Thursday, October 04, 2007


When I was in my late teens, I found myself caught in a very strong rip at a Sunshine Coast beach and I was quickly towed out to the deeper waters of the Pacific Ocean.

As I drifted further out, I realised that I was in danger of either being drowned due to exhaustion or being attacked by a shark.

It was also possible that if I continued too far out to sea and I ventured into the commercial shipping lane, I may be hit and run over by a passing cargo ship.

Admittedly, I have never been a strong swimmer, but I do believe that the main reason I found myself being washed out to sea was due to the fact that I was unfamiliar with this particular beach. I wasn't aware of its possible dangers.

During this period of my life, I had spent many weekends enjoying our Queensland beaches but I would usually visit the Gold Coast area.

And, knowing that I was not a strong swimmer, I would always swim in the area of the beach that was patrolled by our wonderful volunteer lifesavers.

This particular day I entered the water with the intention of playing about in the waves close to the edge of the beach.

When a wave approaches you, you decide upon one of three responses.

You can begin swimming toward the shore, hoping to be caught up by the wave, and thus experience the thrill of body surfing.

Or you can choose to leap up and be lifted by the wave. Or alternatively, after pinching your nostrils together and shutting your eyes, you can dive beneath the wave and then resurface after it has passed over you.

I may have tried one or all of those options however, on this day, there was a rip that I was not able to overcome.

For those who aren't quite sure just what I am talking about, I will add a definition of a rip that I found on a website from Australian Government Department of Environment and Water Resources.

"Concentrated currents flowing back to sea perpendicular to the shoreline. Rip currents are caused by wave action piling up water on the beach. Feeder currents running parallel to the shore (longshore currents) deliver water to the rip current."

After I was tugged behind the first break of waves, I found myself dealing with a second break of waves further out to sea.

Again, any action I took was futile. I simply drifted out to the deeper waters and it became quite clear to me that I was in trouble.

I remained calm whilst deciding upon my fate and the thoughts of sharks and the shipping lane passed through my head.

I was calm because I have never been afraid of deep water. Unlike my older sister who always insisted that she needed to touch the bottom of the pool, I preferred to bob about in the deep end. The deeper the body of water, the easier it is to float and gracefully tread water.

Obviously I did not drown, get savaged by a shark or run down by a cargo ship.

Fortunately for me, as I drifted out I came across a young fellow atop a surfboard. I politely told him that I was in trouble and he allowed me to hold onto his surfboard as he raised his arm to alert the lifesavers that there was some stupid female in need of rescue.

I did not experience a skerrick of humiliation over becoming a public spectacle that day. All I felt was intense gratitude.

I will always be grateful to that lovely young man and his surfboard and I continue to have great admiration for those selfless lifesavers who sprang into action and brought me back to land.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to learn to swim that I and my peers were given during our primary school years.

It is an interesting recollection that I shall pass on in the very near future.


Lily said...

Wow, I would have panicked, I'm a rubbish swimmer and cling to the sides in the swimming pool. Thanks for the comment on my blog - here's an idea, next time the hot flushes disturb your dreams, creep next door (I'm guessing you-know-who don't live too far away) and sabotage their morally bankrupt intensive farming project. You won't feel the cold and they can afford the repairs!

Michelle said...

Yes lily, I may well do that next winter!