Word on the beach has it that the One Legged Flying Pelican has eclipsed Californian Mickey Muñoz’s late 1950s quasimodo (or quasimoto depending on your twang) as the surfing trick to end all tricks on the wave. Forget hang tens, drop-knee cutbacks and airdrops, if you want to be a progressive longboarder today you have master the One Legged Flying Pelican.
Rumour had it that this rare variety of surfing manoeuvre was to be seen in the surf near Jongensfontein at the annual Kakgat Classic on the weekend of 19 and 20 June. So I signed up for the contest to get a better view; much like a birdwatcher will take refuge in a hide to wait on the appearance of a shy avian except that I was give a pinkish (or was it red) vest that made me stand out like a flamingo on a saltpan.
As One Legged Flying Pelicans go you would think that one would stand out in a crowd. Not so easily it seemed as heat after heat passed without near imitation or a genuflection to some Captain named Morgan. The mention of the latter left me quite confused as I met no Morgan at the event nor was a Morgan on the competitor’s board although many a glass was raised during a late evening to this Captain.
So I was left to stubble on in my ornithological search for this kinesiological wonder and ponder the making of the legend which before long had become a questioning of: how did a pelican come to ride a longboard? Then I recalled that in the days of olde maps showed the oceans to be full of dragons. Just borrow Jack Sparrow’s parchment and you’ll see “Here Be Dragons” etched is wavy calligraphy as a warning for early European explorers not to wander too far beyond the horizon. So, if there can be dragons in the sea, why not a pelican on a surfboard.
And pelicans damn near look like dragons, or pterodactyls for that matter. The last one I saw swooped over the Elands Bay’s threatened Velorenvlei wetlands casting a Nazgûl-like shadow over me that I nearly toppled off my SUP in fear that I had actually entered the final battle for Middle Earth with only a paddle. Get close up to a pelican in flight and you’ll see what I mean, trust me you’ll kak yourself silly.
Which is why I watched in trepidation as I saw not one, but four, One Legged Flying Pelicans executed by “Kelly” Salter before my disbelieving eyes. I was wading in the shorebreak of a right-hand break at the end of a heat pondering why this sublime spot had been christened “Kakgat” in the 1970s, when I had my moment of truth. I have read that pelicans are well suited to gliding in the air for long distances after gaining a good altitude – this made perfectly sense as the trim, poise, and balance of this surfer with lifted arms flapping while standing on one leg held true over a shortish distance along a peeling wave. Revealed, the One Legged Flying Pelican is.
(For another take on the contest, see my article “Curios Reflections on the Kakgat Classic” published on Wavescape).