The Day The Sea Turned Nasty: Beach Safety
We are Queenslanders. We know the ocean – we respect the ocean. And yet in just a few short minutes, the ocean became one of the greatest threats to my children’s lives.
It was a day like any other….
I was sitting on the beach and watching Daddy Smiles play with Lucy on the sand, while the three big kids splashed in the shallow water, catching rides on their boogie boards, and ducking beneath the waves.
The sun was shining, and I could feel myself relaxing and soaking up the happiness of the moment. I watched Lucy clutching to her Daddy, and I thought how strange it was that she didn’t have the same confidence around water as the other three had.
Suddenly I heard hubby yell, “NAT!”. I jumped up and started running towards him before I had even realised what the problem was. There was an urgency in his voice that told me something was wrong. I thought perhaps Lucy had cut her foot on a shell, or that she was tired and ready for sleep with her Mama. As I got closer, he gently pushed her towards me, turned and ran straight into the water.
And then I saw it… the problem.
My three big kids had been caught in a rip. Within a matter of seconds, they had been swept about 10 – 15 metres out towards sea. My heart leapt into my throat as I watched them bobbing around like corks as the waves crashed around them, quickly drifting further and further away.
As hubby swam out to them, I couldn’t help but thinking that the numbers were not on our side. One man, two hands, three children. Not good. This was not good. When he reached the children he herded them all together, the water at his chest, and the rip still pulling at all of them.
I watched as Daddy Smiles threw Fred onto his board, and lined him up for the next big wave. Using every bit of strength he could, he pushed him onto the wave. I knew he had chosen Fred because he was the strongest of the three, but in cold reality he is a little boy who was taking on the ocean. The risk was that he would not ride the wave all the way into the shore – if he fell off, he would be swept back into the rip, but would no longer be in reach of his Dad.
I couldn’t breathe as I watched the wave take hold of him. Under my breath, I whispered “Hold on mate…. just hold on mate”. And he did hold on… for as long as he could. But suddenly the wave collapsed underneath him, and he went under. All I could see was the swirling white water. His hat bobbed up first, followed closely by his little face, mouth open as he grabbed a breath. Completely disoriented, he scrambled for his board and tried to pull himself back on. I stood on the sand, gesturing madly “UP UP – STAND UP!”. In all his confusion, he hadn’t realised that he had been washed into waist high water, and he could walk himself back on to the beach.
I looked past him and saw that Daddy Smiles had caught hold of the girls’ boogie board ropes, and he was dragging them in behind him. My Hero – the protector of my children. They were in safe hands and he would stop at nothing to get them back onto dry land. They reached the sand just as Fred made the final exhausting steps back to me. Maddy tucked her board under arm and walked over to me – straight into my open arms. Her face was pale, her eyes were big. I quickly wiped the fear and concern off my face and said quietly, “You OK?”. She replied quite calmly, “Bit rough out there!”.
If I wasn’t so close to tears, I probably would have laughed at her gross understatement.
Daddy Smiles sat them all down and said “Let’s talk about what just happened…”. I could still feel my blood throbbing in my ears so I could only hear snatches of what he said … “Proud… Didn’t panic … Always watching….Next time….”
I didn’t want to hear anymore – I couldn’t. I looked down to see Lucy fast asleep in my arms – completely oblivious to what had just happened to her big brother and sisters. So I walked back to our room and put her to bed.
I sat on our balcony and looked out at the beautful, peaceful and hypnotic ocean in front of me – so grand, so majestic, and so worthy of respect. I sent up a silent prayer of thanks for my three children who were once again splashing in the waves, completely unaware of the dangers they had faced… and survived.