My Oceanic Adventures Involving a Boogie Board, Some Scabs and a Whole Lot of Sand

August 31, 2008
By Maggie Cregan, Mayfield Village, OH

PART ONE: The Ideal
One little piggy went to market, one little piggy stayed home… and one little piggy is undergoing hypothermia in the frigid, lapsing waves of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Well, that little piggy is just gonna have to quit his whining, as two feet, two whole calves, and the both legs now are submerged in the glacial water. Whether in quick bursts of motion offset by periods of stationary shivering, in a single gallant dive or in an emergency plunge to avoid being pummeled by a wave, you submerge yourself head-to-whining-little-piggy in water. You’ve come this far, past the silk-sand shore, the rocky ditch that cruelly pokes at and prods you’re feet (poor little piggy, he just can’t catch a break today, can he?), and now you stand up to your hips in water on that little sandbar not very far from shore. You hold the bottom of your boogie board against your hipbones, and point the top portion away from yourself, clutching it for dear life about halfway up. Out there, in the distance… could that be one? No, it collapses into nothingness before it reaches you, and several of these misleading impostors wash over you before it’s there, without a doubt. Lean forward, body facing ahead, and crane your neck to look back over your shoulder. It’s getting closer, and bigger. It’s a body-length away from you, and with impeccable timing you put your weight on the board and begin to kick like mad. The water rises under you, racing you to shore. It gathers speed, and soon your kicking is completely irrelevant; you sit atop of the wave, or sneak in on the curved ledge beneath the frothing crest; you ride it in, past the rocky ditch and back to the silk-sand shore. You gather speed, and hurtle in with the only sound in your ears the sound of water propelling forth onto the sand, and the robust wave that brought you in thins out into nothing more than a watery film between board and beach.

PART TWO: The Inevitable

Your hair hangs down in wet locks, and you can feel the sun baking your wet skin as you stand restless on the familiar sand bar. Not expecting to see much, you throw a glance out to sea over your shoulder for the thousandth, maybe the millionth time that sandy, sunny, saltwater day. Your eyes widen when you see a wave forming; and not just a wave but a wave. You scramble hurriedly into position, and your posture takes on an entirely different tone. You gape up at what is building behind you, and you realize later that you’d hesitated just a moment too long; unconscious (or perhaps conscious) fear keeping you in your place. On that last second, you kick off; the last second being precisely a second too late. You feel the wave rushing along as usual, but with much too much force; it’s toppling over you, and you never even get a chance to realize it.

If you’ve never been caught in an ocean wave, I’ll fill you in. First off, you forget about everything except perhaps that subconscious this is bad this is bad this is bad feeling. Once in a blue moon, you can keep some sense of motion or direction if you’ve managed to hand on to your board, but nearly all of the time up is down, down is up, your head is in the sand and you’re sitting back for the ride, because there’s not one thing you can do. You haven’t passed out, but you come-to on the beach, and it’s over as quickly as it began. Before you can think about what hurts how bad and where, you haul yourself up, board dragging down behind you, and run until you’re out of the danger zone where waves topple onto themselves, and you, if you happen to be in the way. Gradually you’re able to sort out, Ow, I hurt, into I cut my knee again and I think I hit my shoulder on a rock. There aren’t any Band-Aids on hand, but even if there were they wouldn’t do any good; they’d just fall off again in the water. You take your football coach’s advice (unless, like me, you’ve never played football in your life) and suck it up. Because with the sound of the wave’s games on the sand growing more tempting every minute, what can you do? You ask your mommy to kiss your boo-boos (something your football coach never advised) and rejoin the game.

PART THREE: The Reality

The reality is that you will get sand and saltwater in your cuts; personally, I think it helps them heal, but then again that’s just me. The reality is that water can be very, very cold; even in the dog days of August, it can get very cold. The reality is that you will get crushed under two tons of ocean water sometime, but there is some good news (unless you’re crazy like me and think that the beginning is good news). There do exist guidelines for preventing Death by Boogie Boarding, and they are THE 10 RULES FOR BOOGIE BOARDING WITHOUT KILLING YOURSELF, ALTHOUGH YOU WILL GET PUMMELED SOMETIME AND I REALLY CAN’T GUARENTEE ANYTHING. So here we go people; here are the rules:
Stand approximately up to your hips in water; any deeper and you won’t be able to kick off with enough force, any shallower and you’re in the Danger Zone (refer to The Inevitable, middle of the second paragraph). That is, unless you’re really tall, in which case just use you’re common sense, that’s what it’s there for!
Velcro you’re board to your wrist! That’s why they put the little Velcro strap at the end of the string, people! Even if you ride the wave perfectly, the tide is going to pull the board back out to sea, and then if you don’t hurry up and catch it you’re gonna have to buy a new one, and well, that’s just too bad for you for not listening to me. So ha.

If you think you’re too late to catch a wave, you’re probably right. In this situation, you’re Boarding at Your Own Risk. Some of the best rides can be had when the wave is towering over you as ready to topple as a stack of Jenga blocks, but also some of the worst crashes.
If you’re on a wave that’s ready to crush you, pull the tip of your board up just a little. If the wave sucks the tip of your board down under two tons of water, your whole board is going under and guess what, you’re next in line. It’s not a guarantee, but it can save your sorry hide if applied properly.
Big waves come in two’s. There might be some scientific explanation for this, or it might just be one of those things. So if you’ve been crushed by a titanic wave, get yourself out of the way because another one’s coming.
Get your head underwater; technically, your shoulders and up don’t have to get wet, but it’s a lot less cold if you just get over with and jump underwater. I’m not saying you have to do it all in one fell swoop; but do it sometime. The easiest way is to get most of your body used to the water, then count to three and dunk yourself.
Start kicking when the wave is right there on your heels. Try to keep yourself about that distance away for a while; but waves will always be faster than you, and the point is that to ride in on the wave. Duh. And if you’ve decided you’re too good to listen to the rules and don’t kick at all, the wave is just gonna wash right over you. Go too soon or wait too long, and you will get crushed.
When you hop on the board to catch a wave, just pull your torso onto the board and leave almost all of you legs dangling over to kick. Move your hand up from the waiting position (halfway up the board) to the top-ish region.
Don’t give up on a wave halfway through; even if it’s tiny, ride it out and I will tell you why. If you try to bail on a wave that’s already gathering momentum, the force of the water will buckle your knees nicely for you, and then you’re rolling about in the Danger Zone with your boogie board bumping about wildly and knocking into your knees and your skull. Then you’ll get a lovely case of sand-burn scraping along the shore; you might even get blasted with an army of those seemingly harmless little pebbles if you’re particularly out of synch with the forces that be.

I know there should be a tenth rule; but that’s really all there is to it that common sense doesn’t provide; and really, how dumb does THE 9 RULES FOR BOOGIE BOARDING WITHOUT KILLING YOURSELF, ALTHOUGH YOU WILL GET PUMMELED YADA YADA YADA sound? So let’s just leave the fact that there’s only really nine rules to ourselves, shall we? So go; put on your sunscreen, follow you rules, eat you veggies, wash behind your ears, try not to kill yourself and for the love of God don’t sue if these rules don’t exactly work out for you.

The author's comments:
Boogie boarding while on vacation with my family and 'beach family' is something I've been doing (with varying success) since I was old enough to hang on to a board. If you ever have the chance, try it out!!! (I'd say it couldn't hurt, but, well, you read it.)

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