This morning I was at the beach with my bodyboard. I started about two years ago and though I have been in the water a lot I haven’t graduated very far. I can catch waves and even ride them when the conditions are right but because I am afraid go out of my depth I have missed out on picking up more skills.
I wasn’t able to swim when I was a child, I got a bit of a scare at the beach once and it dented my confidence but I loved playing in big waves. When I was a teenage I had no fear and often hurled myself from any available pier in to deep water. The summer I was 18 I remember swimming at the pier at Tramore in a thunderstorm at night.
It was in my 20s that I got my biggest fright. I threw myself into the water at Newtown Cove as I had always done but this time when my foot hit the bottom I remember asking myself why I was in such deep water when I didn’t know how to swim. Panic immediately set in. My body formed itself into an arrow that pointed straight down and I began to drown.
Luckily, so I thought, a lifeguard trained friend was nearby. As I made it to the surface, I informed her I was drowning. She told me to get out of the water and began to move away from me. I survived by lunging for the pier wall. Some other friends swam over and when I asked them why they hadn’t come to save me they said they didn’t want to cause a scene. No-one wants to be near a drowner.
Since then I have learned to swim and now I am a strong pool swimmer but only if the wall is near. The deep still holds fear for me but the lure of the sea is nearly as great and a few years back I began to swim with a group that swims in the sea all year around, and soon afterwards I began to bodyboard.
Last year I was sucked out of my depth by a rip on a sunny and relatively calm day when the tide was turning. I began to panic but dragged my mind back to the situation and though my arms weakened with fear I began paddling and kicking and was eventually able to catch a wave and ride it in.
The last time I was in the sea a small seal popped up beside me scaring the bejesus out of both of us. Clad in a wetsuit and hood I must have looked like a giant Mammy seal to him and it took him a while to decide I wasn’t and he swam off to continue his search.
Despite my fear a wetsuit and a bodyboard are the best purchases I have ever made. I have been in the sea in all conditions from calm to storm and there is nothing as energizing as being tossed about in the paws of wild rollers.
This morning there was no-one else in the water and it was quite cold even in my suit but it was good to be in the sea, the breaking waves glowing like ermine around me. Above the beach the Surf Centre and The Sandcastle shop beside it were gleaming in the sun. Out in the bay diving birds were tearing knots of spray in the water and the sea reflected the blue of the sky and the grey of the clouds in interlocking ripples. Does it get any better than this?