Six hours behind the UK at 7am, Theophania and Fred finally landed in Mexico.
They had decided to spend one night in a hotel before trekking out to the rainforest. Whilst Fred promised Theophania that he knew how to get from the airport to the buttress root in the Amazon where he had spent his last night in Mexico with Esmeralda, Theophania was not quite so confident.
So they checked into a hotel called the Sunny Sombrero Sanctuary on the coast and then proceeded straight to the beach to plan the next step of their journey. Theophania chose a quiet corner of the beach and sat on a sun lounger with an enormous sombrero plonked on top of her head. She had borrowed it from the Mexican chap on the hotel reception.
The sombrero was made from straw. It had a high pointed crown and a very wide brim, which was slightly upturned at the edge. It provided excellent protection from the hot Mexican sun. Fred perched himself on Theophania’s shoulder and took advantage of the shade created by the sombrero. This also meant that he was as far away as possible from the sand which rubbed like a cheese grater against his skin.
“Croak. Amigo, don’t worry. This is my homeland. Croak. I will get us back to Esmeralda. No drama. Croak.”
“But Fred”, Theophania protested. “We can’t just walk. This is a big country and the rainforest is not small. I think we need to give this a little more thought. What are we going to do for transportation?”
“Croak. T, I’m a very intelligent fellow. Didn’t you see the way I bypassed security and got on that plane yesterday? Croak. It never pays to plan these things…”
Fred stopped mid-sentence. Something in the distance had caught his eye.
“What?”, she replied.
He started jumping up and down on her shoulder doing the occasional back flip and forward roll.
“What? What?” Theophania could sense his excitement.
“Croak. Look at the water? Croak. Look at those people!”
Theophania looked at the sea. There were some quite big waves lapping against the golden sand. The white frothy heads of each wave glistened in the sunlight. They looked quite powerful and impressive, but she couldn’t see any people. It was a bit rough for swimming.
“Croak. Wahoo! Check that out! Croak.” Fred continued with his back flips, hopping between Theophania’s shoulders every third or fourth somersault.
“Cowabunga! Cowabunga! Cowaaaaaaaaaaabunga dude!”, Fred began to chant.
And then Theophania registered what Fred was excited about. She saw an enormous green wave. Just as it was about to break she noticed a person in the water starting to paddle furiously. The person was laid on their front, on what looked like a board. The green wave began to get bigger and bigger and then, just as the wave was about to break, the person popped up out of the water and stood on the board. The surfer then started to ride the wave all the way to the shore. It looked amazing. Theophania rushed to the water’s edge, Fred still balanced on her shoulder, so that she could take a closer look. The surfer was gliding across the wave. It looked so elegant. Theophania gave the surfer a little wave as they came to a halt. The surfer had long blonde curly hair. At first she had mistaken the surfer for a girl, but then realised that the surfer was actually a boy. He gave her the thumbs up before flinging himself back on the board and paddling back out to sea for his next ride.
“Oh my goodness me. That looks absolutely amazing! Fred, what do you say? Shall we give it a go?!”
Fred wasted no time in replying.
“Wahoo! Hell yeah! Let’s do it T. Surf dudes, watch out! Here we come! Croak.”
Conveniently, there was a ram-shackled surf hut on one edge of the beach, near to where Theophania had been sitting. It had a number of surfboards, all different shapes and sizes and colours, resting against the side of the hut.
“Come on then! Let’s do it!” She danced over to the hut.
Across a chalkboard on the front of the hut someone had scrawled: “Sombrero Surf Shack. Lecciones de oleaje. Toda la bienvenida de años!”
“Hmmm. Fred, my understanding of Mexican is zero. What do you reckon that says?”
“Croak. Ahhh amigo, what would you do without me! It’s easy – ‘Surf lessons. All ages welcome.’ Croak.”
“Superb. I don’t think I could face anyone else telling me that I’m too old to have a bit of fun.”
And with that, a young man stepped out of the Sombrero Surf Shack. “Buenas tardes señora.”
He looked remarkably like the surfer Theophania had waved at in the sea. He too had shoulder-length, bright blonde curly hair. Theophania had a vacant expression.
“Habla usted inglés?”, he continued.
Theophania still looked a bit vacant.
“T!”, Fred croaked in her ear. “What are you doing? He’s asking if you speak English.”
“Ooooh. Sorry. Yes, I’m English. Hmmm, yes. I’d like a surf lesson please.”
