The week-long warm weather sunk abruptly into overcast skies. Up the road, Iggy’s bread sold out before 10:15am – a new record for the bakery.
Tom and I soldiered on towards the beach; past the park where we’d encountered a free-roaming macaw two days prior, through crooked streets testament to a suburb evolved without planning, past retro coastal-brick apartments wedged between larger, post-modern designer homes, and on to the iconic white-wood fence gilding the the eastern suburb clifftops.
Bruised cloud hung over a turquoise sea flecked with wild white caps. A cry ran from the shore as ten tai chi devotees, robed in white, danced in sync across the sand. A lone figure sporting red speedos and cap braced the ocean’s rage with hands planted on hips. Bobbing up from the surf like penguins returning from a hunt, fifteen others soon joined him. They huddled together a moment, discussing the trek from Tamarama in the adjacent cove. Then, one-by-one, launched themselves back into the waters.
A Dangerous Currents sign staked the sand in place of the usual red and yellow flags. Tom and I walked the shoreline, dodging dying blue-bottles and disassembling the shape-shifting beach front: wide and flat some seasons, gutted by king-tides; then a sharp drop-off to the breakers in the months when the local council replenished the sand.
We climbed to the ocean pool to watch the surfers paddle out through the lazy-faced waves. Their rides were short and scarce, much of the appeal simply sitting on the board, surrounded by stormy elements.
One surfer, distinctive for his canvas backpack, carved his way through the others to deeper water where the waves are only fluctuating thoughts. We joked that perhaps he had packed his picnic lunch. He sat abreast his board and swung the satchel around, removing with difficulty a white canister. Perhaps it was underwater camera housing instead.
But he removed its lid and raised it above his head, tipping its contents to the wind. We grew quiet.
Ashes fell like talcum powder, streaming back behind him. In fact, coating the surfer behind him, who dipped into the water and pulled away.
The surfer knocked the last from the tin, dunking it in the ocean, swilling and emptying the pale-grey water. The event seemed somewhat solo and unceremonious, yet I felt we had witnessed something significant; out of the ordinary.
Dry, but with sandied feet, we made our way to the cafe strip to read the weekend paper.