Growing up I loved the water. Growing up in Southern California, I loved the beach. I was the kid that spent the entire beach day in the water, being knocked around by waves and swimming out farther than what made my parents comfortable. After a day at the beach, I would go home and feel the rhythm of the water in my body for days. That didn’t change as I got older either. It seems like as women (this is just my observation and something I know for a fact isn’t true), especially those here in Southern California, unless they are surfers of course, move more towards laying out and sunbathing versus actually getting into the water on beach days as they get older. First off, my dad died from melanoma so sunbathing is never appealing for me. And second, why haul my ass all the way to the beach if I’m not going to enjoy the ocean and the waves? Even as a teenager and young adult, I needed to be in the water on any beach trip I took.
Then I moved to Hawaii and my eyes were opened to how amazing a day in the ocean really could be.
Here in Southern California, the ocean is murky and sandy with lots of kelp and things floating around, and the water is cold! So cold! Also, pretty much any time of year or day, most beaches will be filled with waves, at least to some degree. None of that applies to Hawaii.
Yes, known for surfing there are beaches that have some pretty big waves, but it varies throughout the year and there are certain beaches that are almost always relatively calm or at least don’t have the kind of waves that will knock you over. On top of that the water is clear and the sand is soft. Most of the beaches in Hawaii have crystal clear waters and I could see down to the floor even once I swam out far enough I could no longer reach the sea floor. And, best of all, the water in Hawaii is so warm, all year round in comparison to Southern California. Living in Hawaii ruined California beaches for me.
Even if Hawaii ruined beaches for me, it didn’t change my love for the water. Being in and around water just does something to me (stay tuned for a post focusing on that) and my first few years back in California I was able to get my water fix by hiking to waterfalls and taking trips to the river. However, this past year has been an incredibly dry year for me. Thanks to conflicting schedules, my husband and I haven’t been able to do any hiking and thanks to the pandemic we weren’t able to take any river trips. Being away from the water was starting to get to me and as crazy as it may sound the water started to call to me and my body was telling me 24/7, “You need to be in water!” So I finally gave in.
If you saw my last post, you know that I spent pretty much the entire month of July in class. It was torture and so when finals rolled around I decided I deserved a reward and for a reward, I settled on a beach trip.
So, the week after classes ended I made my husband drive me down to the beach so I could throw myself in the ocean.
We drove down to Newport Beach on a Monday afternoon and he sat on the beach while I threw myself in the surf. (My husband isn’t much of a beach person unless we are snorkeling or kayaking.)
As I’ve already said, here in California, in comparison to Hawaii, the waves are bigger, the water is murky, and it’s cold. Having not been in the Pacific from a California shoreline since 2015, I was surprisingly scared. Before moving to Hawaii I would run into the ocean with no care or concern and just wait for a wave to knock me down. On this visit, I was cautious and careful. I was scared of being taken over by the waves and the iciness of the water hit different than I remember. It took me a minute, but I did finally muster up enough courage to throw myself under a wave and let myself feel the ocean.
It felt indescribable and it did renew me. It calmed me. It made me feel complete.
Despite all this, my fear and hesitation never went away.
Nevertheless, I spent the next hour running back and forth between my husband and the ocean, swimming in the waves until I couldn’t catch my breath anymore and than coming back to shore just long enough to recover.
On the drive home, the husband and I started talking about my unexpected feelings toward the ocean. I told him how it still felt like home in a way and rejuvenated me, but how the entire time I was still super cautious and overly aware of everything around me. We talked about how that was never a problem before Hawaii but was now something I couldn’t shake. After a long talk, we came to the conclusion that Hawaii, among the long list of other things it changed in me, changed my relationship with the ocean without me even realizing it. Even though I always felt like I respected the ocean, in Hawaii I didn’t have a choice. I walked on sandy beaches daily and breathed in salty ocean air everywhere I went. I hiked mountains that looked out over the sea and explored shorelines on the weekends. We snorkeled and kayaked in the water. And from the day I landed on Oahu, I heard, “never turn your back to the sea.” The news was regularly filled with stories of people washed out by waves whether on hikes or out in the ocean in surf they didn’t understand. During the wet season, I would see the ocean take away pieces of road on the Windward Coast.
During my time in Hawaii, I learned to live with and enjoy the sea, but also learned to keep in the back of my mind who was really in control and who held all the power.