Everybody’s been to the beach, right? Most people don’t think time there is so interesting but then again, I’m not everybody.
My first time at the beach was last summer in Virginia Beach, but I wasn’t on a vacation. I am in the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps (USNSCC) and I was at a two-week Naval Special Warfare SEAL Orientation Course. So my first time at the beach was for what we called Hell Day - the hardest, most painful experience someone my age could endure.
There’s nothing like the sound of machine-gun fire and explosions to wake you at four in the morning. It was a rush I will never forget: gunshots, explosions, commotion, chaos, screaming, yelling, and rushing to get ready - Hell Day had begun. As we ran outside, one of our officers sprayed us down with freezing water.
There were 20 of us in USNSCC SEAL Class 26. Once outside, we formed up and were ready for the three-mile run to the beach, wearing boots and uniforms, hauling full backpacks and camelbacks, and carrying our fins and masks. Many times along the way we dropped to do push-ups, flutter-kicks, or other torturous exercises, so it was a long three miles.
At the beach we unloaded the 250-pound zodiac boats and carried them to the water, which was another quarter mile. Then we had 70-pound logs to carry down. Next, we formed a line and our instructors explained a number of commands and safety precautions necessary to survive the day. Then, we ran into the surf-zone and sat in the water. There, they gave us part of a Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) for breakfast.
As we were eating, the sun started to come up, but that was the last time we saw it that day. It quickly became cloudy, windy and cold, especially since we were soaking wet. Then we had to run, do push-ups, perform flutter-kicks, and low-crawl over a mile in the sand. During all of this, the staff and instructors threw sand in our faces and yelled at us. We also had to do some long ocean swims with our masks and snorkels. The four boat crews had races and trust me, it paid to win. My crew won most of the races, so I lucked out. Those who lost had to do more exercises.
We did these competitions and exercises all day, along with taking the zodiacs out and rowing them all over the surf. We had MREs for lunch, and as we sat there soaking wet in the wind, I and many others started to shake uncontrollably.
After lunch we set up to take the zodiacs out. The worst part of taking them out was getting past the surf-zone. We were hammered by huge waves, and a couple of times I was knocked out of the boat, along with some of my shipmates. The boats even flipped over after being hit with such big waves, and they were hard to right. After that there was more physical exercise on the beach.
In all that day, we were beaten for 12 hours nonstop. We ran over 22 miles, swam more than a mile and a half in the ocean, low-crawled over a mile, and did several hundred push-ups, sit-ups, and flutter-kicks. This was one of the longest, most painful days of my life. Did I mention that it was also one of the most fun? Everybody says I’m crazy, and I definitely am.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.