It’s true what they say about riding a bike: you never forget how, but riding on a sandy beach is a very different story!
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and it’s easy going on the hard sand left behind by the low tide. The scene is rife with beautiful images and it’s a joy to ride along the crashing waves. As a photographer I’m overwhelmed by the potential for images. With a GoPro in one hand and my Samsung S9 in the other I’m pushing my multi-tasking ability to the limit attempting to take photos and videos at the same time. I learn very quickly that this is a bad idea as I hit a patch of soft sand and lose control. The front wheel digs in, slides to the side and next thing I know I’m face down in the sand. I then had to clean the sand off the drive chain using my precious fresh water supply.
To try and capture the excitement, glamour and pure thrill of riding a fat bike stacked with fishing gear on a beach, I ask our guide, Jeff Asher-Wood to do a couple of rides past for me to shoot. But the shot just isn’t right, we are heading north, so the sun is behind me and the beautiful, pink-washed sunrise sky is wasted. But being a good sport Jeff does it again, this time coming from the other side with the sun now behind him. The image is much better – with all his fishing gear strapped to his bike the rising sun behind him highlights the adventure we are embarking on. While powering on to get to our first fishing spot I stop regularly to shoot more images of our group in front of the sea and sky that is turning more and more spectacular. To get all the angles I overtake our group every so often to get in front of them.
After a while however the enthusiasm and excitement of the scenery is replaced by the weighty burden that the heavy camera equipment on my back suddenly becomes – time to focus on getting to the spot and thankfully a short while later Jeff signals our arrival.
The relief of being able to rid myself of the heavy backpack prompts me to make a mental note for next time: pack lighter! My discomfort however doesn’t last long as the sunrise reaches its most beautiful moment and we decide to get some shots of Jeff’s bike set-up with his rod holder and bait bucket before rigging up. These are the moments that make it worth getting up at 03:00!
The spray and mist from the ocean create an additional challenge for anyone planning to carry a camera along. Saltwater is definitely not good for any camera gear, professional or not. As a result, the smartphones we all carry around in our pockets become our most valued tool. Colleague Charmagne and I both have a Samsung S9 that is waterproof, so getting it wet in the waves is no problem at all and these days the image quality rivals any camera. But take note, if you submerge any gear, GoPro, Smartphone or any waterproof camera in saltwater, be sure to rinse it with freshwater as with time the salt will affect even the toughest of gear.
Being on assignment to get high-res images for the magazine I have no choice but to pull out the big camera and shoot bait set-ups and rigs while our guides Jeff and Jonathan rig rods for everyone. Next thing I know the camera in my hand is replaced by a rod and I’m facing the sea, looking at what remains of the sunrise and waiting for a bite.
Now that all the hype of riding a bicycle along the beach settles down and everyone is focused on fishing, we can all reflect on why this is such a unique way of getting to the spot. Not many are willing to go through the effort, so we are entirely alone, apart from the odd other fat bike enthusiast that is also willing to go the extra mile. True serenity, the only things missing now are the fish!
This being my very first rock and surf fishing outing I have no idea what I’m doing – a proper beginner to put Jeff’s skills to the test! But Jeff is a great guide and talks me through everything and his demo cast is exactly where the fish should be. Minutes later my lesson is interrupted as Charmagne gets a bite way off to my left. Jeff, showing his experience once again, comments, “I bet that’s a Three Spot Pompano she’s got on there”. He sure knows his stuff as moments later Jonathan helps her land the fish, a beautiful Three Spot and a good size as well. After shooting the catch it is safely returned to the sea.
Standing on the beach with a rod in my hand waiting for a bite isn’t very exciting, and I get bored quite fast, but Jeff is very active and we change baits frequently, which gives me time to take more photos while he is busy, making sure to safely store the camera in my bag every time I’m done.
After a long morning, missing a couple of bites and multiple bait changes later, I finally get into a fish. At first, I didn’t even realize there was a fish on – in the current and between the reef I could hardly feel the bite, and it was only Jeff’s trained eye that noticed the movement on the tip of the rod. With some quick help from Jeff I soon got it out, a beautiful Cave Bass, no giant but an interesting fish, nevertheless. Having never seen one before pictures are a must and after some admiration on my part the fish is released. What a cool looking fish it was! Unfortunately, this is my only fish for the day but to me the images I captured well made up for it. A while later it is time to head back, and this is where the day becomes difficult. Riding back to the car in the midday heat is far from ideal, additionally being on a bike that I have never ridden before the seat quickly becomes unbearable and I am forced to get off and push quite regularly. Note for next time: pack padded cycling shorts! In the heat the sand becomes softer and makes riding extremely difficult. Our only option is to ride up the dunes where it’s more compact and then to use the downhills to rest a little.
Struggling on we eventually make it back to the car, but before loading the bikes Jeff makes a point to wash them properly with freshwater at the beachside showers to rid them of any salt, a very important action to maintain the gear. Once back in town with an ice-cold drink in hand I could reflect on the day – it was definitely an experience to remember. Riding along the beach to get as far away from any other people as possible is what made this such a great experience for me. And, particularly for the anglers, having an entire section of beach to yourself is reward enough for the challenging ride and early morning start.
Na die dag se hengel kon ons ontspan by Oppi Rotse in St Lucia. Hulle het verskeie selfhelp eenhede met aparte braai areas, so ook bed en ontbyt geriewe en gratis WiFi. Alle kamers is toegerus met lugverkoeling. Die volgende oggend was ons bedien met ’n heerlike ontbyt voor ons terug vertrek het Gauteng toe. Besoek gerus hul webtuiste by: www.oppirotse.com of skakel Valerie by 084 980 5641.