What could have happened.
It felt like he was flying. The wind was whipping through his hair at warp speed, and the drops of spray being torn off the face were tiny stinging bullets. The thing stood up in front of him like the blade of an impossibly wide bulldozer, steel grey-green and curling, curling, curling all down the line. Race me, it said, and Kade needed no second invitation. He bobbed and weaved, stretched and compressed with all the speedy grace he could muster, and he outran it. Still it grew in front of him, the curl of the blade growing more and more pronounced until at last it threw right over him, and he was standing inside the spinning green apocalypse. Fuck it was beautiful. The just-risen sun was a few degrees off to his right behind the glass curtain, and with every millisecond the light got more golden, and the wall became a lighter orange-green. He stood still inside it for as long as he could, but then the tunnel pinched and receded, and the back of his board was pitched up by the foamball, and he was thrown headlong into the whirling maelstrom.
Popping up, he grabbed his board and started the long paddle back up to the point. Fuck he’d come a long way – easily the furthest he’d ever come at Balangan.
He loved the place. There was so much that was perfect about it – the white beach, the beautiful curve of the bay and the gnarled majesty of the headland at its western end, and the way the waves looked, every one of them, so dreamily flawless. But there was so much that was hard, or annoying, or deceptive about it, too – the crazy crowds and the terrible traffic they caused in the water, the jagged bitch of a reef, the shocking ratio of closeouts to makeable waves.
Rides like the one he’d just had were as rare as rocking hose shit, and as prized as unicorn tears. But the possibility of snagging one, the mere suggestion that it could happen in spite of all the obstacles, kept him coming back.
Take this morning, for instance. From the second he’d woken up he’d had a feeling that today was going to be his day. He’d picked his way out to the headland on the bottom of the tide, humming and grinning all the way, and timed his jump off carefully. But a set appeared out of the pre-dawn darkness and thumped him, dragging him down the bay a ways. At last, after no less than seven waves, it had relented, and he’d paddled back to the point, already weary. Balangan wasn’t done extracting dues just yet, though. For the next half an hour, every five minutes a new and bigger set broke fifty metres or more further out than the last, so he spent his whole time duck-diving, getting worked, and paddling like a bastard to try and beat the next one.
Finally, an energy sapping forty minutes after jumping off the dry reef, he was sitting way, way out to sea off the point – so far out he could take the whole headland and bay in at one short sweeping glance – gathering his breath and trying to conquer his growing nervousness.
And then the wave had come, and he was all alone with the ocean, and he took it and he made it. And now he was paddling back out, telling himself that a man could die happy after a wave like that. But he wanted another one anyway. That feeling that it was going to be his day had come true.
It felt like he was flying. The wind was whipping through his hair at what felt like warp speed, and the drops of rain that were no more than a drizzle were hitting his face as tiny stinging bullets.
He’d had a feeling that today was going to be his day, and he’d gone at it full steam. But the few seconds that he’d saved by not putting on his bike helmet – fuck, it wasn’t as if the Bali cops cared – put him on that sharp right hand corner near Warung Susuke on Jalan Pantai Balangan fifty metres ahead of where he would otherwise have been. And his wild self-assurance put him going into it faster and deeper than he might otherwise have done. At precisely the same time as the water truck from the Aman Gati Hotel was coming the other way, lumbering wide around the corner.
Traffic was held up for thirty minutes while they scooped his brains off the road. It had been his day after all.
Friends, enjoy your time in Bali, but if you’re riding a bike, wear a helmet and take care.