16 years on and I remember it like it was yesterday. Young and carefree, my boyfriend and I went to the beach while on holiday with some friends and quickly found ourselves splashing about in the ocean.
We didn’t intend to swim. We just wanted to jump through a couple of waves and enjoy the cool water. It was a hot day and the Atlantic Ocean water was so inviting! I remember that the waves weren’t pounding. If they were I wouldn’t have gone for a dip because I’ll admit I’m a bit of a scaredy cat! They were just steady waves; the kind that bob you up and over and the water was no more than waist height.
Over a period of about fifteen minutes we found ourselves treading water and I recall saying to my boyfriend that we should start to head back.
We began the short swim back to the shore and when I say short swim I mean no more than 20 metres. I’d describe myself as a fairly confident swimmer. I’m pretty capable of a decent 2km in a pool (albeit with a lady like breast stroke!) A walk in the park I thought to myself.
Now I’ve set the scene you can probably imagine what was about to unfold. Despite swimming for some time we seemed to be heading further and further away from the shore when my boyfriend told me not to panic. It was at this point that I suddenly realised that we could be in trouble and my body started to take over in a way that wasn’t helpful to this potentially life threatening situation. I began to have a full blown panic attack and was struggling to breathe.
We signalled to our friends on the beach that we were in trouble but they mistook our actions as simply waving to them. As they smiled and vigorously waved back from the shore my heart sank as I tried with all my strength to swim as strongly as I could against the rip.
Thanks to sheer luck, my boyfriend suggested that we swim sideways and it was this action that basically saved our lives. I’ll never ever forget the feeling of dragging myself out of the water to safety. Breathless and exhausted I was grateful for one thing. That I could swim.
This personal and terrifying experience with a rip tide has stayed with me my whole life and I just wish I knew then what I know now about these dangerous currents. Water safety begins with educating both children and adults and is continually re-enforced here at Blue Dolphin Swim Centre throughout all of our learn to swim programs.
I don’t want to think about the outcome of my experience if I couldn’t swim. I’m now so much more aware of the importance of staying safer around water and the danger of a rip tide.