A few weeks ago I learned how dangerous the ocean can be and how deadly some animals in it are. Even knowing the ocean area that I had been in for two months caution can still be needed when it comes to nature.
My girlfriend and I were sitting on the beach, enjoying the afternoon sun, when I went into the ocean for what was supposed to be a routine swim. The waves were big but nothing I wasn’t used to. Where I was swimming is part of the Mexican pipeline, one of the worlds longest beach surf breaks, so waves are definitely common along the length of it. On a normal day the current is a little strong, if you stop to float you will find yourself further down the beach after a few seconds, nothing major that you normally can’t get in from. The other week however was something I had not experienced in my 2+ months there.
The waves had been growing in size that day, they were breaking differently and storm clouds were building behind us. The temp was cool so I wasn’t planning to swim but after an hour of laying on the beach I decided to go in. The waves had been alternating between breaking close to shore and further out, so in order avoid being pummeled I had to swim past the farthest break.
On this stretch of beach the water is shallow for about 30 feet and then it drops off. As I went past the drop off and beyond the break I noticed that the water was more choppy than normal. Instead of waves coming in to shore, with glass like water in-between the sets, the waves and current seemed to be fighting each other, creating this churned up ocean mess.
I was facing away from shore to watch the oncoming waves and sunset. By the time I was ready to swim back in I turned around to find that I had been pulled quite a ways away from shore. Still not thinking anything was amiss I slowly swam in, only to realize after a minute or so that I was getting nowhere. Actually I was getting pulled further out. Panic set in and I proceed to swim more energetically and at that same moment I saw my girlfriend standing on the edge of the shore taking photos of me.
I stopped swimming raised my arms and shouted to her that I might need help, she didn’t hear me over the sound of the ocean break. My anxiety flashed back to a level I hadn’t experienced since the weeks following my Thailand Tuk-Tuk Motorcycle accident last year. I dug in my reserve, not allowing the image of me drowning with my girlfriend oblivious to what’s happening take over. I swam for all I had no matter if the waves were going in or coming out.
After what felt like a lifetime but was only mere minutes my foot finally hit sand. I avoided being pummeled by the break and quickly walked my tired body up onto shore only to have my girlfriend standing there smiling, oblivious to the struggle I just endured. Turns out as the season changes the current gets more aggressive here. The part of the beach I normally swim in is now red flagged against swimming, just like further down has been these past few months.
My second lesson learned that day was due to ignorance and not that life threatening but after dealing with the waves it still got under my skin.
As I climbed out of the ocean and onto shore I noticed a pufferfish struggling to survive, just like I was. He was repeatedly being pummeled onto shore by the waves. Wanting to do something good for another creature, feeling that something just did good for me, I grabbed my sandals to pick him up to try and place him further in the ocean. I tried a few times to get him deep enough in the ocean but after what I just experienced I did not want to wade far enough into the water in order to get him past the break.
After trying to save the pufferfish my girlfriend and I were talking about how poisonous pufferfish are to eat and how doing so is a risky delicacy in some restaurants. I looked to my phone to get more specifics about eating them only to find that most pufferfish species have a poison coating all over their bodies and that even touching them could be deadly. Fisherman are known to avoid them at all cost and here I was picking one up with my sandals and hands. Dealing with what just happened with the current and swimming, my mind, and Googling, got the best of me. I freaked myself out for the next hour or so.
Nothing happened by touching the pufferfish but the lesson I learned that day was that I am still ignorant to many things regarding the ocean.