Rob eyed us sceptically as we sat around the campfire eating goat curry. We’d just let him in on how we accidentally ran over said goat the night before. His scepticism soon turned to a wolfish grin as we told him the tail of its noble dash across the highway that we uncannily intercepted at quite a great speed. The curry was epic.

Rewind to earlier that day and the desert butcher Paul Nunn was having his first dig at a notoriously fickle and sketchy desert right. Swell direction wasn’t great, we saw one good wave in twenty minutes. Paul was frothing to get it done though so we went for a paddle. We dodged rouge sets for two hours, somehow I picked off one with an exit and Paul snagged a few to get his bearings before we called it quits. Paul was amped, but a little rattled on how his aged red and yellow single fin performed – its rail hold was tentative at best in critical positions.

The next day, we were greeted by an unpredicted change in swell direction, and it was cooking, and only improved as the tide changed. Post-coffee-pre-surf dune shit completed, Paul whipped out a fresh craft. A 6’8 single fin with slightly straighter rails and a little more concave than the old red rocket. His plan was to get in early off the push that only the perfect ones had, set his line and, well, hope for the best.

Shooting from the cliff, four hours passed in a blur of flies, red dirt and some great barrels. The boys cleaned up; Paul in particular who stuck to his plan. Getting in early and setting his line, he threaded his way through the wave of the day, riding out like he was standing on some bizarre magic carpet and not a craft more suited to laid-back arches on long walls. The next week was nothing but a delightful groundhog day, fuelled on goat curry, red dirt rights and fire side beers, the stoke tanks were full.

Mid morning on day, ah, maybe day five, we’d been out since dawn. My mate Jake and I were swimming with the boys enjoying a few pits. After a few days to suss things out Paul was ripping. Jake and I yelled profanities at him as he confidently arched through a four-footer until he was unhorsed on the inside section. Straight away we could tell something was up. He was really slow coming out of the impact zone. Paul paddled out to us, stopped, sat on his board and asked if he’d cut his head. Eyes locked on the blood sheeting down his face. We say, ‘probably’. Pausing for a good twenty seconds he looked up at us again and asked how bad it was. Jake and I struggled to drag our eyes away from the ragged hole in his forehead with what looked to be his skull just visible beneath the free-flowing blood. Trying to sound mellow, we advised that yes, he should probably go in. Up on the cliffs we established that Paul, concussed as hell and still leaking claret, needed a doctor. The closest medical help was 200kms away, and so it suddenly turned into a long day. Sammy the chef was chosen as chauffer and after the entertainment of watching a very concussed man doing some pretty strange stuff, we bundled him off for some stitches.

On his return, sewn back together and with orders to keep land locked, Paul talked of getting back in the water in a few days. Eyebrows are raised. Good sense prevailed and he packed up his gear. Dream run done and desert stint cut short, Paul returned to the big smoke for exams. After he bailed we did what any good friends would do, and kept surfing.

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