One more step that’s all that was needed, it was proving way harder than imaginable I was at Cemento Reef in the Philippines, a metre from the edge of the reef with no booties and one more step would enable me to launch into the deep water and paddle around the break. My feet were killing me this reef is so sharp, and everything with in a step away is long and brittle coral I had already gingerly stepped over the last 15 mins pushed it to my limit of not shredding my feet to ribbons on this spiky young coral. The extra step would mean I would have to put all the weight on one foot which would be enough to push these spikes through my soles, I don’t think I can do this as I am watching perfect 4 ft empty tubes spin-off without me.
Its killing me where can I put my foot no where looks safe within site , I can’t risk the lacerations. Experience tells . I have to retreat and try to find an easier way, the pain of reef walking has never been so intense, I am not a bootie wearer by choice by I feel I am being converted. I am looking, searching the coral for a break or stunted growth that can be traversed but nothing looks obvious, the pain is acute and I am ready to give up and wait for high tide to paddle over this forest of shell.
The waves keep peeling and I occasionally glance at one while getting a footing, it looks so inviting you just have to crawl through barbed wire to get to it. I steel myself one last try 50 metres up the reef there is a narrow key hole its my first time here and there are no locals to follow out and learn the steps I am on my own now. I feel the coral crumble under the weight of my step I am moving very slowly I am praying to doesn’t pierce my skin, the pain is excruciating, the key hole is narrow and I am going to have to jump into it further back than I would wish but its my only chance. A swell washes down the shute and I throw myself onto it the force I push-off with snaps the coral heads I am standing on and I lift my legs as high as possible so they don’t get sliced when I land on my board the rising swell cushions the landing but I hear the tail of the board crack the edge of the ledge, the narrow channel starts draining fast as the next wave approaches and I steady and straighten the board so I don’t bump against the side walls , the water drains fast and I am getting squirted out of the channel and need to get clear before the next swell arrives, I paddle furiously to escape this little cheese grater chamber I find myself locked in as I whoosh past the coral walls which surround me I am focused on the deep green calm sea metres ahead and know I must make it before the next swell puts me back up on the coral death-bed surrounding me, I clear the entrance as the next wall of water starts to fill the entrance, of the key hole.
I give myself a few minutes rest and let my heart stop racing, my feet are ever so grateful and I question why I put myself through that much pain to catch a wave. Cemento Reef is super punchy and an exciting wave, but in the back of my mind was the nagging thought how the hell am I going to get out of here.