Look carefully and you'll see three swimmers without wetsuits and only one boogie board concerning people who saw them. Either they are local kids familiar with this spot or unknowing ocean lovers dipping their toes into the passion of ocean love. What they do or don't know is that just to their left is a violent sideways rip current (sweep) that flushes the incoming waves out to the left into a huge toilet bowl of unswimmable water and miles away. I know from experience because I had to chase my board after my leash broke.
I followed that board in to the beach confident that I could catch it but when it got to within two hundred yards of the beach it started going east rapidly. I resigned myself that I would rather buy a new board than get stuck miles away so I just swam in thinking I would get a new board from the truck.
Then the vision of someone somewhere finding my board pissed me off. I knew it would always bother me- for years, and I knew that I could never forgive myself for that so I dove off a rock and swam for twenty minutes in the choppiest water I have ever been in not afraid for my life because my flotation device was 500 yards away, then 400 yards, 300 yards... gotchya!
That capture was only 1/10th of the battle. Then I had to get back- AGAINST THE CURRENT. This is when I had to use my head and all the experience and skills that competitive swimming blessed me with. I figured that the sweep was hundreds of meters wide so I headed out to sea where I surmised that the sweep's effects were less, then headed west again. The current was still substantial but less than inshore, and the wind and chop on the surface did not help.
It was then that swimming's experience kicked in. Pace yourself. Slow down but don't stop. Listen to your heart. Breathe deeply. Nice long, full strokes. Strong strokes a foot away from your chest. Check position, adjust.
Passing the first beautiful house took about ten minutes. It seemed to me at the time that my battle would be a losing effort yet I did not give up, I just went out farther away from land. It seemed to me that I was making progress and without going on and on and on, I finally did reach the point after about half an hour where I thought I could reach a landing spot but I had to be smart because if I judged wrong I might be swept east again back to where I started.
Again, I was never afraid for my life, I was just a confident smart strong swimmer who was stubborn and did not want to have wasted all that time and effort just to be defeated and have to walk miles. I then exerted maximum effort against an outgoing rip current AND the sideways sweep, as well as the wind, and the chop.
This effort took another ten minutes and FINALLY I slithered my way up onto the beach like a ragged Robinson Carusoe. I sat there for a nano-second PISSED at the manufacturer, readying myself for a nasty letter or phone call complete with demands for compensation of some sort and as I walked back to my truck all that was forgotten. Shit happens, and when it does, you gotta just accept it. It's usually not anyone's fault. If it's anyone's fault, it's yours. That cognitive process makes it easier on everyone, and forces one to be hyper-prepared the next time you go out into the ocean. If your leash breaks, it's YOUR FAULT.
After that Herculean effort, I knew it was curtains for my surfing experience. Time to go home. If I had gone back out, I'm certain that I would have gotten hurt- that's what happens when you are extremely tired. At least I got a great story out of it, even though my story is not one that elevates me in anyone's eyes!
Thursday 9/28 at my favorite spot. Nobody watching nobody surfing. Wind ruining our best spot on the tail end of a monster hurricane swell. I had to go to another place I like less where I surfed all day in still-gigantic yet waning waves as the sun fell into the western sky and there is where I played with Maria for the last time, ending the best month of surf that anyone alive remembered.
Hi, my name is
David Benjamin and I started swimming in Chappaqua, NY., swam for Badger swim team, Mercersburg Academy, NC State University, then Westport YMCA masters. I got bored of the ol' back and forth of competitive swimming and the high cost of skiing. Surfing took over and I never looked back.