“Ahh, well you are in luck. I’m actually Australian so my English is pretty good. Call me Jason.”
“Oooh, I’m T.” She was just about to introduce Fred, but then realised that Jason might think she was going crazy. Anyway, Fred had hidden under her sombrero and was now out of sight.
“Right then. Well, first you’re gonna have to get rid of that sombrero. We don’t want it to float off into the water. Next, I need you to put on a wettie.”
“A what?”, Theophania asked.
“A wettie. I’ve got a shortie that should be about your size. It’s actually a large kid’s size, but, hey, you are pretty small.”
He flung Theophania a wetsuit. It had short legs and arms and was made out of a stretchy synthetic rubber material. It smelt a bit strange and Theophania did not even want to begin to think about what the person who had worn it before her had done in it! She nipped round the back of the Sombrero Surf Shack and put the wettie on over her swimming costume. Meanwhile, Fred sat on top of her sombrero, which she had placed on the floor.
“T. Croak. Put your left leg in first….no, that hole is for your arm…that’s it. Now your right leg. Croak.”
“I thought these things were supposed to be stretchy”, Theophania grunted as she toppled to the floor trying to get her right leg through the appropriate hole.
“Croak. Ha ha! Croak. I would try to help, but I’m too small and it is much more fun watching you! Croak.”
“Thanks Fred”, Theophania grumbled as she finally managed to squeeze her right arm into the wetsuit and then grab the ribbon attached to the zip at the back of the wetsuit. She pulled the ribbon and zipped up the wetsuit to the base of her neck.
Theophania walked around to the front of the shack again. “Hey Jason. It was no easy feat getting that wetsuit on, I hope surfing is going to be a little easier!”
“Don’t you worry T. I think you are going to be da bomb!”
Theophania looked at Jason blankly.
She still looked vacant.
“Ah yes!”, she smiled. Theophania had carefully cupped her hands together to hide Fred from Jason. She thought that he may think she was a little batty, even if she was to argue that Fred was her good luck charm or something.
“Right then. I know its pretty scorching out here, but that water is cold. It’s important that you wear a wettie. It kinda traps a thin layer of water between the wettie and your skin. Your body temperature then heats the water giving you a nice warm blanket. Therefore, it’s important that the wettie fits well. Neat eh?! However, it’s not gonna stop you getting brainfreeze, so just bear that in mind if you duck under the water.”
“I beg your pardon. I just want to surf. I don’t want to freeze my brain. According to my daughter-in-law, I’m losing brain cells pretty quickly as it is. I can’t afford to lose anymore!”
She chuckled as she imagined the look of disgust that Marjorie would give her if she knew Theophania was having a go at surfing.
“Ha, ha! Don’t you worry. I just mean that the water is pretty cold and it can be a bit unpleasant if your head goes under.”
Theophania nodded her head in agreement.
“Right then. I‘ve dug out a foamie for you to use.”
He pointed to an enormous bright blue surfboard, which he had laid on the sand.
“It’s a soft board made out of soft foam. It’s good for beginners as it’s incredibly buoyant and means you can catch waves easily. Its dimensions also mean that it’s very stable in the water, making it much easier for you to stand up.”
“Wahoo! Croak”, Fred muffled from Theophania’s cupped hands.
“What was that?”, Jason asked, looking at Theophania.
“Ooooh, nothing. Just excited. That’s all!”
“Okay. I’m gonna give you a step by step guide of what you have gotta do in the water, but essentially it’s practice, practice, practice.”
“Right. Go for it.” Theophania couldn’t stop smiling. She couldn’t wait to hit the water with her board.
“First, you need to enter the water with your board under your hand and attach the safety strap to your ankle. Second, lie flat on your board and paddle to the area where the waves begin to crash, with your head to the front of the board. Lie belly down on your board. Third, move straight through the waves as you come to them. Four, turn the board so it faces the shore. Five, catch a wave at its crest. Paddle as fast as the wave.”
Theophania begin to whirl her arms in the air as though she was paddling, taking care not to fling Fred from the palm of her right hand.
“Croak. Careful T. You’re giving me a head rush. Croak.”
“What was that?”, Jason enquired.
“Sorry. I’m listening. Just excited. Please continue.”
“Okay. Six, quickly stand up on your board. To do this you should place your hands under your shoulders on the surfboard. Then do a push up while springing off your legs and toes, this will give you enough height to get your feet underneath you. Make sure you spot where your foot is going.”
