The Accidental Extremist
Because bad trips make great stories.

Toothy Grin [Water Water Everywhere]
Monday June 29th 2009, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

Here’s another yarn from the fearless Tetsuhiko Endo, who laughs in the face of reefs and big waves, even when they laugh right back in his face, with bloody results. — Ed.

“How was the sunrise church service?” My mom asked over the phone.

“It was gweat,” I replied through a mouth full of broken teeth and one severely swollen tongue. 

“Were there a lot of people there?”

“A foo people,” I thought quickly.  “Pwobably mo’ than usual because it was Eastuh, but it was jus the wight amount.  We had a gweat time.”

“That’s good.  And, honey: what’s wrong with your voice?”


            The truth was, on Easter Sunday 2006 I hadn’t been anywhere near a sunrise church service.  I mean, I had planned to be – the Thursday before I had informed my long suffering mother that I would be going to the aforementioned service with friends from my Scottish university and we would greet the sunrise on the day of Christ’s resurrection from the ruins of a 12thcentury cathedral while enjoying a sermon by one of the local ministers.  If nothing else, it would be nice to see the sunrise sober for once.

            Just as I was settling into my weekend of repose and reflection, my friend Sam, who speaks like Frodo Baggins, called from his home near Edinburgh.

            “Ted, we’re getting a wee swell here this weekend, would ya like to come surf in the Bellhaven competition?  We’re short a team member and could really use ya.”

            I wish I could say that he twisted my arm.  Bellhaven is a quaint Eastern Scottish kingdom that hugs the north sea.  It’s quintessential small town Scotland – rolling hills, mottled pastures, tiny villages with the odd beer brewery or golf course.  The spring and summer are beautiful and the autumn and winter require heavy boozing.  Bellhaven is also a center of Scottish surfing.  Some of the first Scotsmen to venture into the sea for reasons other than fishing and warfare did so at the beaches and reefs around Bellhaven like Coldingham Bay, Pease Bay and the much-mythologized 13’s.

            13’s is a right hand reef break that grinds away just off the green of the 13th hole of a golf course.  In fact, you had to run across the course to get out into the water.  Sounds sporting right?  I figured I would show up on Saturday, surf 13’s, show those Jacobite scum how real surfers do it on Sunday, then ride off into the Easter sunset on the last train home Sunday night.

            Everything went according to plan until Sam and I paddled out for an evening session at the fabled wave on Saturday night.  It was damp and chilly, darkness was descending.  The waves were waist to chest high and really pitching into just two or three feet of murky water.  We were the only ones out and traded waves for a while just enjoying the rush of the ocean’s energy.  About half an hour into the session, I took off on a mid-sized wave and went to stand up. Things went badly and my board and I got heartily pitched over the falls. When I hit the water, my first worry was that I would kiss the bottom.  I quickly forgot about that when my board spun out of the depths and broadsided me square across the left side of my face. 

            I staggered to my feet in the thigh deep water seeing stars and spitting grit from my mouth.  On closer inspection, the grit turned out to be pieces of almost every tooth on the right side of my mouth.  I would have cursed, but another wave broke on top of me and dragged me over the reef until I was standing in knee deep water.  There was now a fair bit of blood mixed with teeth chips I was spitting.  I paddled back out.

            “Sam!” I called, finding it difficult to form coherent words with a cut and rapidly swelling tongue.  “Ah need you, to loo ah mah mouf.” I opened wide and stuck out my tongue.  Sam’s eyes bulged to the size of golf balls. 

            “I think we might need to take you to the hospital.”

            “Gawdamnit, Sam!” I was indignant.  “You are suppose’ to say it loo’s otay!”

            “I’m sorry, but it really look bad, like.”

            I sucked up some water and rinsed my mouth out.  “How abou’ now?”

            “Yep, it still looks pretty bad.” Sam looked even more concerned.


            “We should get out – the blood might attract sharks.”

            “Wha?  Sam: we’uh in the Noth Sea! They’uh no shahks in the Noth Sea!”

            “My brother saw one a month ago, right near here in fact.”

            “Go to hell, Sam.”

I paddled away and surfed until it got dark, just to spite him. 

            I didn’t eat that night and got about half an hour of restless sleep from the pain in my jaw, tongue, teeth and general facial area.  The next morning, at about the same time Jesus was rolling the boulder away from his tomb, I came in dead last in a four-man competition heat.  One of the men who beat me was in his early 40’s.

            Sam’s last words to me at the train station were.  “Come back any time – you might still want to get that tongue looked at though.”

            “Watch ow fo those sharks,” I replied. 

I sat on the train back to St Andrews trying to nod off but every time I leaned my head against the window, the tiniest jolts would rattle me awake with tremors of pain.  Then, of course, my mom called.  

The good news was that within a day or two I could chew solid foods again and the rest generally sorted itself out with time. When I finally went to the dentist to get the teeth fixed a few months later I opened my mouth and saw the exact same look on my dentist that Sam had given me in the water.

            “Jesus.  What the hell did you do?”  he said, in the first and last time I have ever heard a dentist curse. 

Tetsuhiko Endo


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I didn’t notice a thing last time we met. Still got that winning smile!!


Comment by deeball 07.15.09 @ 12:10 am

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