Audrey vs the Ocean

Halloween isn’t a big deal here like it is in the states, which is a bummer because it’s one of my favorite holidays. Plus, I’m still adjusting to October being spring and not fall, so that’s still a thing. But, Joel and I both had the day off, and the weather report showed that we were in for a hot one, so we decided to make it a beach day.

The beach! Yay! When I was growing up, we moved to Maryland and suddenly we lived between 3.5-5 hours away from a hand full of beaches. So it was always a Big Deal and a Big Trip whenever we went. Joel, on the other hand, grew up with beaches practically in his back yard. Lucky dog. I like going to the beach. I like the idea of being anywhere where the only thing you can do is relax. I am first and foremost, lazy.

When I was kid, I was a water baby. I’d run straight into the ocean and not look back. I remember being scared of sting rays and jelly fish, but once I hit the water, I wouldn’t care. I watched Jaws a million times and still wanted nothing but to play in the ocean.

Tiny Aud, circa 1994
Tiny Aud, circa 1994 at Assateague Beach, VA

Something happened though, as I got older. Maybe I’ve seen too many ocean documentaries, or maybe all those years of watching Jaws have finally caught up with me. But now, I’m a total wuss when it comes to getting in the water. It takes me so much time and and psyching up to get myself beyond the crashers and out to where I can jump the waves. Once I’m wave jumping and I’m comfortable, it’s the best thing and I never want to leave. Unless something brushes up against me. Then I’m all NOPE GTFO.

Maybe it’s a control thing. The ocean is vast and waves are terrifying. And then there are sharks and jellyfish and other fun guys. And with the beaches I grew up with, you couldn’t see anything in the water. There’s a lot going on and I have no idea about it. I’d never win if it came down to me vs. the ocean. That shit’s scary. And I’m ok with that. I have mad respect for the ocean.

So now, my relationship with the beach is a bit complicated. And on Friday, it got a bit more complicated. The beaches here may be beautiful, but they are a world away from the beaches I’m used to. For example, Gordon’s Bay. It’s one of Joel’s favorite swimming spots, and our first stop that day.


It’s a  beautiful spot. It’s quiet, and there are plenty of cliffs and large, flat rocks to set up camp and watch the water. It’s a bay though, so it’s mostly a shore filled with large rocks that you have to get past to get into the water. Even the sandy “beach” part is tricky to navigate because of rocks and debris. We put out our towels and I tried to convince myself to get in. The waves were crashing, and I saw crabs crawling over the rocks near the tide. But the rocks worried me. I’m not sure footed on land, and I could only imagine what I’d get into being nervous and trying to stand on a wet rock with freezing waves hitting me. And then, there were fish and crabs and things to worry about. I decided against getting in. Maybe one day when I get swimming shoes or a bigger set of balls or less neuroses, but it wasn’t going to be today.

Goodbye, Gordon's Bay. You win this round.
Goodbye, Gordon’s Bay. You win this round.

Joel suggested walking over to Clovelly Beach, which has a blocked off swimming area, but is still a beach. I accepted defeat, and skulked away, bathed in shame.

Clovelly Beach! (Source)

Clovelly was another story. There is a narrow stretch that’s been cemented off on the sides, with stairs installed. The waves that came through were nice and rolling, and only broke and crashed around the stairs. You could see through most of the water to the rocks and ledges. We put our stuff down and trucked down the stairs. After a mental push, I jumped off the stair ledge and past the rocks. Then I turned into a small child who has never touched salt water before.

Every time I kicked my legs to tread water, I touched some sort of rock or sea grass or sea plant. Every time I looked down, I saw (what looked like to me) an undersea universe. I kept hitting waves face on and getting salt water in my mouth. Joel would touch me and I felt like I would drown. After a little while, though, I warmed up to the water, passed all the rocks, and it felt nice. I relaxed a little, and even floated on my back for a bit.

Some of the underwater life at Clovelly. (source)

But, I saw something move in the water, and when I realized that we were far away from the sides, my brain went into hyper drive. I felt my arms go a bit numb, and I had a freak out. Which is the third best thing you can do when you’re in the ocean, behind swallowing salt water and bleeding near sharks. Joel was a saint, and towed me to the stairs, getting me to focus on swimming and treading water, not the 8 million thoughts of terror that were going through my mind.

Always a possibility.

We got out of the water without incident, but I was broken. The ocean had defeated me. And it’s hard to remember a time where I felt more embarrassed. Oh, maybe just after we got out of the water and that 5 year old grabbed a pool noodle and went into the water all by himself, proving himself to be much more badass than me. This is a beach where lots of people learn to swim for the first time. I learned to swim in a tiny swimming pool in Florida. I’ve only been in beaches with soft sand and the occasional blade of seaweed. I’m just not used to having an ocean with so much life in it. And it was overwhelming.

Next beach trip, though. I’m going in armed with sea shoes. And maybe a pool noodle. I might be too scared to defeat the ocean, but I’d like to be friends with it. Or at the very least, spend 10 minutes in the water without having a panic attack.

Baby steps.


2 thoughts on “Audrey vs the Ocean

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