Coming into the train station at Rotterdam, I put my backpack on, grabbed my longboard and daypack, and headed towards the train door with a very relaxed feeling in mind. Even though I had an exam the next morning, I felt relaxed because it wouldn’t really matter if I made it or not… I needed time to do my own projects and couldn’t have exams get in the way of that.
I met my friend Berend at his new place. I hadn’t seen him in a while. Last time was at the sports bar at the Erasmus University gym when he gave me back a necklace I was supposed to keep for myself, as it was a personal gift from my Thai grandfather which I mistook for a double item of something I already had.
Seeing him in the flesh was good. He was working on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, getting lots of skydiving experience and also starting to longboard more seriously since he bought his first new longboard: a Loaded Vanguard with all the works (Bear Trucks, Orangatang Wheels). Something like that would cost you more than €300 at Sickboards here in the Netherlands, although he got it cheaper from the States since he was there and flew back with it.
We caught up a lot and we caught glimpses of how we live our different lives, yet bonded through our past and the magical marijuana herb. We had a very dynamic night with some of his friends coming over and me being myself. I was doing a lot of stretching and a mix match of techniques I’ve learnt over the years sourced from my martial arts, yoga and dance. I was also exploring carbon and sand deposits on his balcony, trying to create a mixture for experimental purposes. You could also just say I was playing with dirt.
With my headlamp on (since it was getting dark) I moved to explore other features on the balcony like a weed that was bursting with life. I was exploring patterning but also interactions between organisms… it’s a fascinating world.
When his friends left, he told me I could draw something on his wall. I ended up adding to someone else’s artwork by drawing a yin yang symbol coming out of a guy’s back who said “mind over body”. I then slept on the couch as it was getting late, and I kind of did want to be up in time for the exam tomorrow even though I was planning to fail it.
Doing the exam was a breeze. I wasn’t stressing about things I didn’t know about and gave it my best shot. I actually answered every single question, including the open ones. The open questions were actually the most fun since I was able to use my creativity more. I basically made ‘educated guesses’ the whole way through, and probably got lucky on some questions since there was a formula sheet in the back which I seemed to get decent results from (close to my estimations). I’m actually curious to the feedback I’ll get back on the exam as I finished 2 minutes before the end.
After the exam, it was time to do something fun. When I came back to Berend’s house, he was about to leave to go eat pancakes with a few friends of his and asked me if I wanted to join, as we could longboard there. Sounded like a good plan! I was curious to what his board would feel like as well.
We skated towards the Maas, although I was noticeably faster with my lower board and higher experience, but it was fun to longboard with a friend. When we were on a parallel bike path to the river, we decided to switch boards. I could finally do some dancing on the board- something I hadn’t done in a longtime since my distance board is not ideal for it. I still had my cross steps, peter pans, and pirouettes in half a decent shape so it was good mixing and matching, and practicing reverse variations and combinations of simple tricks.
We got to a split in the road where there was a road leading down to the dockside of the river, and a higher road which felt a lot safer dancing on since it was guarded by a raised pavement on both sides. It seemed more intuitive to take the high road but I followed my friend’s suggestion, as he thought it would be nicer next to the water, cruising through the docks and I didn’t really know the way anyway… but I felt something inside that was off already when we took the low road. I was in a dancing mood, so I couldn’t resist to practice some tricks as my friend was practicing his step behind me. I think I attempted a nose manual or something (which a Vanguard is definitely not the most ideal board to do one on) and lost control of the board. The board shifted, and rolled towards the direction of the river while I fell back, and I watched helplessly as my friend ran after it a split second too slow.
I came up behind him and watched the board sink into the surface of the water. I acted fast, taking off my clothes and making sure non-waterproof electronics and other accessories like necklaces were off my body and jumped after the board.
I tried to feel the board with my feet first to see if I was in time to catch it sinking, then dived down to see how deep it was and how far I would get… I got about 1 meter before I thought “oh shit, this is not going to work”, at which point I reversed my direction looking for air. I came up gasping, and realized my adrenaline was way too high, my body using too much oxygen, and there wouldn’t be a point in trying again at this moment. Before I jumped, my friend was like “how are you going to get out?” which I figured would be a matter of my climbing techniques… which also came into play.
I grabbed onto the wooden dock pillar and hoisted myself up, partly on my friend who was kind of scared to fall in himself I felt, but my rock climbing abilities and my strength to weight ratio meant I was more or less capable of doing most of the lifting.
Exhausted, I sat on the side, thinking of a next plan of action. 2 people working on the docks came up to us to ask what happened, and we started conversing about how deep it was and how people have died with these kind of actions in the Maas. One man said that most likely the board would stay in its position because it sunk pretty much straight down. That gave me hope that we could still fish it out somehow.
Me and Berend sat down on the docks to figure out a next course of actions. I said from the start that my board is now his board but he rejected the idea, saying that I needed my board more than he does. I took a picture of the dock pole so that we could at least localize where the board was approximately.
