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Byron Loker

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Eddie would go

GHANA GO: Finding surfing deep in Africa is a hit and miss afair. PHOTO: John Callahan/Surfexplore

GHANA GO THERE: Finding surfing deep in Africa is a hit and miss affair. Image by: John Callahan/Surfexplore

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Now that my friend Kev has quit the cocaine and the film industry and the women of loose morals, he works for another of our best friends, Los the Boss, in Johannesburg, project managing the building of things like fast food chicken restaurants and stores in malls for flat screen TVs and mobile phone consortia. (I too work for Los the Boss now but that’s a different story).

There is absolutely no surf in Johannesburg but quite often Kev has to head up north into other African countries where those above types of companies are making more money because South Africa is going down the toilet. Recently Kev went to Ghana where there is surf and when he came back I was there to meet him at the airport. ‘So, I’ve got a story for you,’ he says when we are in the car.

Kev had landed up with a weekend to spare in Ghana, so he took my advice to go surfing. He’d met a guy who knew a guy who said he might know a guy who could get a board for Kev to rent. Anyway, one of those guys was called Eddie.

‘Eddie who?’ I ask, because I want to put it in my story.

‘I don’t know,’ Kev says, ‘Eddie the champion artist of the world. Anyway, Eddie thinks about it for a bit and he says he knows just the guy who can rent me a board. Language is a bit of a problem over there—they don’t speak English so well. Eddie asks me, “Do you need the thing that goes on top?” I didn’t know what he was talking about—thought maybe he was talking about a beach umbrella or something—so I said, no, just the board. He says cool and I arrange to meet him early the next morning outside the hotel, with the board. Told him not to be late because that’s not how we surfers roll, and I left it at that, I didn’t actually expect him to rock up.’

‘Sure as shit, there he is at seven or something the next morning. With a boardsail board on the roof of his car. Foot straps and everything. I have a bit of a chuckle and try to explain that this is not the thing, I need a surfboard. I explain the difference as best I can—as I said, language is a bit of a problem over there. I figured out the thing on top he was referring to was the sail. Eddie says no problem and heads off. I didn’t expect to see him again. I went back to bed.’

But about an hour after that Eddie came back with a proper surfboard. It was a six-foot-something fish, not in bad shape, but Kev took one look at it and knew he’d never be able to paddle the thing. Kev doesn’t weigh as little as he used to, what with all the no surf in Johannesburg and the beer and the pizza because there’s nothing the hell else to do in Johannesburg. Except maybe getting rich, swearing at other people in traffic and culpable homicide – those are very popular pursuits here.

‘Ok, I say to Eddie, let’s give this a go,’ Kev says. ‘I take the board but we hadn’t exactly negotiated the price. So I ask. US$ 150 Eddie says. Of course I try and bargain but I knew it was a done deal. Eddie is not the kind of guy you want to fuck with in Ghana. So I know I’m in for US$ 150. And, it turns out, six of Eddie’s paintings too. They’re not bad. I got some for you—house-warming present.’

‘Shot, man,’ I say. ‘How much did they cost you?’

‘No idea, I couldn’t work it out, all I know is that that was the most expensive surf I ever had.’

Kev took the fish and went down to the nearest beach break, where there were barely one to two footers slobbering in. The water was as warm as blood and littered with things that spewed from fast food chicken restaurants. Kev said he tried not to look too hard at whatever it was that shared the line-up with him. He caught one or two waves but he was right about the board, it was just too short and under-buoyant and not up to the task.

He proned in to shore where he’d noticed an excited group of boys watching him ‘surf’ and soon he was pushing them into waves, one after the other. One of the boys, Kev noticed, was keener and more determined than the rest. Somehow, through the language barrier, he told Kev that his father was a surfer and their home was a short distance down the beach.

‘I asked the kid if his dad had a bigger board than this one, and he said for sure, come, I’ll show you. So we get out the water and head down to his house. I meet his old man, who can’t speak English at all, but he works out what I’m on about and says he’ll show me the board. He takes me into the back room and… it’s the same board, the sailboard, the one that Eddie first brought me.’

Kev had his paintings from Eddie for me framed in a triptych. One is of a woman threshing wheat or corn or sand—whatever it is they have to eat in Ghana—and another of a fisherman beating his drum. In the middle is one of a hut. Eddie the champion artist of the world’s elaborate signature adorns the bottom right of each. I’m proud to have them hanging in my living room. I don’t know if they are very good paintings but if I ever get sent to Ghana for a chicken restaurant I know who I’ll ask for when I want to go for a surf.



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