“Can you see him?” Asking in unison, we look at each other for a reaction, then back out to sea.
“Not yet. Not yet.”
Hovering in the shelter of an old wooden lifeguard hut, we scan our eyes across the stage. An island situated some 400m out to sea and barely exposed shelf of rock where 6-8ft waves are lifting quietly out of the Atlantic. The scene begins to unfold slowly in front of us. I feel my dormant lifeguarding senses kick in, something about the location I guess - this place seems so different in the summer. Busier, softer and accompanied by the nostalgic, twinkling tune of a Kelly’s Ice-Cream truck that is normally parked nearby. This is not the summer though. Far from it. A bitter easterly wind threads its way through the marram grass behind us before roaring across the empty expanse of low-tide beach. The padlocked shutters of the hut, sealed tight until spring, nervously bounce and rattle with each gust. The matt grey sea merging with western horizon before turning into sky.
“Um, I’m sure he will be fine. It’s fine.” I try and reassure Jayce’s partner Hannah by underplaying the situation with an ad-libbed explanation. “It’s just the spray and the distance - the gaps between the waves”.
We catch a glimpse of Jayce’s board bobbing its way unnaturally through the inside boil, like a channel marker buoy held fast by anchor. His wetsuit-clad body emerges a long second or two later.
“Told you he would be fine” Squinting through his long lens, James who is here to shoot photos of his friend nonchalantly confirms he is above water and making positive moves towards the channel.
“Such a lord” I state with conviction. (All photos: James Warbey / @warbey)