Surfing Idol by Dayu Sri

‘Ha! You want to learn to surf?’

Windi wrinkled her nose at Dulpi’s declaration that she intended to learn to surf on Kuta Beach. She knew Dulpi hated the sun’s rays because she was afraid they would make her skin turn black.

Dulpi nodded firmly, a big smile lighting up her face.

‘Are you serious?’ Windi couldn’t believe it.

‘Very serious.’ Dulpi nodded still more firmly, messing up her usually neat bangs. ‘And why are you interrogating me with that look on your face, anyway? So shocked just to hear that I want to learn to surf! What if you heard I was to star in a movie alongside Leonardo Di Caprio? I can hardly imagine the look on your face then,’ Dulpi muttered angrily, her eyes bulging. ‘Admit you’re just envious because you don’t have the guts to try it,’ she added with a look of contempt.

‘That’s not it, Pi. I just remember how you pretended to be sick when our sports teacher suddenly set us a swimming test.’

‘You mean to say I can’t swim, Win?’ Dulpi cut in drily.

‘That’s it! And you once said that you’re scared to swim at the beach because besides having your skin turn black you’re also scared of a shark attack like in Jaws.’ Windi finished her sentence with a feeling of great satisfaction, seeing the expression on Dulpi’s face change in the manner of a famous actor who realizes her secret has been revealed.

Privately, Dulpi had to agree with what Windi had said because it was in fact the truth. But Windi couldn’t dampen her enthusiasm by stating such embarrassing facts. ‘You’re so mean, Win. You just want to discourage me,’ Dulpi said, putting a sad look on her face.

‘I’m not mean, Pi,’ Windi retorted. ‘And it’s not as though I revealed a state scecret, is it?’

‘It’s only a three-day pogram. Learning to surf for three days won’t turn me into an African. And I’ll feel safe being with Mickey. He’ll be the first to help me if anything goes wrong.’ Dulpi’s eyes shone.

‘Mickey?’ Windi squinted suspiciously. She snatched the flyer from Dulpi’s hand and glanced at it. ‘Oh!’ Windi scoffed. ‘So the instructor is Mickey, the Japanese-Brazilian you’re always telling me about, the one who inspires you to write poetry, whose name you write on exercise books and benches and walls? Now I see why you’re so keen to learn to surf. Three days will be nothing – you’ll be able to keep it up for three months, even three years, if he’s the one showing you how.’

‘Mean thing!’ Dulpi thought. ‘That’s not it, Win…’ she began.

‘You mean I’m not wrong?’ Windi laughed out loud.

‘It’s not like that at all. I don’t like Mickey. I’m just taking the three-day private lesson to fill the school vacation. It’s boring sitting at home all the time. My parents and younger brothers and sisters have gone to Jogja, and I’ve been left at home with Pipin, who never speaks,’ Dulpi explained, although Windi’s words had already made her blush.

‘I think that’s even worse! You’re willing to spend hours under the hot sun if it means you can be with Mickey, then go home fried to a crisp and still hope that people will think you’re pretty because your skin is so white and fine. For a guy who might not even like you, you’d do things you never wanted to do before. It would be better if you stayed at home doing nothing. Help Pipin mop the floor, wash the dishes or cook – at least you’d be learning to do housework while helping out your maid,’ Windi harangued her friend furiously. ‘Ck… ck… ck…, Dulpi… Dulpi,’ she said, shaking her head in pity.

‘Hmm,’ Dulpi frowned. She knew she could never win this debate because Windi already held all the aces. The only thing she could do was go home, since soon the school gate would close. Tomorrow the week-long vacation would begin. The students and teachers had been leaving for home for the last half hour. Only a few students were left at school, including the two of them. ‘Thanks for making me sleepy. I should hurry – I have to register for my three-day private surfing lesson. Wish for me to become a good surfer girl, and one day I’ll show you how. He he he he…’ Dulpi left laughing and holding her flyer tightly, as if expecting someone to try to take it off her. She was tired of listening to Windi and afraid that she would say the wrong thing if she let the conversation continue. For example, she might let it slip that she was falling in love with the good-looking boy whose name was Mickey.

In the morning, when the sun had just begun to rise in the sky and a cold wind seemed to wrap itself around one’s body and clutch at one’s bones, Dulpi was at the beach in a state of great excitement. It wasn’t seeing the big waves thumping on the shore that caused her heart to race, but seeing Mickey weave across the face of a wave on his white surfboard. Every now and then Mickey disappeared behind a curtain of water, as though into a cave, then appeared again standing upright on his surfboard. Dulpi clapped her hands in delight, crying out like a spectator at the circus.

