one magic moment at smiths

I have one memory of Smiths Beach, which stands out above all others as the one of the most amazing few minutes of my life. I used to spend a lot of time at the beach, usually alone or with my faithful mutt, "Paddy"; body surfing, walking and just staring out at the waves, mesmerised for hours.

On this particular autumn day the sky was scattered with clouds and sun was high in the sky, although it was very cool and swimming didn't seem like a possibility without a wetsuit. I walked slowly up to my favourite bodysurfing spot, just to the right of the main reef break, as Paddy bounded ahead, dunking his warm body into rockpools splashing the icy water over his nose as he always did.

There were only a handful of people on the beach and several surfers moving rhythmically with the huge swell. The water was crystal clear and waves were smooth and glassy and very inviting. "Pity its so cold in", I thought, as I spread my towel and sat with knees bent. I smiled and laughed out loud, watching Paddy snuffle around the seaweed and chase imaginary flies up and down the beach.

Suddenly, movement in the water caught my eye. Several dark, streamlined bodies were surfing within the wave - a pod of dolphins. There must have been about 7 or 8 of them swimming with the wave directly towards shore and then turning back out to sea, at lightening speed, as the wave disintegrated and foamed towards the beach.

Then, a freak wave came out of nowhere - much larger than any of the others I had seen that day - (at a guess I'd say about 8-10 ft). I could see it building up out the back, gathering height, volume and momentum as it moved towards the break.

I sat with white knuckles as I watched the pod line up and start to swim harmoniously with the giant wall of water. The wave started to peak, and still the dolphins moved with it. Several people on the beach were pointing in disbelief as the wave started to break and still the dolphins were there. My mind was jumping ahead, imagining several crushed mammalian bodies washing up on the shore and what I would do. Just at the point of no return, the pod turned and as they did, one of the dolphins leapt out of the face of the wave. For a brief moment the dolphin was airborne - and with precision timing and perfect control, it dove into the shallows below, flipped around and disappeared into the blue, never to be seen again that day.

I had to capture my breath, in shock and in complete awe of what I had just experienced. A surfer on the beach let out a huge "Woo hoo!" and punched his fist into the air. I felt elated. No camera would ever be able to capture that moment.

It will just remain locked in the minds of only a few lucky individuals on Smiths Beach that day.


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