Dock pole 48
We called off pancakes at his friend’s place and decided to walk home. He still had to run some errands and thought it was a good idea to have pancakes anyway, so we bought a mix at the supermarket. When we got back to his place, I decided I needed to “put faith into action” by pulling all the strings I possibly could to make something happen. I posted it on Facebook; I explored the option with my dad who happened to call me; I subsequently called my sister to explore the possibility of scuba diving in the Maas to get it. Any idea that seemed half rational, I took it.
I then figured the next step to take would be to localize the board if we could, and figure out the depth of the Maas while we were at it. I Googled some fishing stores but one didn’t exist when I skated there. Berend then suggested a hardware store which I went to next.
The hardware store had nylon rope on one side and a “tuin krabber” on the other side (a gardening tool with 3 big hooks). Perfect. I asked for 10 meters of rope (since another person’s estimate said it was 4meters deep at least) and left the shop with my €6.40 worth of purchases.
Back home, Berend was baking pancakes and we multitasked, cooking, eating and making plans. After the meal and some down time, we headed towards the Maas to see if we could fish it out with our newly acquired tools. Tying the line down and dropping the hook to the bottom got us a good estimate of how deep it was: it definitely seemed diveable, especially with fins. Dragging the line across the bottom, I think I felt it during one run, but couldn’t grab a hold of it.
The whole hook and grab idea didn’t really work out since we did a dry run on land about what was theoretically happening under water, and used my board as a model to simulate the possibility of grabbing it. What we realized that even if we knew where the board was, it would still be difficult to get a perfect position on the board to grab, also because the hook wasn’t always pointing in the right way (perhaps a 3 pointed anchor type tool would’ve worked better?). We decided that this wasn’t going to work either and we called it a day since we exhausted our foreseeable options. I had to head back to Amsterdam since I had duties towards my seed saving organization the next day.
Saying goodbye felt weird because my rule in general is to ‘leave a place behind better than you came in’… which definitely wasn’t the case I felt. Berend took it very well, and said that seeing me again after such a long time was nevertheless a good experience and that we’d figure this out another time since he wasn’t in a rush to solve the matter. But I saw that the longer I waited, the less chance I’d have of ever seeing that board again.
After my seed saving duties the next day (where we legally registered our organization), I had a weird night’s sleep. I didn’t sleep well and couldn’t study because I was making plans about how I was going to solve the sunk longboard issue. I called the government to ask if it was legal for me to swim in the Maas and the lady told me that the law didn’t state anything about it being illegal… which gave me the green lights to attempt a search and recovery. I figured the next step would be to snorkel in the Maas to attempt an exploration at low cost.
In the morning, I went over to the rooftop garden in Amsterdam (where I volunteer) before heading to Rotterdam. It was a really sunny and bright day and I felt optimistic about my attempt to find it back since conditions were optimal. I stopped over at Berend’s house only for tools as he was pressed for time due to incoming exams and duties he had towards extracurricular activities. He actually wanted to come with me to at least make sure I had a lookout for my own safety and made it clear to me that I was not to jump in the water without someone watching me. I figured I’d call some other friends living in Rotterdam to see if they had time, but there was no response. I decided to go ahead to the dive shop anyway and figure my next steps from there.
Souldivers was the closest shop skating from Berend’s house, so I decided to go there first. The staff was very friendly and seemed to want to do a lot of talking (since drop-in customers are rare for specialty stores) but they quickly responded to my needs. They charged double the price for fins compared to a shop more outside of the inner city (MobyDick)
but I didn’t really care since it was only €3 Euros for a whole day anyway. I had my own diving mask, so I skated to the place where it all began: dock pole 48.
Whilst skating, I was also keeping an eye on people who could be potential spotters for me. Nearing the 48 dock pole, I approached a couple who seemed to be meandering past the docks taking their time to read scriptures on the wall there and enjoying the weather. I asked them if they could spare some time to look out for me in case I died. The guy thought the situation was funny and interesting enough to stick around for, so he was like ‘go ahead’.
I stripped down to my boardshorts, put on my fins and diving mask, stood on the edge, and jumped in the water holding my mask to my face. After the splash, I turned around and did an ‘OK’ sign in scuba dive sign language when signaling to the shore. I wasn’t sure if they knew what it meant, but it just felt like a natural thing to do since it really felt like I was going scuba diving. I took a deep breath, and headed face down into the unknown, equalizing my ears whilst feeling my way to the bottom. The ground hit me unexpectedly since it was quite murky and I had probably half a meter of visibility. I then took my time to orientate myself and feel around… and I grabbed something that felt very familiar. I looked at it and my heart leaped with joy. I swam back up with the board in hand and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The couple were also surprised when I came back up so quickly. Having located a ladder at pole 51 earlier, I swam on my back and climbed my way up, taking my fins off in the water just as I was taught in scuba diving.
I thanked the couple and asked if they could take a picture of me for evidence of the event, and so I could share my joy with overcoming my obstacle.
With a total of €9.40 spent, I managed to get a pretty high return on investment. I was amazed at the amount of attention this got on my Facebook feed… my buzz wore off early because I couldn’t see how it could’ve gone any other way but I’m glad many people enjoyed the story, which is why I’ve decided to post a more detailed version on my blog and because it’s blog day 😉 hope to see you again next week!