New Swell

By Byron Loker

Double Storey

www.byronloker.com

New Swell

With his uncluttered style and wry look on
the craziness of a surfer’s life in modern South
Africa, Byron Loker is reminiscent of a young,
surfing, slightly-less-fucked-up Charles
Bukowski. His work is modern-day South African Beat, easy to read,
sharply observed, engaging, sad, but also very funny.

Loker’s work has been published before in surf magazines and
journals, and it was only a matter of time until this book came
out. He was studied under the revered South African author, Andre
Brink at the University of Cape Town’s Creative Writing Course and
is their most successful graduate to date. His writing is about life,
and surfing is a part of his life, so expect plenty of wave wandering,
as well as vignettes on living in a world full of strange, often
frightening juxtapositions.

There is an excellent story about car guards, an intrinsic
part of a surfer’s life in South Africa. While many surfers
begrudge paying these guys, if there were no informal car
guards around our car parks, most of us would be getting
ripped off before we even hit the water. They are usually big
characters, and Byron takes us inside their world through one
guy he became friends with.

There’s a very funny, poignant story of one of his drunken
friends who falls in love with a beautiful girl and heads off up the
coast to find her. His car breaks down and jams in reverse and he
continues on his way, driving backwards as far as he can until he
eventually gives up and dumps the car by the side of the road.
Then there are the tragic-comic stories, like the one about
the domestic workers who look after the flats he lives in, and how
he comes across them from time to time while going surfing or
checking the waves. Gradually, his life gets pulled into theirs, and a
myriad of crazy, tragic situations unfold.

There are South African Police roadblocks, and cops convinced
that they’d found a huge marijuana stash on the Transkei border,
when in fact it’s Loker and friend’s wet wetsuits stinking inside
black bags. There’s the terrible train accident on the line just
opposite the fine long walls of Elands Bay on the West Coast, and
there’s the joy of simply going surfing and washing away the
troubles of being a young surfer trying to fi nd his way in life. Loker cuts to the chase in a way that would get even the most hardened
of cynics smiling.

If you want to an insight into what being a surfer in South
Africa is all about, or just enjoy Loker celebrating the surfing
life in the chaos of today’s South Africa, then read this book. It’ll
make you smile, and smiling is good for you.

– Craig Jarvis

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