The tide was in at Deadmans Beach, and the wind was up. The fishing fleet was ranged on the banks of shingle being encroached by rushing and receding waves: an impressive if heterogenous collection of chiefly traditionally clinker-built vessels (but some of fibreglass), both larger trawlers and also punts, that’s to say, undecked boats, all with diesel engines, sitting on their greased hardwood blocks or planks, awaiting favourable conditions. Linseed oil dully gleamed and colours faded against the whitening sky. Winch engines and their cables, some apparently half consumed by corrosion, also lay dormant, and among them the detritus of a fishing beach: walls and labyrinths of creels, plastic and wooden boxes or their fragments, piles of greasy nets. Two or three men wandered between the huts; one called briefly to another – but this was all the sign of human life that could be observed. A crushed, stained white latex glove and a dirty, crumpled T-shirt with the Superman logo that had evidently been employed as a rag lay discarded on the intervening gravel. Used plastic bottles were scattered here and there. On the windscreen of a winch tractor, a hand-painted notice in white lettering on a black ground: KEEP OFF. On the shingle banks, eviscerated fish corpses and emptied skulls stank and were disdained by the ragged flocks of gulls, terns and plovers that edged the moving foam. From the sterns of various boats fluttered black flags on tall poles. Some vessels had names painted on their bows or sterns: Moonshine, Bethan Louise, Christine, Four Brothers, Rosy Haze, Bloodaxe, Our Pam & Peter, Little Mayflower, Happy Return. Their registration numbers were prominently displayed in most cases, and the following were noted: DH11, DH16, DH37, DH55, DH58, DH60, DH77, DH89, DH118, DH142, DH150, DH169, DH200, DH201, DH258, DH310, DH389, DH427, DH442, DH445, DH590, DH1066 – DH signifying that the boats were registered in the port of Deadmans BeacH. All in all, including small row boats and others whose registration numbers were obscured or not present, a total of twenty-eight vessels were counted. 

A huge volume of water appeared to be driven repeatedly and relentlessly by the strong breeze – verging on gale – onto the beach. The line of undulations could be tracked like a moving graph against the concrete groyne that marked the south-western boundary of the fishing beach, in the lee of which was suddenly observed a shining black creature – at first glance a seal, but quickly revealed to be a solitary surfer in black wetsuit, crouching, waiting for the right wave to arrive. And so this mysterious being watched the approach of a tall one with rippling white foam at its rim; the foam starting to glitter, for the sun only then began to make its presence felt through the white banks of cloud, the shoreward wall of the wave now being in shadow, and darkening further as it rose. A multitude of hues mingled: the predominating indigo of that shadow before which swirled a filigree of froth, but streaked with dark grey and brown, and the rainbow brilliance of the crest, and beyond that yellow, ochre and purple, even apparent flesh-tones where the pale, half-shrouded sun was hitting the bulk of the water as it advanced from the horizon. Or seemed to advance, for this was an illusion: the mass of the water was in fact scarcely moving, it was the pure energy of the wave-formation moving through it that created that impression, just as the colours themselves were caused by vibrations of various frequencies reflected at different angles from a disturbed air/water interface. So the illusion replicates itself all the way down to the molecular level until emptiness is found, and the only record of movement is that produced by the mind – this report, for example – though the mind produces only illusions. Then does this report, do these observations tell us anything about the world? Or does it remain inscrutable? But the wave seemed to pause. And at the last possible moment the surfer took advantage, and, embracing his electric blue board tightly as one would a newly refound lover, launched himself into the van of the approaching current that swept him inexorably shoreward, showing only a flash of his orange flippers, before it broke over him in a white explosion. Then just as the figure seemed lost, he reappeared in the midst of the retreating water, struck out and began to swim back where he’d come from, following the flowback to the lee of the groyne, where he would turn, shelter and repeat the experience. 

from The Grey Area: a mystery - work in progress