My husband and I wanted to float behind where the waves were breaking, because we wanted a peaceful, less turbulent experience. We’d done this several times at a different beach with no trouble. We found at first that we were able to come and go from where we could touch bottom, so we felt there was no reason to be concerned. We headed back out where we couldn’t touch bottom again, and enjoyed the waves, which seemed to be getting bigger. My brothers were in the surf and called to us beckoning with large arm movements. We thought they just wanted us to join them in the more turbulent area, and we voiced our enthusiasm for the fun of where we were at. It never crossed our minds that we were in danger. It wasn’t long after that that we noticed that we were quite a bit further from shore than we were just a short time before. My husband suggested we head back in. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, thinking about what I’d been told about rip currents. I suggested maybe we should swim to the side, but at the same time, I felt uneasy about going to a place out of sight of our family. My husband expressed confidence that we should just swim slowly and steadily towards shore. We did so, but I kept feeling that sick sense of dread, and would increase my fury of motion. He would talk to me, encourage me to conserve strength and swim slowly. “But we are losing this fight!” my mind seemed to scream, “So I must fight *harder!*”
At this point, the waves seemed truly daunting. I didn’t think waves this far out could break, but they were breaking over us. If I focused all my attention on breathing at appropriate times and keeping my head above water between waves, I would’ve been fine, but with my single-mindedness to somehow overcome the current, I was accidentally taking in seawater. Because of my intense emotion, this time seemed very long. I felt certain that our family knew of our plight and was getting help, but I wondered what was taking them so long! Suddenly I saw two swimmers coming towards us in wetsuits with boards. I just assumed they were the help my family called for. They were not. They were surfers there to have fun like everyone else. But they knew we were in danger, and they acted quickly. They urged both me and my husband to get on their boards. This was a great relief, and I thought it was all over and all was well. I kept repeating over and over, “Thank you for saving us!” But it wasn’t over yet.
One of the men was more confident than the other. They discussed swimming sideways, but could detect no advantage to one side or the other. So they opted for straight in. The man helping me was the more certain one. With every wave, he pushed the board forward as hard as he could, trying to get the most advantage out of the wave. The waves were throwing me hard, and one capsized me. He would warn me when big waves were approaching, instructing me to hold on tight, don’t let go. At last, we seemed to be getting closer, and he said, “This is it, you’re going to be OK.” But that last wave threw me to the ground hard and I hyper-extended my back with a sudden force. I hoped that I hadn’t just permanently injured my spine! But moments later I was standing on my own two feet. Amongst cheers of a large, watching crowd, I was welcomed in, people asking me how I was. The woman who called 911 put a blanket around me, and told me she’d been caught in a rip current in Mexico where she had to swim along the shore for a mile before making it back in.
All I could think of is, “Where is my husband? Is he safe?” They said he’d gotten closer, but then been pulled back out again. They finally came in, but further south from us, finding advantage in going side-ways. Once we were out, the Coast Guard and an ambulance had just arrived. All was well, and we were so glad for real-life heroes! A woman had died in a rip current in this area just the day before.
– Mary Cate, Oregon
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