surfing playa tortuga - santa cruz - galapagos

This morning, the 9th of August I decided to go out for my first surf session on these beautiful islands. The walk out to Playa Tortugas is about 45 minutes, so while walking out there I was really hoping I wouldn't get disappointed by unfavourable winds and swell. When I arrived, the conditions were less than favourable, but that said, who can pass by the opportunity to surf in turquoise water on a white sandy beach, with no other surfers around to fight with for waves (some waves were actually looking pretty good), especially after walking a very anxious 45 minutes in extremely humid conditions.

That reminds me, I broke my promise that I wouldn't surf alone. Well, when I say I was surfing alone it's not strictly true. There were a few people chilling out on the beach, and a couple of people swimming - just no surfers. So, mom and the other people I promised, I haven't really broken the promise. Also, when walking out I almost stood on a sting ray so I had him/her for company. About half an hour later after catching a few fun waves I saw, what I think was a white tipped fin (i presume this was a white tip reef shark), about 10 meters away, so I had more company in the water. These guys are harmless to humans, so I did what any man with balls of steel would do....I very nearly soiled my boardies and paddled back to shallower water for a little while. I was having quite a bit of fun before that so it didn't take long before I paddled back out.

Funny thing is, when you're surfing you never mention sharks and you try not to think of them either, cause that tends to put a dampener on the session. After seeing the fin, and also after having knowingly dived with these guys yesterday just a few kilometers from here, the rest of the session wasn't quite as fun, but I still stayed out for about another hour until the surf got really scrappy. There's only been other times I've felt like that - last year in Costa Rica when a girl I was surfing with paddled up to me and the other guys and told us she was paddling in cause she had just seen a rather large bull shark, and last year in Cape Town when I was surfing past sunset, the day after I had gotten stitches and there were only 2 of us in the water - you're having fun, but it's a very uneasy type of fun.

When leaving the water I ran into another guy walking up with his board. We got to speaking about the surf etc. His name is Ricardo and he's from Spain - Pais Basque region, to be exact. I went there on a short surf trip a couple of years ago, so we chatted quite a bit about his local surf spot, he's also surfed the spots I've been to in Portugal. He's come to the islands for a month, and to save money and still be able to see all the islands, he's taken on shitty jobs like painting tour boats etc. in exchange for a free trip to the other islands (Galapagos is bloody expensive -  a 4 day boat tour costs in the region of 400 dollars - totally out of reach for the average backpacker). I think it's a brilliant idea, and if I had more time would do the same. Before I get to the part about telling him where I was from, I have to mention the stereotypes on South Africans, I've picked up while travelling. In Bolivia and the interior of Peru, everytime I told locals I was from South Africa I got answered with the "No puedes, no es negro" - "You can't be, you're not black". Then I'd have to explain that there are also white people in Africa. Also when I tell locals my name is Pedro, 9 out of 10 times I get answered with "Ah, Peter!?!". After which I have to explain it really is Pedro, because my parents are Portuguese. They also immediately mention "Ah South Africa, Copa del Mundo 2010", followed by boasts of how their countries will kick ass once/if they get there. The Americans, all seem to play the whole Apartheid card and get political with me right away. The Brits mostly ask why all of us are invading their country whenwe have such an amazing country of our own. And the Kiwis and Aussies mostly go straight into rugby talk - eventhough I know jack shit about rugby. As soon as I reached the Peruvian coast, and particularly the surfer towns, the stereotype changed. The conversations went more like this:

Pedro - "I'm from South Africa"
Locals - "Aaaah coool, Jefreys Bay!?!?!?", followed by an assumption that I must be a shit hot surfer....
Pedro - "Nope, Joburg, ek se, boet. And I'm a really crap surfer (although I do try)".
Locals - Look of disbelied and disappointment.

Yesterday I was speaking to a local surfer and as soon as I told him I was from SA, he invited me to a surf competition on one of the islands tomorrow. I had to decline because I'm going on a snorkelling trip on another island, and also to save myself the embarrassment of surfing in a competition, being so crap.
Anyway, back to the Spanish dude, as soon as I told him I'm from SA he also mentioned J-Bay and then invited me to the same competition. He made it more appealing cause I told him I'm nowhere near a competition level surfer, and never will be, and he said that a lot of the guys are going along just to surf and not enter the competition.

So, I've had to make a very difficult decision. Spend the day watching decent surfers and hopefully catching a few waves myself, in an ideallic place, or go as planned on the snorkelling trip to what is meant to be one of the most beautiful islands (Bartolome) where I can swim with penguins, turtles, white tipped sharks etc. I checked in with the tour company and they said they could cancel my spot on the tour, but, there are no places left for the next few days, and I have to leave this island no later than wednesday morning. So, based on the assumption that I'll move to the coast when I go back to South Africa and will be able to surf whenever possible, I think it would be a real shame to give up the opportunity of the snorkel trip - eventhough it does cost 115 US dollars!!

Ricardo invited me for a few drinks tonight with him and a few English girls he met on the main land. I accepted, purely for the surf banter, as I'm on a self-imposed women and booze ban at the moment.