Saturday, April 5, 2014

That Moment When You Nearly Drown To Death...

Today I went to grab a cuppa at the beach with a man called Peter, who I met a few days ago after the Monday Nite Jam, and after coffee we made our way to the beach, chatted for a good hour before deciding to take a bit of a swim. 

Now the last time I was at this beach, famous Bondi Beach, where they have a show called "Bondi Rescue" after this beach, someone on their surfboard swimming pass me said: “Are you okay?” and I remember thinking that was so weird… like yeah, I’m just swimming. Granted, the tide is pretty strong, but I got this dude. I remember coming to shore and telling my girlfriend Serena that I had a bit of a rough time getting to shore…but it didn’t really phase me. 

This time Peter and I jumped in, and as usual, I dived right in and swam and swam around. …we had a nice time swimming around for a second and then I noticed I had drifted quite far from him….but I didn’t really mind…I was there to swim in the ocean, and we’d meet back up on shore. The waves were pretty big and the current really strong but…nothing I haven’t seen before, I thought . . .

I was very...very wrong.
I floated on my back for a little bit after I drifted from Peter, and a man came by on his surfboard and asked “Are you okay?” …I thought to myself “That’s weird, that happened last time too..” I started to wonder if I look like I’m drowning when I swim. How come every time I come here to swim a surfer asks me that. Do I look helpless? I take a bit of pride in how well I can swim…the last person I challenged in swimming (and won) is a 6’3’’, very fit young man. How a semi-overweight 5’5’’ young girl could beat that? Yeah, only growing up in the ocean will do that I reckon. I’ve never been worried in the ocean except for when a rip curl takes me under, or for possible sharks. But as for swimming around in it…naaaah….but never again will I ever take her power for granted. I thought I had a pretty healthy respect for it….and now I know I do. 

Right after that gentlemen paddled on, after I told him I was just fine, within seconds, I looked out for Peter and saw him on the shore. He looked very very small….it was one of those head tilt moments...those..."Wait huh?" -- and I realised I was VERY far out from shore. Then, the wave before me lied flat as it reached the shore…and I saw just how much water lay between me and safety. I thought to myself “Wow, I’d better swim back in” ….So I began to swim…and swim…and swim….and swim…and swim... and I looked up again only to see that Peter did not appear any closer, and that I had not made any progress. This went on for a while. . . because I was caught in a full on rip-current. 

Imagine a little human just stuck in that. No thanks. 

Because I did not see the designated flags where people should swim, and did not know enough about didn't at all seem odd to me that I was the only one swimming around freely where only surfers with board were paddling out. This is why two surfers swam by asking if I was alright, because it was a zone where no one should be swimming without a floatation device.

Now, I know that you're meant to move parallel but...I just felt like the whole rip was felt like no matter where I went I was being drawn out by the current. I started to have a little bit of a panic attack. I've never been caught in a rip current before...and I know that many swimmers that do get caught in them, they drown. My feet keep shooting down to reach for sand, only to be met with water to work with. I am now in this realisation that I am so very very far from shore, and not at all sure if anyone even realises I’m out here. I begin to swim again, and fiercely now because all that is on my mind is getting to a place where I can at least get my feet in the sand. As sore as my body is, I am giving it everything, but of course, to no avail…and helplessness sets in. I had just completed a very long work out not 24 hours prior, and my body was a bit sore from it…and now I'm trying to fight the ocean. Yeah, okay. You can't even do that as an olympic swimmer...basically you cannot ever beat or out swim a rip current. A statistic states: "A Strong rip current moves at 3 feet per second, which is as fast as an Olympic Swimmer in a 50 metre sprint"

At this point, I start to really really panic now as I realise that if I don’t get to shore soon, there were two fates that lay ahead. I will either drift out very far...which meant out to where Sharks are...and that I would have to swim the equivalent of a dozen or so olympic sized pools to get back...where sharks kick it. No.

 It was either that, or I was going to drown. I am so exhausted at this point, I can’t swim any harder than I already am, and I’m breathing heavy. I am breathing heavy not from only fighting an exhausting and futile fight, but also that I'm sort of full on panicking at this point. They say that is what kills most swimmers, is that they go into panic mode and breathing just becomes really really hard. As this realisation sets in, I again try my damnedest to at least get my feet to hit some sand, moving right, left, forward, but this rip current was pretty big. I was after all swimming in the surf. I’m swimming and kicking and I am at this point just at my end here, I can barely breathe, my mind is boggled, and just as I begin to vocalise to myself my panic (by repeating “holy shit, holy shit!!”), a huge wave dumps on me and curls me under, hard. 

