I hadn’t been to a surf beach in years but I was determined to swim.

Although it was summer, someone hadn’t told the sky. The grey clouds made the sea look steely grey and without sunlight to make the sand sparkle, the beach looked cold. There was a surf lifesaver on duty, but he was sitting in his car, reading a book. He won’t be useful if someone gets into trouble, I thought.

I made my way down to the flags and watched the waves. The waves were pounding the shore only a few metres from the waterline. They really were pounding, crashing down like a brick wall.

But all I had to do was get out beyond them and enjoy being swirled about in the gentler swells beyond the breakers.

I let a wave break over my ankles. It was cold, but I’d swum in colder waters than this. I just needed to pick my moment between waves, dive under and come up on the other side.

I stepped forward until the water was up to my knees. I watched a wave break and retreat. Now, I thought, now is the time. I ran forward and dived down.

But my timing was wrong.

Instead of diving under the wave, I’d been sucked up into the next breaker as it formed, and the wave rolled me like so much gravel back towards the beach, slamming me into the sand. Before I had a chance to suck in another breath, the wave pulled me back out again. I kicked up to the surface grab some air but I only managed to get slapped in the face with more water before the next wave pulled me back under and rolled me back into the breaker and dumped me onto the sand again.

This time I managed to grab hold of the sand as the wave retreated, and I crawled up the beach out of reach of the waves. I took in several shaky breaths before sitting up. I could feel my hair and swimsuit were full of sand and grit. My mouth was bitter with the taste of salt.

Photo by Emiliano Arano on

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