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    "A human spot...all too human": Capo Mannu, surfing in Sardinia's heaven

    Straddling the board, Nikole observes the gray limbo where the waves are born, crushed in the perspective by the horizon. The Mistral sweeps the western coasts of Sardinia, the sky is a whim of blue and dark, low clouds. The series melts into a compact lump of crests that advance indistinctly and mount in moving walls on the peak. Nikole lets the first pass, too impetuous and steep, but turns the table and stretches out on it. She adjusts the position with a few strokes, constantly turning her head to look for that intuition of harmony that precedes the trigger of the take-off. She’s got to jump on a moving train. She lets the second wave slide beneath her belly too. Then the strokes become more determined, the third is the good one, one more glance and the clear, unequivocal feeling that the board has hooked the power of the wave. A thrust of the spine and she finds herself standing on her feet, ready to cushion with the knees the step to land and let the fins bite into the wall. It whizzes away launched from a magnificent right, crouching down, compacting itself to keep the balance. When the thrust ends, she jumps off the board, re-emerging from the foam that the waves have generated with the friction on the rocky plain. She stretches out and starts rowing to get back on the line-up, against the current, with the ease of an otter.

    Nikole is the only one to have ventured into the spot called "Punta", one of the four formidable peaks of what is usually summed up in "Capo Mannu", the Mecca of Sardinian, Italian and Mediterranean surfing. A gift given by nature to wave surfers: when much of the west coast is overwhelmed by the sea activated by the north-west wind, and undergoes a majestic storm but ungovernable in terms of measure and period, the piece of land that seems almost torn from the northern protuberance of the Gulf of Oristano guarantees a miraculous protection. The wave motion hits the northern crest of the promontory, wraps and flows on the jagged southern profile, reducing and shaping, according to the intensity of the mistral, in waves of different shapes. Capo Mannu, Mini Capo, Punta and Banzai, four spots in just over a kilometer, almost entirely accessible on foot. Height and period are progressively reduce: if in Bugerru (southern province of Sulcis) four unusable meters fall on the pier of the small port, in Capo Mannu there are two meters, at Mini Capo one and a half, at Punta one meter, at Banzai half a meter which arrives every twenty seconds and on which the barrage of longboarders take off, placidly lined up a few hundred meters from the beach of Mandriola.

    Today Capo Mannu is deserted, and a single solitary longboarder is waiting very rare jolts of water in Banzai. Only Punta, usually territory of the more experienced long boards, seems to offer surfable conditions, although demanding a short board. The waves are steep and fast, irregular. The intermittent rain that falls meets in mid-air the ascending lash of the spray that the wind pulls from the crests of the waves. The four spots are usually crowded. Many wait at home for the audio and picture chain to start flowing in their mobiles. The most experienced calculate with the knowledge of experience and feeling, the guts tuned-up on the weather. Others venture, hope for contingency or rapid change. They walk along the path of the promontory, observing, evaluating, hesitating. There is always an avant-garde who surfing the first wave demonstrates the achieved degree of practicability, moves the undecided who run to put on a wetsuit, hood and shoes, scratch the paraffin on the boards in the road that winds between the thin row of houses and the Mediterranean scrub: a circus of campers, vans and cars on summer weekends of soft waves and light until nine in the evening. Competition in water often tramples the rules of precedence and re-entry, it is a state of nature that everyone removes, hegemons and subordinates. But beyond the hierarchies there is sunset, and twilight, a peaceful (or stormy) communion with nature.

    Today the avant-garde was Nikole. We reach her on the line-up after a tiring ascent. “I came here for the first time this summer, and I fell in love with the place and the waves. A month ago the company I work for granted me smart-working, so I took a plane and moved ", she explains, with an eye always on the horizon, while we constantly paddle to oppose the current and keep our nails on the line- up. “In Austria I am also a snowboard instructor, a sport that I love. But nothing compares to the intensity that this place gives you, the quality of the waves, the beauty of nature". Enters Marco, who until a few minutes before was observing the changing conditions from the cliff. He comes from Oristano, and knows pretty well the changing dynamism of the waves. It immediately captures a favorable position for take-off, descends the wall, meets a further jolt of the water in the middle of the dying wave, climbs on it wrapping it with a tack and continues to slide. Half an hour and from the current Francesca and Sonia emerge, barefoot, with their cold hair glued to their heads by water and wind. Francesca is from Santa Giusta, while Sonia came from Cuneo with her partner. He teaches surfing at a nearby camping, she teaches yoga. They too called by the music of the sea, emigrants surfing-migrants.

    "Capo Mannu has been an internationally known spot for a long time now. For this reason our administration has been promoting the organization of important sporting events for five years" explains Daniela Zaru, councilor for culture, tourism and sport of the municipality of San Vero Milis. “We have hosted the Italian surfing championships for four editions, and supported the growth of the Surf Festival which in 2019, before the pandemic, reached its third edition. Now an event of national importance. We have the oldest Italian surf school, the ‘Is Benas Surf Club’. Just two weeks ago we hosted the national kite surfing championships. The Sanverese coast is also suitable for windsurfing and sailing, triathlon and mountain biking. We do everything to promote initiatives that represent our lifestyle, based on ancient traditions, health and environmental protection. Together with the different subjects we are able to protect the sea and the coast. We are a plastic-free municipality and with the territorial design we have invested a lot of funds to develop walks, calisthenics stations, cycle paths, always thinking about sustainability, harmony with the environment".

    From the Austrian Alps Nikole perhaps brought a desire for solitude. We are now seven on the Punta line-up. She wanted to train in the inclement conditions in order to be ready for gentler waves. She grabs a lift from the foamy reflux wave. We see her in the distance, scurrying on the rock plateau as on burning coals. Conditions are slowly improving, but it's time to go, for us too. "Capo Mannu is a gift that nature has given to Sardinia. Several factors added up to give us these waves, waves that are of a quality that has little to envy to many ocean spots”, says Marcello, from the Marches, interviewed during the dressing phases in the dirt road behind, where cars begin to arrive. To pursue surfing, which he practices in all its forms, he lived in the north of Spain, where between one wave and another he took his first specialization in medicine. Now, in Cagliari, he faces the second in anesthesia. He had no doubts about the destination to choose, after passing the national selection: “Not only Capo Mannu. A short distance from here is the spot of Sa Mesa longa, which is perfect when the wind ceases to blow. Here I surfed the best waves of my life. Crystal clear water, the natural pools among the rocks, the Tower that looms above you. An authentic territory, which remains wild even during the tourist season".

    “This place is magic” the newcomer Alessandro answer sjoyfully, with a broad ecstatic smile and an hectic desire to see what the Mistral is today delivering. He studies philosophy in Cagliari but comes from Siamanna, a small town in the Oristano area. “Feel it…we are surrounded by the scent of rosemary and mastic. The hares run around in the thick of the Mediterranean scrub, the air is pure. In front of us is the island of Mal di Ventre, which together with the Sinis peninsula forms the Marine Protected Area. The sun sets over the sea and the only words you can say are freedom and infinity. In the summer season I come with my camper and climb up the cliff. The night is only the vastness of the starry sky and the sea that breaks on the rocks. A human place, all too human".

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