It’s all slow motion. The impossible has just happened. I was barely making it above water…taking in tiny little bits of air, and now I am under it all, and curling in. Immediately I open my eyes and for what felt like forever…all I can see is water…is current…I think I was feeling that if I was to die right then, I was not going to shut my eyes to the reality of the last moments of my life. 

When I went under,  I just thought to myself I need to stay calm enough until I stop curling in, to then make my move up to the surface because I NEED AIR NOW!

My second thought was "Dear God, please not today!"

My other thought through out all of this: You smoke too much-- if you make it out, you really need to reevaluate your addiction to tobacco. I could feel the weight of every single cigarette I've ever smoked as I was swimming for my life out there, completely out of breath. 

I pleaded in my heart that He would keep me, because I felt surely I was about to die. 
And just as I thought that, with every last bit of energy, I flapped my arms and kicked my legs to the surface…with my hair plastered over my face, I arise GASPING …hair getting sucked into my open mouth. But what little air did get through that curtain of thick wet hair, was all I needed. 

Just then, I saw a man on his board a bit a ways from me…I looked at him but couldn’t say anything. I just kept trying to keep myself up over the waves and going toward the shore…I kept saying “holy shit!” out loud as I paddled. I know. Not the best way to go out if I am to go out, but it was sort of like a “This can’t be real! Is this real? Are you serious?” I just couldn’t think of anything but the fact that, even though I was dead-set on NOT dying…there was this huge part of me that sort of told myself “Well, it JUST might happen…so just be prepared” It was like half denial and half acceptance…and such a moment of my life. 

I kept looking over at this guy, but I couldn’t bring myself to say or holler anything to him. I didn’t know if he was going to swim past me or not, and for the life of me (literally) I could not bring myself to say anything. I just kept looking and looking back at the ocean in front of me, trying not to collapse. I knew I needed to stay calm but when you're at the mercy at something SO powerful...It was like being in the jaws of a lion...and just knowing that at any could be your last. I should have continued to swim parallel or at least just tried to drift out but the fact was, I was caught in such a strong current, and really far out. Even if I did let myself drift...I'd still have to kick my feet against this current under me, to keep myself afloat. 

So no I am in full on panic-mode (Which is NOT at all a trait of mine…I don’t hyperventilate and do all that), on top of the fact that I had been fighting this current for a while, I am at the absolute end of my rope and I am just needing something to hold on to— I swear, just then this surfer is close enough where he can pus his board toward me. He does so and tells me to “Grab the board” was the moment of my life, my God..I just remember saying “Oh my GOD, Thank You!"

Another man on a paddle board came out to meet us and and told me to get on it, as I was getting on he asked me “What are you doing swimming out here?” …I told him “Sir, I don’t know!”…I had nothing to say for myself…. We soon got close enough where I could put my feet in the sand; I found this out after he told me to lie down, and as I went to do so, I fell off the board hahaha….Peter told me later they all had a bit of a giggle over it on shore. Which made me laugh too!

But yeah, then he just told me to walk directly to the right and head out to shore. 
As I got on shore, the other lifeguard said “Miss, you need to swim only between the flags— did you not see that sign there? No one can swim here!” He points to  sign near by which…was not at all near where I started swimming. All I could do was say I'm sorry and I'm grateful!

Never have I ever thought I was going to die, the way I did in that moment…the last time I felt anything close to this was when I went FA-LYING over my handle bars in the middle of a street, on a blind turn. I could not breathe when I made impact with the concrete, and I just kept thinking…if I don’t move out of the middle of the street, some car could come zooming around this corner and run me over….I knew it at the moment, and I was a little scared, as I couldn’t move for lack of breathing for nearly a minute…but in the back of my mind, I knew I would be okay…At least a car could maybe hit the breaks quick enough or something. I was at least on solid ground...

What happened today….there was no, "once I collect my breath, I can make it to safety." Even with all the breath I had in me….I could not get out from the water. God bless that Surfer man! Peter told me he had never seen the tide turn so quick before…

In all my years playing in the ocean…My God, neither have I. 

But then again, I don't usually swim where I'm surrounded by only surfers. Sometimes I don't think too good man...

Australia, the country…is INCREDIBLE. The raw earth here is ….wow. A reckoning force man. 

So the lesson learnt here is if there are flags on the beach...SWIM there....and if you every ever ever get gripped by a rip tide . . . swim parallel if you can. If you can't, don't fight it....just drift because you WILL exhaust yourself and if there is no silver surfer or anyone'll lose man. And dude, if you notice there are heaps of surfers around, and they keep asking if you're okay, take a hint man. I was so blinded by the fact that I was such a "Great swimmer" that it didn't even occur to me there is probably a strong current here which is why all the surfers are out, and NO swimmers are. Ridiculous.

No comments:

Post a Comment