There’s something about the beach, isn’t there?
The seduction of the waves, the scenic escape, the place that’s furthest from your woes. The removal of the city, the clutter, the immediate anxieties and troubles that come with a modern life. The beach is almost a fantasy for some, and it has this pull, this calling. To feel the water dissolve and elevate the stress from your skin, to taste the heavy lingering taste of salt on your tongue, to see the glisten of glittering sea foam trickle through your fingertips.
Safety Beach. Phillip Island. Yesterday.
Four out of six of us were in the ocean. Kushal. Lucy. Kayla and myself. Kushal = my partner. Lucy = my best friend. Kayla = my best friend. Everything was perfect, ideal even. The sand had both a soft crunch and delicate silky feel to it. The sun was present, warm but not too dominant. The sky was magnificent and breathtaking. Waves thrashing, mild wind and chatter filled Safety Beach. No lifeguards, just surfers and a few lazy Sunday afternoon beachgoers. Apart from that, the beach was almost deserted.
Lucy, Kayla and I went in the water and shortly after we succumbed to the playful nature of the waves. It was charming; cheeky even. Kushal joined in, and it was pure bliss. There was something about the suction that magnetised us in deeper, and then the jolt of an exhilarating wave as it pulled us up and into its current. As I floated ontop of the wave, and rode it even, I felt like Aladdin on a nautical magical carpet, like I was held up on strings and the ocean was my controller. There was laughter and cheering and the the blooming sensation of happiness.
Then, one mammoth wave engulfed us. I was pulled one way, and my loved ones were pulled another, and then another wave came and I looked up. All was okay I thought. Kayla, Kushal and Lucy were approaching a bed of rocks and a tiny lash of panic lassoed through me, “Come back guys! The rocks!” I remember my voice carrying out through the wind. I said it again and then again. The tiny lash doubled, it pricked my skin. “I’m trying!” I heard Kayla call out, and then I noticed that she was further away from Kushal and Lucy, who were closer to the rocks.
Fearful, I swam over to Kayla. My thoughts at the time weren’t that she was in any real danger, but only that she needed some assistance swimming back in closer. As I travelled over to them though, one moment the water was waist deep, and then the next I suddenly couldn’t feel the ocean floor.
I caught up to Kayla, and tried my hardest to reach out my hand for her. Her face was soaked in both water and tears, her mascara ran down her face. In one paralysing realisation I then realised that she was directly under a riptide. Our fingertips barely touch for a moment before a ravenous sheet of water separated my hand from hers. One second I could feel the sand against my feet, the next it felt like the water was double my height.
It was then that I felt out of my depth.
I heard my own voice heave and I turned around. Kayla was meters away, and Kushal was screaming out “Help! Help!” The pain, the panic, the dread in his voice made my body tremor with dread. Kayla was screaming out, I couldn’t even see Lucy. I tried kicking my way to Kayla, floating my way to Kushal. The waves came in merciless intervals, barely giving us any time to regain our breath or composure. Before I knew it I had salt in my eyes, salt water in my lungs and exhaustion was taking over.
I remember thinking: I’m going to die. I just know it. In-between the disorientating coma-like cocoon of the water, I saw Lucy’s fingers reach out, Kushal’s eyes stare directly into mine, and Kayla’s body floating deeper and deeper away.
I can’t tell you how it feels. To both know that you are going to die, and to think that the ones that you love are going to die with you. Everything shuts down, numb doesn’t even begin to describe it. I feel myself go weak.
Fate took over.
A man, a stranger with a board. Kushal called out. I called out. Not for us, but for Kayla. “My friend!” I scream. “She can’t swim, help her!”
He does. My god he does. I feel myself beginning to respect the ocean, and having to embrace that fate that it has for me, and for us. Each wave takes us further in, until all four of us are gasping on the sand, thanking whoever is looking after us that our souls are on shore.
I’m still not over it, even as I type it today (the next day). We are all safe, but we are still in shock. I’m just so grateful for that man, for the good spirits that carried us to shore, and for the loved ones who are still with me today.
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