This article was originally published on May 21, 2018
By Alex Godina
I’d had surfboards before.
As birthday and Christmas presents. They’d be heapas found at Cash Converters, big brother hand-me-downs or, if I was lucky, a board from the second hand section from the very back room of our local surf shop – one that had been good in another lifetime, snapped, then put back together. But this surfboard was going to be different. This surfboard I’d spent months upon months at our local supermarket working on the checkout over weekends and weeknights after school to save up for. This would be the first surfboard made entirely for me. My details penned onto paper and then magically turned into an artwork of fibreglass and foam by our local shaper. A surfboard that if it wasn’t for me, would never even exist. Amongst its dimensions, it would even have my name written somewhere along the stringer on the bottom. A surfboard that would never have seen saltwater, never seen a wave, never separated water underfoot by cutback until introduced by me. Imagine that!
I’d loved the surfboards I’d had, but this was going to be something else. You might remember this, you might not, but at 16, you’ve never really owned anything that is truly yours. Like a car or a home… or a tent. And this surfboard would be that, the first thing that would truly be mine. And I couldn’t wait for it to be real and paddle it out at my local for the very first time.
I hated the supermarket. I hated the way it took me out of the ocean and locked me in an artificially lit prison of suburbia. I hated the 6pm-10pm shifts after school, filling my time between homework and bed. I remember very specifically the friendly guy who worked security asking me why I looked so sad all the time. I had to explain that I wasn’t sad all the time, but he’d only ever seen me working the checkout there, and that working at the supermarket made me miserable.
I hated the tie I had to wear and the way I had to tuck in my shirt. Worst of all were the customers who’d yell at me for putting their items in the bags the wrong way. Meat in with the dish detergent. Fruit in with the cereal. It was a jigsaw puzzle I sucked at and didn’t care to master. But I struggled through all of that because I knew if I worked long enough, and didn’t blow my cash on surf mags and lunchtime tuckshop treats, I’d be able to get that surfboard.
And I did.
It arrived five or six or seven weeks after we’d put in my order, I’m not sure exactly, because the time between the order and the arrival felt like years. Dad picked it up on his way home from work while I was working at the supermarket, as usual. When I got home and it was there I couldn’t believe it. I held it in my lap as I sat on the couch and watched TV that night. I placed it gently at the end of my bed before I went to sleep. And in the morning, I carried it around the house under my arm in my school uniform before I left for school. Even my older brother complimented the way it looked and felt as he picked it up, examined the rails, tucked it under his own arm, and he never complimented anything I had or did. I waxed the board up before I left for the day, knowing full well that, no matter the conditions, I’d be taking it for a paddle as soon as I got home that afternoon, squeezing it in before my nightly shift.
That day lasted longer than the six weeks it took to make the thing. Generations passed with every period. But eventually I got home, and when I did, my heart dropped to my knees.
My surfboard was not where I’d left it.
I checked the shed, just in case Mum had moved it. But it wasn’t there either. But in that shed I did discover that something else was missing, too. My brother’s wetsuit. And yet his boards were in their spot as normal. The realisation hit me like punch to the stomach.
I ran down to our shitty beach, our local and saw it for myself. There he was, my idiot big brother, on my brand new custom-shaped surfboard, jostling for his place in the line-up. I walked all the way to the shoreline, the whitewater surging over my school shoes as I stood on the edge of the ocean willing him to come in… but he didn’t. He just waved. My first surfboard, earnt through the hard and awful slog of the supermarket I detested, was introduced to the ocean by my idiot brother, and not me. It stayed out there, surfed by not me, as I walked back home and got ready to work that fricken checkout.
I didn’t deserve that.