archer crouch : body surfing, west africa, 1887.
difficulty I call to our servant Sua, who is preparing a
morning cup of cocoa on the paraffin stove outside the hut.
This morning he is dressed in his best clothes, consisting of a jersey, and blue serge coat and knickerbockers ; but when he is cleaning out the hut, or doing work which he thinks may injure such fine apparel, he lays them aside, and appears in nothing but the scanty waistcloth.
He answers, " Yes, sar," in response to my call, and comes to the hut door.
"Are there any sharks about in the water here, Sua ? "
A puzzled expression gathers on his face, and he scratches his short wool pensively with his left hand.
"Sarks, sar ? No sabby sarks, sar," shaking his head and regarding me with a troubled look.
"Big fish," I say, descending to pigeon English to make myself understood.
"Big fish, bite man, no live here ?
"A smile of intelligence passes over his features.
"No, sar, no big fish live here.
Big fish far out there, not here."
"I think I will bathe, then ;" and I begin making preparations.
intention, he says, " Massa go washy ? " and immediately
proceeds to divest
himself of his clothing and, running down the beach, dashes
into the surf
as I follow him at a short distance.
He swims through the foaming water of a spent breaker, and as another comes rolling up and curling high above him, he dives beneath it, the column descending with a loud roar behind him.
There is a few seconds' interval, and then his black head appears bobbing up and down in the white fringe of foam beyond.
I don't quite like the look of it, but as he has given me a lead I cannot draw back now.
Swimming after him through the surf, I meet a huge roller which is gathering itself up high above me, and seizing my
dive into the curling bank of water and then I hear a dull
around me, and at length emerge securely in the seething
Sua is here in his element, dancing up and down and doing fancy performances with the rollers, as if he had lived since infancy as much in the water as on dry land.
he cries, as a big roller comes towering along ; "see me
Watching it carefully till it is just upon him, he turns his face to the shore and rising on to the top of it he strikes out vigorously with it towards land, and is carried dashing in at a tremendous speed after the same manner as the surf-boats beach themselves.
I try to imitate his example, but not with such success, in my haste and inexperience getting too much in advance, and being rolled up with the breaker instead of riding on its crest.
However, I come out of it all right after a little tumbling about, and scramble out to find Sua on the beach highly amused by my performance, grinning from ear to ear and saying, "Var good, massa ; var good."
On a Surf-bound Coast;
or, Cable-laying in the African tropics.
S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, London, 1887.