Quietly sitting on my board enjoying my daily pee-in-my-wetsuit, a voice comes into my head. “Remember what I told you…” it says.
No, I’m not going insane, the voice is real and it belongs to the South African Junior Surfing Team’s coach, Clayton Nienaber. He’s inside my head and it’s beginning to freak me out. Furthermore, I’m getting some quizzical looks from Durban’s New Pier locals who would be partially correct in assuming that I am a little demented. The reason for the strange looks is the helmet that I am wearing, which has been tuned in to Clayton’s transmitter on the beach. The helmet, developed by Headzone in Australia, is the latest surf coaching tool to come onto the market. It allows a coach to communicate with a surfer not only in the water, but while he is on a wave too.
“Now you have to listen to everything I say,” Clayton taunts, “Ok, there is a set coming, the third wave of the set looks the best, so paddle hard to your left.” I follow orders and find myself to be the only person perfectly positioned for a bomb set wave despite the large local crowd. I take off and immediately the instructions are filling my head: “Go straight to the bottom… now bottom turn…pivot!” It’s as if I am suddenly Clayton’s (admittedly inept) voice activated radio-control surfer, and he is the angel on my shoulder, telling me precisely where to be and exactly what to do.
Unfortunately for him, his aptitude for mind-surfing is far superior to my actual surfing ability. So when I find myself underwater taking a medium-to-large thrashing, I can still hear him berating me through the whirl of white-water. As my leash tangles around my neck and I get slammed into the hard sand bottom, he is harping on about lifting my right arm and focusing on where my head is positioned!
Paddling back out he continues to impart wisdom to me and I nod my head and acknowledge. Lift my arm? Ok. Twist at the hips? Sure. Less pressure on the back foot? I understand.
Suddenly big wave charger, Richard Sills is in my field of vision.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asks, “Are you having a conversation with yourself?” I blush under the skullcap but smile knowing, (thanks to the angel on my shoulder), that another set wave is approaching. Following instructions, I manage to pick it off right from under Richie’s nose.