Mickey returned to shore and approached Dulpi.

‘Hi, Mickey’ Dulpi said.

‘Hi to you, too, Dulpi,’ Mickey smiled. With his dark eyes, he carefully looked Dulpi up and down. Dulpi swallowed nervously. The look on Mickey’s face made Dulpi both nervous and happy, and her heart beat faster.

‘You’re not scared of turning black?’ Mickey asked suddenly, glancing at Dulpi’s outfit, a tank top and hot pants that showed off her white skin. Mickey’s question was met with a grin. Of course, for Dulpi it was a standard question, one that had to be asked of a white-skinned girl in minimal clothing who was going to be active under the sun for several hours.

‘I’ve already put on SPF 15 sun block. It’s enough to block out the most harmful sun’s rays,’ Dulpi replied.

‘Good. Usually girls don’t want to learn to surf because they’re scared that their skin will darken.’
Dulpi replied immediately with excessive confidence, ‘My name is Dulpi. I’m different to other girls. I like a challenge and like to try new things that get my adrenalin going.

‘Good girl,’ Mickey praised her, lifting his thumb, causing Dulpi to feel as though she were soaring up into the sky. ‘Let’s begin the lesson,’ he continued.

They took a big blue longboard down to the water. Dulpi screamed herself hoarse every time they were hit by a wave, making Mickey laugh out loud.

On the first day, Mickey taught Dulpi how to stand on a surfboard with a wave rising up beneath her. Gathering her courage, Dulpi lay on top of the surfboard. When a wave approached, Mickey, who held the board from behind, pushed Dulpi onto the wave, shouting, ‘Up…!’ After several failed attempts, she suceeded in standing, right foot forward, and sped smoothly forward, carried by the wave all the way to shore. Mickey watched as she did this again and again. She was delighted, even though she sometimes fell and was washed around until water filled her ears and nose. Mickey continually praised her while encouraging her to practise seriously so that the money she had spent on the private lesson wouldn’t go to waste.

On the second day, Dulpi learned how to paddle properly in order to get out into the lineup. Lying on the board, she moved her arms as if swimming, while Mickey steered her from behind and pushed when she tired. Paddling gave the muscles in Dulpi’s arms and stomach a good workout, so she was happy to do it. Once she had mastered the paddling movements, Mickey taught her to duckdive to get through a wave by pushing the surfboard down into the water so the wave didn’t wash her back to shore.

On the third day, Dulpi began to learn how to pick good waves and turn across a wave’s face. Whether because of Mickey or because of Dulpi’s great enthusiasm, she succeeded. This showed that indeed she was serious about practising, even though it meant that her skin would darken and her hair would lose its sheen in the salt water. Because she was having such a good time, Dulpi didn’t even notice that she had already lost the white skin and fine hair she always took so much pride in.

Dulpi could hardly believe her eyes when she looked in the mirror and saw a girl with skin the colour of dark chocolate, hair that had dulled and reddened slightly, and a dry, peeling face. Oops, and black flecks had also begun to appear. Dulpi rubbed her nose, remembering the last time she had looked in the mirror and seen a girl with clear white skin and hair as fine as that of a model in a shampoo advertisement. She clicked her tongue in surprise at the memory. She had lost it all. That was the consequence she had to accept. She couldn’t imagine what Windi’s reaction would be when she saw her. Dulpi smiled at the thought. ‘Wah… wah… you look as sexy as Beyoncé with your chocolate skin!’ Windi would say. Or, ‘Wah, your hair looks cool, as though you’ve just had highlights!’ But suddenly bad thoughts occurred to her. Windi’s jokes and taunts filled her ears. But Dulpi didn’t care. She had to go to Windi’s house today, to show off her certificate, on which the words Congratulations, now you are a good surfer! were printed in bold Monotype Corsiva size 28.

Windi looked at the thick piece of blue paper Dulpi handed her. ‘Selamat, lo sekarang menjadi peselancar yang baik,’ Windi translated the most important words on the certificate as she shook her friend’s hand. Dulpi laughed to hide her embarrassment. ‘So let’s go to the beach,’ she suggested. ‘You have to see me surf.’