Theophania listened carefully. It didn’t really make sense. She just wanted to get out on the water and give it a go.
“But remember T. Don’t drop in.”
“Excuse me?!”, she asked, a little bewildered by all Jason’s surfing terminology.
“ ‘Dropping in’ means trying to surf on a wave in front of someone who is already riding it, forcing them to abandon the wave. This is a major no, no and should be avoided at all costs!”
“Sooo, do you think you’ve got everything?”
“Right dude, let’s get you out on that water. Hey and don’t worry if you wipeout. It’s bogus, but you’ve just gotta get right back out there.”
“Bogus! Croak.” Theophania could hear Fred snigger from her cupped hands.
Jason picked up Theophania’s board and ran down to the shoreline.
Theophania and Fred obediently followed. She attached the safety leash to her ankle, lay flat on the board and started paddling out to sea. Fred propped himself at the front of the surfboard next to Theophania’s head.
“Dude. Croak. This is da bomb. Croak.”
“It certainly is, Fred!”
Theophania continued to paddle. She looked back at the beach. Jason was just a small dot in the distance. There was no one else around them in the water.
“Very peaceful out here isn’t it Fred?”
“Dude. Croak. This is like all-time, epic dude! Croak.”
“Soo, are we going to show them how it’s done and stand up on our first wave?”
“Croak. Amigo. I think we are! Croak.”
Theophania began to paddle her board around so that it faced the shore as Jason had instructed.
She started to survey her surroundings.
“Fred, do you get the feeling there’s something not quite right?”
It was very quiet. Eerily so.
Theophania and Fred looked to shore. Jason was stood on the water’s edge frantically flailing his arms up and down in the air.
“Ahhh, look Fred, Jason’s waving.”
Theophania looked to her left and then to her right. She then glanced back to the shore. Jason had started to jump up and down, his arms still flailing about in the air.
She and Fred were very far out. All the other surfers had reached the shore and were quickly running out of the water back on to the beach with their boards safely tucked under their arms.
“Croak. What’s going on T? Croak. Why is everyone leaving the water?”
“I’m not sure, Fred, but I guess we should start heading back in. What do you think?”
Theophania then noticed that a lifeguard had run to the water’s edge and was standing next to Jason. He started booming an announcement through a hand-held tannoy.
“HURACÁN! HURACÁN! HURACÁN! HURACÁN!” The lifeguard had a very thick Mexican accent and Theophania could barely make out what he was saying.
“What was that Fred? Can-can? What does he mean? We’re in the water trying to surf. We’re not about to start dancing the can-can now are we?”
“Croak. Ha ha! We are most certainly not, but how’s this for you?” Fred started jiggling about at the front of surfboard and doing a few twirls.
“See! Croak. Told you I won the rainforest’s Folklorico and Latin Dance Championships two years running! Croak.”
“Very elegant, Fred.”
“Hey T. Croak. Watch this. I can even hang ten.”
“Boing! Boing!” Fred jumped to the top of the surfboard and dangled his orange toes over the nose. He only had eight toes.
“Croak. Okay, so I lied. Hang eight! Croak.”
“You really are a pro surfer!” Theophania giggled and continued to paddle back to shore. She was getting slower and slower. Her arms were really quite tired.
Jason was obviously concerned that Theophania was making slow progress and grabbed the tannoy out of the lifeguard’s hands.
“T! T! CAN YOU HEAR ME? GET BACK TO SHORE NOW. THERE’S A HURRICANE ON ITS WAY. A HURRICANE! DO YOU HEAR ME DUDE?! A HURRICANE!”
Theophania had indeed heard Jason. She and Fred were a long way from shore now and they seemed to be drifting even further away, no matter how hard she paddled.
She then glanced over her shoulder, hoping to see a gentle wave that could help her back to shore (even if she did not manage to stand up on it).
Her heart stopped by what she saw. Only for a few seconds, but it definitely stopped. There, some thirty metres behind her was a wave. But it was not the gentle wave she had hoped for. It was an enormous wave. And it was growing in size with venom. It was not made from the azure blue water Theophania had previously been floating about on. It was a dark dirty green colour. The head of the wave was getting higher and higher. It was like an enormous green ogre opening its hungry mouth. Any second now it was going to envelop Theophania and Fred and their surfboard!
“Quick T.” Fred croaked. “You’ve got to do something. Croak. We’re going to get eaten alive….”