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November 21, 2010
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“I’m scared.” Those were the words that raced through my mind. “I’m scared, I’m scared, oh God, I am so scared!” The waves came quickly as if they were purposely trying to drown me. Bone-chilling water pulled me in deeper and deeper until all at once I was breathing in salty foam. My feet were far from the dark ocean bottom, and my legs felt as if they were being pierced by sharp needles. So cold. So scared. It was almost sick how quickly the freezing Cornado water went from perfect-sized waves to a powerful riptide. During a split-second break between waves, I desperately tried to lift my head above the water. “Help-!” Another enormous wave crashed over my head, and my breath was cut off. Did anyone hear me?

With all my energy, I fought the chilling water, pulling myself to the surface. “Daddy, help!” More waves came. Strong currents had pulled me in so deep that now the sandy shore seemed miles away. Close to hysterics, I tried to scream one last time. “Please, someone help me!” Boom! My whole entire body was rolled around in the wave like some horrible washing machine.

“It’s too late,” my numb mind told me.

“No way,” I replied. Using every last ounce of strength, I got my head back up gasping for air.

I heard my dad’s voice as he called out that he was coming, but I was far from relieved. I truly did not believe he would make it to me in time. “Just swim to the side,” he said in an almost relaxed voice.

In between crashing waves I screamed out, “How are you so fricken’ calm?!” Water flowed into my mouth, choking me.

“Watch out!” I heard my dad shout. I glanced behind me, frantically paddling my arms and legs, begging them to stay strong. A few yards ahead of me was the biggest wave I had ever seen. Colossal and terrifying, it made my stomach drop and my body shake uncontrollably. I did not think I would make it back to the shore.

Tears mixed with the salt surrounding my face as I cried. But soon enough I realized that my sobs would do no good. If I wanted to live, I would have to fight for it. Taking a deep breath, I began swimming as hard as I could to the left. Fire was running through my body instead of ice now. My body felt high on adrenaline.

“That’s it Bella! Come on!” Pushing my arms through the choppy water, I concentrated on my breathing. Left arm, right arm, breathe. The horrifying wave was feet away now. Stopping, I closed my eyes and braced myself for the crash. But it never came.

I was back on the warm, sun-kissed sand now. The wave crashed at my shivering feet and I unsuccessfully tried to exhale. Arms came around me and carried me to a bright umbrella.

“It’s okay, you’re okay,” my dad reassured me as I sobbed. He set me on a beach chair and put a towel around my shaking body. Then, my dad slowly began explaining the proper procedure in case I were to ever encounter a riptide. After he was finished “debriefing” me, I began to crack up. Maybe it was because of how he was teaching me afterwards, or maybe it was my goofy way of showing how happy I was to be alive. I laughed long and hard until tears fell from my eyes.

“So...” my dad murmured. “Are you all good?”

“Ya,” I replied as I shook my head at myself. “Actually, let’s go back out!”

He smiled. “Sounds like fun.”

Later that day I got caught in yet another riptide, but because of my last experience, I made it back to the shore fine. Whenever I mess something up, I always look back on that day. Whether it’s after falling while attempting a new dance combination, or missing a goal during an important soccer game, I remember the riptide. That day I learned one of the most important lessons of my life: It does not matter how many waves you nearly die in. What really matters is that you always have the strength and courage to go back out.

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marilyn said...
Dec. 6, 2010 at 10:23 am
OK - so I lived in Coronado for more than 30 years - so my sons fought the waves there from time to time - but that's the best anaylsis of a bad day at the beach I've ever read!
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