Issue 7 :: Spring 2005  
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Derek White

The Octopus Hunters

The swells crisscrossed the island through the manmade channel, colliding head on—breakers with a right-curling tube that lagged in slow motion until they crashed. The waves were mirror images as they approached each other. Our mothers sent us out to catch octopus from the ocean, but a day like this, with opposing right-breaking swells, didn't come often.

My friend Geo and I waxed our boards and headed south down to the channel. We jumped off the jetty and paddled out to where the waves intersected. Surfing in the dredged channel wasn't natural, but it sure beat hunting octopus. We used the momentum of one wave to thrust us into the tube of an oncoming wave at the exact moment it was breaking. I did this with Geo because no one else would hang with him and vice-versa.

Getting the timing down was a painful learning experience, but every so often you'd hit it just right so you were thrust into the apex of the oncoming curl. Your body would tumble and spin with the wave, and then you'd be spit out into the foamy white water. Each time you would shake it off, then belly up on to the board and paddle back out, in either direction, to do it again. We aligned ourselves with the artificial jetty made of cement pylons. That's where the breaks peaked.

It was worth it, but once we figured this out the novelty wore off. The prospect of coming home empty-handed weighed heavily upon us. Our mothers were expecting us to provide.

"How are we supposed to catch anything?" asked Geo, straddling his board between sets. We had neglected to bring a spear gun or masks, or anything to catch octopus with.

"Be your own bait," I answered.

"What do you mean?"

"Hang out under water and let the octopus come to you. As soon as one latches on, I'll pull it off of you, and vice-versa."

"Interesting proposition—in theory. But there's no way this will happen if you are expecting it."

We resumed surfing. With each swell we rose and looked to the horizon to see what was coming next. Soon we stopped catching waves at all and just floated on the undulating surface.

"What's that you're humming?" asked Geo.

"Love and Rockets," I said, then spoke the lines, "You cannot go against nature. Because when you do, that's part of nature too."

"It doesn't sound right unless you sing it."

I decided then and there that I'd rather be the one who was the bait. If I didn't think about it and just went under, I knew our mother's would be proud. But if I let Geo be the bait and failed to bring him back to the surface, I wouldn't be able to live with myself.