I’ve been going to Carlsbad beach for our family vacation since the early 90s. My Mom, Dad, sisters, cousins, aunties and uncles would all show up. This year, I was privileged to bring both of the kids into that tradition.
We played at the beach and “swam,” in the ocean. A few times the kids were pummeled by waves and Gordie actually caught a wave. He was just as surprised as I was. But I stood close to them each time we drew closer and deeper into the water. Mostly because when I was 8, I got caught in a riptide.
Throughout the year, I would save portions of my money from mowing lawns and buy a boogie board at Target the day we arrived to Carlsbad. I loved to boogie board. As I grew older and braver I went farther into the water and eventually reached the points where my feet could no longer touch the sand beneath. I would float, wait for waves and paddle to catch them. But the day I was caught in the riptide was different.
It took me much farther out than I had ever been. The waves were crashing harder and despite all my panicked efforts to swim to shore, I couldn’t find my wave. My arms and legs grew tired from paddling and I became weaker. I was panicking. I cried and looked for someone to help but there wasn’t a life guard or someone on shore to help. When all felt lost, a surfer appeared behind me. I said, “can you help me sir?” He laughed because I called him sir and he was probably only 17. I said, “I can’t swim in.” He said, “you need to paddle the other direction.” He guided the boogie board and waited for the right wave. He yelled to me, “paddle, paddle.” I gave what little energy I had and felt overwhelming relief as I caught a wave long enough to touch my feet on the ocean floor again.
That’s how I learned to swim through the struggles of a riptide. Along the current. But lie sometimes has me wondering what would have happened if I fell adrift to the ocean. I wonder if I could have eventually found the shore again.