going further out, into the sea, rising and falling with the swell as he sat up... and then as a larger wave rolled in he turned the surfboard beach-wards and at the same time stood up. The board rose with the water, the wave lifting him... speeding him on as he bent his knees and manoeuvred the board... riding the wave, riding high... doing a bottom turn... speeding on...
"You know, my coming to Goa was the right decision," Mayank said, turning back to his companion. "I always wanted to be near the sea, surfing just fascinated me since childhood... and that was one of the reasons I took up this job."
"And you got to meet me..." Sandeep said, with a chuckle.
"Ah, sure..." Mayank responded, nudging him in the ribs.
"Yeow..." Sandeep cried out, laughing.
"And just to think, in another couple hours we'll be leaving, going back to the grind... Wish I could spend a few more days here..." he said wishfully.
"Why don't you leave that job and join me instead?" said Sandeep, looking up at his friend, serious.
"No, Sandy, we are good friends, and I want to keep my professional life and my personal friendship apart."
"Nothing will change, trust me. The resort is all set, we have good people taking care of the operations, you just take over and I'll go back to the stud farm. I prefer horses to tourists," Sandeep said, now sitting up, "Besides, you can take more time off for your passion; in fact I'd be joining you too. There are some incredible beaches to the north, hardly visited by the gaggle of tourist and holiday makers."
"You do a wonderful job of tempting, buddy, but still, I don't think I should be working for you..."
"Please, you won't be working for me," Sandeep cut in before Mayank could finish, "you'll be more of a partner, an equal, trust me."
"I don't know... I want to make a career out of this and if I join you I may just end up taking too many undue advantages..."
"Who's stopping you," Sandeep said, a funny look on his handsome face, "take all the liberties you want; I'll be more than happy to accommo..."
This time Mayank stopped him, "You'll regret it buddy, what with the sea constantly beckoning me," he smiled, turning back to the rolling waves.
"You are impossible..." Sandeep said with a sigh of regret before lying down again.
Both remained silent.
Looking out to the sea Mayank watched the boy. He had caught another swell, riding high beyond the whitewaters... He did a fluid slash, throwing loads of spray off the top, before travelling along with the wave... waving at the boy standing on the shore, who in turn waved back, running along the water's edge, following the surfing figure in the distance.
"Wow...what a wave," Mayank exclaimed in a hushed voice, hypnotised with the display in the surging swell, "the kid is amazing!"
The late afternoon breeze was stronger now, and blowing perfectly... the waves higher and longer... perfect surf!
And as Mayank looked on, the waves seemed to be getting bigger again... lifting higher... and as he watched, mesmerised, he saw the water rise in the distance... huge and awesome... a massive wall, advancing rapidly... a perfect barrelling surf. The boy saw it too, and positioning himself, caught the wave and rose up the glassy wall... precariously balanced on the board... expertly manoeuvring the surging surf...
Almost unconsciously Mayank slowly rose up on his feet... eyes focussed on the distant figure... transfixed. For a moment it seemed that the boy was struggling with the sweeping conditions... And then as it reached its zenith, the lip curled... turning in... rolling down to form a perfect curve... an amazing hollow tube... and then the water came crashing down and the figure was hidden...
Mayank held his breath, his heart suddenly pounding... and though his eyes were fixed at the spot where the boy had been, he could see the younger boy run into the sea, waist deep, peering...
Lifting his hands behind his head, fingers interlocked, Mayank stood rooted to the spot... holding his breath, scanning the horizon, eyes searching the rolling waves, his heart thumping with excitement... apprehension.
After locking under the lip for maybe five seconds, almost like some miracle and with amazing dexterity, the boy emerged clear of the swell before riding down the face of the breaking wave, still firmly on his board, still in control... steering it expertly and continued for another 100 metres... turning to wave back at the boy on the shore, who was now jumping around gleefully.
"Wow... " exclaimed Mayank, finally letting out his breath; and totally lost in the moment, lifted his hands high waving out at the bobbing figure, letting out a excited hoot in his enthusiasm.
"WOW," he repeated, his voice high pitched, "Sandy, did you see that?" he asked his companion, eyes still watching the distant figure of the boy manoeuvring the waves, headed back towards the beach.
"Huh..." Sandeep responded, rolling over and looking up at Mayank.
"God, he is amazing," Mayank gushed, eyes wide with admiration, a huge smile lighting up his face, "the kid's a pro!" And it was then that he noticed the other boy, the younger companion of the surfer, still at the edge of the water, looking at him, watching him, a smug smirk on his face.
Suddenly feeling embarrassed, Mayank quickly sat down and turning to Sandeep continued, "You missed it, right?"
"Missed what, dude?"
"Nah, forget it. I never seem to get you; you're kinda weird at times!" Mayank said in an exasperated tone, turning his eyes back to the surfer.
The younger boy ran up and flung himself around the older boy, hugging him, screaming with joy. They both jostled a while, horsing around in waist deep water, before getting back on dry land, tugging the board behind them, both happy, both laughing.
Back on the beach, they picked up the board and throwing his shirt over his shoulder, headed up the dunes, towards the bike and as they passed the two men, the younger boy tilted his head towards them, saying something to the older boy. Both looked their way, the older boy meeting Mayank's eye briefly before turning away with a self conscious, shy smile... the younger boy looked on, a cocky grin lighting up his freckled face, obviously proud of his companion's amazing stunts, and surely pleased with the effect it had had on Mayank.
During that brief moment of eye contact Mayank felt a weird tingle course through his entire being, and for the first time, in ages, he experienced want - a want, the intensity of which left him reeling... making him gove... even after the dune hid them from his line of vision. He heard the excited chatter and joyous laughter for a while, and then the roar of the bike filled the evening air... before slowly fading into the distance.
To be continued...