The sea almost killed me a couple of times. It wasn’t her fault; it was mine, for not respecting her. I still remember the last time, a stormy day off the Costa Brava of Spain, in early 2008. Every time I think about it my heart races, and my guts jump to my throat.
The cove where I used to swim every day was hit by a storm with strong eastern winds. The turquoise, transparent waters of summer quickly transformed into a dirty soup of stirred sand and cold grey water. Unfriendly waves were breaking in dirty, chaotic patterns. But beyond the surf zone the sea seemed swimmable. In a moment of Catalan bravado, I donned my swimming suit, mask and fins, and jumped in the water. I shouldn’t have gone, but I did, swallowing an abrasive mix of sand and salt while trying to break through the surf zone. I swam, unpleasantly fighting – I still don’t know why – for twenty minutes, and decided to call it a day. I swam back towards the beach. Then realized I couldn’t reach it.
Waves were breaking all around me without respite. I tried to bodysurf one to shore, but it collapsed suddenly and took me down as though someone had turned the gravity dial up ten-fold. When I surfaced to take a breath, I turned around and a second wave hit me as hard, taking me down again. I hit the sandy bottom. I pushed myself up but once again, waves were coming and not allowing me to rest and breathe. I was caught in the surf zone, with waves pushing me out and a rip current pulling me in, unable to reach the beach.
The sea is our mother, sister, and home, and as such I love her. She gives us life, oxygen, food, regulates the climate, and makes ours a wonderful life. We should thank the sea, the ocean, every day. Without the ocean and all the life in it, our planet would be much poorer. But on this day I was having a hard time being grateful.
After a few more plunges I decided to let myself go, and give up the fight. I took a deep breath. The next wave took me down, and forward. I hit the bottom with my back, rolled over, hit my head, and after what seemed the longest minute of my life, found myself lying in a foot of water. I scrambled as fast as I could out of the water and onto the beach. Only then did I realize that I had lost my mask, snorkel, and one fin. My whole body was sore, as if a gang of boxers had punched me viciously. I sat on the beach, breathless, watching the sea and feeling lucky to be alive. I walked back home slowly, ears down like a beaten dog.
Some days the sea wants us, and some days she doesn’t. Since that day, I have not been to the sea when she does not want me. I learned the lesson. I now thank the sea every day the surface is calm, the waters are clear, and diving is easy. And I ask for forgiveness every time I dive and see no fish.
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