Monday, October 20, 2008

A Thank You

Lunatic Surfer or Destiny, Donald Paarman, 2008 A biography; this book tells the story of so many more lives than its central figure, South African surf icon Donald Paarman. Further, it manages to grind out between each crude or poetic page aspects of the world of surfing between the 1950s and 1980s and up to this present day which only those who ‘were there’ may understand. How familiar surfers are with the term ‘you shoulda been here yesterday.’ For those of us fortunate to have been there yesterday, Lunatic Surfer or Destiny is a ‘must read.’

Paarman seemingly carves from his raw life moments of intense despair, self-doubt, naivety and joy. In the same way as he may have paddled into a 15’ monster at the Kom Outer or Supertubes so did he paddle into life, not always certain where the ride would end; a disaster on a rocky beach or screaming cut out just moments before disaster struck.

To some readers this story may read as a piece of fiction, a reflection of an LSD, booze and dope fuelled brain clinging on to some vague memories from the past and stringing them in a rudimentary way together in a contrivance of myth-making and legend. To those who rode the same wave the story of Donald’s life may seem somewhat (Whaaaat!) matter of fact. Many of us may be tempted to think there but for the grace of Goddo go I.

For this reader Lunatic Surfer or Destiny hits home personally at many levels. As children Donald and I competed in swimming competitions at Christian Brothers College. My secret name for the school was Christian ‘Bothers’ College as the Christians bothered me daily. We must have started surfing roughly around the same time as we both stopped swimming at roughly the same time and surfing took hold of our lives and the lives of so many kids in Cape Town. I only had one rule, when Donald was in the water I would get out. This was because I got my more pleasure watching this genius at work at Long Beach, the Kom or J. Bay than I did from my own inept attempts at surfing.

To this dayI can see in my mind’s eye his almost lackadaisical style as he astonished his audiences on the beach with his elegant style and unbelievable recoveries from some situations from which it seemed he stood no chance of ‘making it.’

Lunatic Surfer or Destiny reminds us of the many characters who populated our young chaotic lives; the Bokhorst brothers, Thys and Frank (Murphy). John Whitemore (Oom), Ponting lad and Paul Botha. Interestingly, and perhaps typically for Donald, he frequently alludes to people in the book who he may admire less, but does not expose. I know for instance who was at the wheel of the boat that injured his brother with its propellers. It happens too that we know who it was who scammed him out of his dug profits and took off for France to marry and live happily ever after. There are many instances like this and it says so much for Donald that he remains silent when he could voice indignation.

Poetry and imagery follows the reader throughout. When Donald talks about the smell of the ocean in the damp Catholic Church in Camp’s Bay anyone who has smelled that smell can smell it once more, as though it was yesterday.

The quest for truth theme runs throughout and this reader paused to reflect that the title for this book may have been Catholic Boy Lost in a Sea of Goddism. Sweetly Donald tells us what he has learned and why he continues his search, but he tells us in no uncertain terms that no longer is he lost. Bravely he subjects the ANC to some very basic truths in so refreshing a style that it is hard to argue with his view of South Africa. Tragically he portrays not only his own life as a driverless bus, but to some degree as the once sturdy Viking Family of Catholics ages so to the flaws widen in some places and love consolidates in others.

Lunatic Surfer or Destiny astounds in one way. Given the lifelong addiction to dagga, LSD and drink how on earth did Donald manage to remember everything in such fine detail? If you want to test how difficult this is just ask Chemical Clive what he had for breakfast. As a wannabe writer this reader has yet to pull off of full-blown publication and I am thankful to Donald and his supporters for this biography as it stands as possibly the least pretentious, accurate and complete account of a wonderful era. Thank you Donald, you truly are THE MAN.

Claus “Bosco” Andrup
Maple Ridge, British Columbia

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