Please go away, please go away, please go away, please go away…
Everyone surfs despite Mossel Bay being the breeding ground for Great Whites. Around 300 are in the area at any given time. But sharks usually stay away from The Point. Heck, I’ve never seen one until now. They prefer Seal Island; it’s like one big canteen for them. Or they park themselves at the river mouth. See, sharks have to keep moving in order to breathe. But at that spot, they can stop and fully rest as the current from the river rush over their gills. Killed a teen boy there, a couple years ago.
I inwardly shudder, thinking about that. But I remain still. Quiet. Waiting. Heart hammering. Hoping that shark can’t smell my fear. It’s circling around again, slicing that water like a hot knife into butter. The shadow is huge; it looks as if a massive jet is passing under the water.
It makes a wide arch before hanging to the left, and then I can’t see it anymore. I start to breathe, slowly, carefully, still holding my U. And then I hear it – the next set. Water roaring in, like white knights coming to save me. I glance down, no sign of that deadly fin. And I’m paddling for all I’m worth. The water picks me up and I grab both sides of the board, right in front of my face and stay down. No way on God’s green earth am I surfing this sucker on my feet and risk falling off. Everyone can laugh; I choose life.
And I ride that water, charging into shore like a runaway train, only pulling a sharp left at the last moment, so I don’t smash into the rocks. Then I’m flying on my feet, splat-splat-splat, until I’ve got me and the board right out of the water. And then everyone is clapping and whistling and yelling, “God is great!” and “Praise the Lord!” Even the people eating on the restaurant’s outdoor stoep are cheering. They are standing tall and applauding like I won an award.
Sir is the first to reach me. “Tazmin, are you okay? Anything bleeding. Did it cut you?”
At first I think he’s lost his mind. If that sucker had risen up with his mouth all wide, they’d have seen it. But then I remember that shark’s skin isn’t smooth and sleek like a dolphin, but made of tooth-like sandpaper that can cut if they brush up against you, ripping right through the wetsuit, even if they mean no harm.
“I’m fine,” I say. Or try to say, because my teeth are chattering. I’m cold. So cold. I don’t understand. I’ve never been this cold after a late summer surf.
“Get me towels and a cool drink. Regular, not diet,” Sir is yelling, pushing me down on the low wall along the walkway.
My teammates go flying, and suddenly there is a waitress in front of me from the restaurant, shoving a cool drink at me, already open, straw in.
“Drink it up Tazmin,” Sir is saying, crouched down in front of me.
“Shouldn’t it be tea?” I say, thinking of Ma and all her advice on stuff like this. Because it occurs to me they think I’m in shock.
“You can drink this faster,” Sir says, “you need the sugar.”
He remains in front of me, watching me suck it down, while people are tossing towels over me. He keeps talking. I catch pieces of it. “You did good…didn’t panic…really proud of you…great job…tough kid…real surfer now.”
And it isn’t until that cooldrink is all finished that I realise it isn’t just the weight of the towels around me, making me feel cosy and protected. Max is there, sitting next to me, arm around my shoulders, holding me against his side.
Tell us: Tazmin’s coach thought she was going into shock. Was he right to give her a sugary cooldrink, or should he have given her sugary tea?