‘I agree,’ Windi replied with enthusiasm.

They arrived to find the beach looking deserted, not crowded as on previous evenings. Beside the food sellers, several minimally clothed foreign tourists receiving massages and a young couple laughing under a mahoe tree, there stood two surfboard-hire stands. A lifeguard was putting up a sign warning against swimming, although the sea that evening looked calm. Out in the water, two surfers sat waiting for waves. Dulpi was delighted to see that one of them was Mickey. She could recognise that handsome face even from a distance. She hired a surfboard and quickly changed. Windi sat under a mahoe tree to watch Dulpi.

Dulpi lay on the surfboard and paddled out. In the distance, Windi saw her join Mickey and his friend. When a wave came, Dulpi went into action. Turning across the wave’s face, she was cheered on by Mickey and his friend and applauded by Windi. Dulpi felt as though she were flying when she rode the wave, stretching her arms out and laughing joyfully. She continued to surf even when Mickey and his friend had returned to shore. Dulpi didn’t want to follow them in. Now the waves were all hers. No competition. Windi waved for her to come in, but Dulpi ignored her. She liked being out there on her own, floating on the calm sea and letting the water rock the surfboard from side to side. Through the clear water she could see colourful fish and coral reef. She lazily swung her legs backwards and forwards. There were no sharks to attack her as in Jaws. There were no jellyfish or gigantic squid like those she read about in comics.

But her pleasure came to be disturbed by boredom. No waves appeared. She had been sitting on her surfboard and admiring the water below her for some time now. She hoped a wave would come so she could ride it all the way in. But, oh… Dulpi began to panic. It turned out that she was far out to sea. The people on the beach looked like ants. Even Windi who had been jumping and waving wasn’t visible anymore. Dulpi began to cry. If only she had her cell phone, she thought. But that was silly. Of course it wouldn’t work if water got into it.

Her spirit shrank when she realised that she was far from shore on her own. Suddenly her head filled with bad thoughts. What if a school of sharks were to attack her and rip her to pieces? What if a giant squid suddenly appeared to wrap its tentacles around her and crush her? At the same time, she hoped that a school of dolphins would come to help her as in fairy tales and cartoons. In the end, nothing happened. The sharks must all have been full. And the giant squid had probably been caught by an American research ship. Nor was it impossible that the dolphins had all been caught and put in circuses. She was still floating with her surfboard on the water. She decided to paddle to shore, but the current was much stronger than a girl of 17 years who didn’t eat much for fear of getting fat. She shouted like someone possessed until her throat was dry. In vain: nobody heard her. There was no one there, only indifferent seagulls flying this way and that over her head. Her strength failed her and she decided to give up, since death would soon come for her.

No, it wasn’t death that came for her. It was a boy who drove a jetski with daring, like a lifeguard in the film Baywatch. It was Mickey. Dulpi cried and laughed simultaneously. Her feelings were in turmoil. She waved her arms even though Mickey had already seen her. Mickey approached quickly, and without waiting to be told Dulpi scrambled onto the jetski, hauling the rental board up behind her. Without shame, she held Mickey tight, and the jetski took off at high speed.

When Dulpi got off the jetski, Windi met her with an expression of both concern and joy. ‘What the hell were you doing, Dul?’ Windi examined Dulpi’s body and was grateful not to find a single wound. ‘Thanks, Mick,’ she said. ‘You saved Dulpi.’

Mickey smiled. ‘No problem. It’s my responsibility,’ he said, as nice and sweet as chocolate, glancing at Dulpi.

‘Thanks, Mick,’ Dulpi said. ‘You’re so kind!’

‘Next time you go surfing, I’ll come with you.’ The sensual tone of Mickey’s words made Dulpi feel as though she were flying to Seventh Heaven.

‘Okay!’ Dulpi cried, unable to hide her happiness.

‘We’ll go home, then,’ Windi cut in, taking Dulpi’s hand and waving at Mickey. As she was dragged away, Dulpi waved.

‘See you soon, Dulpi…’ Mickey called.

‘For sure,’ Dulpi shouted back.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing, Win! You don’t like to see anyone else having a good time,’ Dulpi sniffed when they’d reached the surfboard-hire stand.

Windi grinned. ‘It’s been proven now,’ she teased. ‘You really do like Mickey, the brave boy who saved your life.’

Dulpi smiled. ‘Mickey is my surfing idol!’

— Dayu Sri (Indonesia)