I like the beach as much as the next person. Playing in the sand is fun. Miniature golf is relaxing. The sound and smell of the ocean are among my favorite things in the world. And I’ll walk along the edge of the water, letting the waves break over my feet, enjoying my toes squooshing in the sand. But I very rarely go into the ocean above my knees. Some people probably think that’s crazy. I think it’s common sense. Here’s why.
- I’m not a very good swimmer. I can doggie paddle and breast stroke a bit; I can tread water and stay afloat for a while. But I tire very easily in the water, I don’t duck my face under without plugging my nose and closing my eyes, and swimming any place where the water MOVES (i.e., river or ocean) makes me feel even less confident in my swimming abilities.
- There’s bitey stabby poisonous things in there. I love to see and learn about animals. Weird critters are obviously the most interesting ones. But I have no desire to actually touch or be touched by wild animals, particularly ones that can hurt or kill me. Even seemingly friendly critters like dolphins can hurt people if they feel threatened in the wild (I touched dolphin teeth 2 weeks ago – trust me, those suckers would hurt if you got bitten). Other than the mostly safe things, there are also jellyfish, sharks, rays, sea urchins, moray eels, sea snakes, and countless other harmful critters in the ocean. If you don’t think they can hurt you, please let me refer you to this, this, and this, the first two links from THIS WEEK, and the other about a famous and knowledgeable nature expert we all knew and loved.
- You can’t see the bottom. I know there are lovely waters in some places where you can see down 20 feet or more, but not around here. Here, you wade out up to your knees and you can’t see your feet. Murkiness means that I have no idea if I’m about to step on a lovely bed of sand, a rock, a piece of glass, a crab, or a jellyfish. Murkiness also means that sharks – which do not usually prey on humans – get confused because they can’t see well and bite the crap out of your leg because they think it’s going to be a nice, juicy fish. No thanks.
- It’s cold! Well, okay, not everywhere I know, but I live about a 3 hour drive from Virginia Beach. The Atlantic coast of the United States is notorious for cold ocean water even in the hottest months of the year. It feels good at first in the heat of August, but it is actually possible to get chilled in the Atlantic ocean water in August when it’s 95+ degrees Fahrenheit outside. And I hate being cold.
- The ocean itself might decide to attack you. A little boy died just this week in Virginia Beach, drowning after riptides pulled him under and out. No scary animals, just the water itself. And me, a weak swimmer, as I mentioned above. Much better idea for me to just stay away.
I am not afraid of being in a boat on the ocean; in fact, I rather enjoy boats and have even kayaked on the sound side of the Outer Banks of North Carolina (ocean kayaking may be a bit too extreme for me). I do not hate sharks or jellyfish by any means – I think they are fascinating and interesting and have their place in the eco system (I just don’t really want to encounter one in the wild). I have been known to swim in warm, clear, blue ocean water where I can see what’s going on and what’s coming at me, with a boat (or the shore) really near by. But I’m rarely anywhere near that kind of water. So please don’t try to tease, cajole, or guilt me into ocean swimming, folks – it ain’t gonna happen. I’m not too fond of swimming in rivers or lakes either, to be honest.