Learning to Love the Beach

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I’m going to make an extremely controversial statement: I love the beach. 

You may laugh at the sheer banality of that statement. “Of course you do. Everyone loves the beach!” Well, here’s the thing—if I was writing this just a week prior, the story would be very different.

You see, growing up in Huntington Beach meant going to the beach all the time. It meant boogie boarding, learning to surf, and playing in the chilly waves every weekend. As a kid, I loved every aspect of it. That being said, I never considered myself a strong swimmer, and I was certainly one of the most cowardly children in the bunch. When I finally mustered up the courage to surf with my friends and family, I only cautiously attempted to catch the smallest waves. When I fell into water, I rushed to get back up on my board as fast as humanly possible. The little strap that goes around your ankle, tethering you to your board, was my lifeline. But even the strongest of lifelines have their breaking points. 

Low and behold, one day I decided to push myself, and swam out as far out as I had ever been. They say the best way to conquer your fears is to face them head on. Sadly, this method doesn’t seem to apply with waves. My courageously long swim landed me at the base of a tower of water. The wave broke hard over my head, causing me to plunge deep under the murky surface. I had no way of knowing which was up until I opened my eyes for a brief second, saltwater stinging my pupils. I emerged in a frenzy, desperately feeling around to grab my board. I then caught of glimpse of it washing up on the shore. 

I began swimming as fast as I could towards the shoreline. A mixture of panic, asthma, and underdeveloped swimming skills made me doubt my ability to make it back to dry land in one piece. I began to wave my arms for help. I yelled at the top of my lungs before another strong wave pummeled me back into the water. A stranger who saw me stole a 99¢ Store boogie board from the arms of a small kid in the shallows in an attempt to swim out and save me. I may have only been around nine at the time, but once the fear wore off, embarrassment set in. That was that day that I decided to hate the beach and hate the ocean. 

I still carry that judgment with me 11 years later. Or at least I did, until just a few days ago. Elise and I were feeling bogged down by this busy semester (among various other stresses), and jointly decided to go relax at the beach. She spent the finals hours of daylight painting, and I spent them taking photographs. 

While I originally figured that I would make the best out of a trip to the beach by taking some stereotypical sunset photos, I found myself genuinely enjoying the sound of the waves and the chilled wind. The ocean’s sheer magnitude, no matter how cliche, grasped me that day. I sat down, laid back, and peacefully enjoyed the moment as the tide swiftly rolled in and out. When stress sets in, the experts say to take deep consistent breaths—perhaps that is why the ocean is known for its healing properties. 

I suppose this is a prime example of being open to new experiences, and maybe even retrying old ones. Something that I held a bias against for most of my life proved me wrong. I no longer feel fear or hatred towards the beach, but rather a sense of awe and appreciation. This moment moved me so much that I insisted Elise and I go back the next day. We did, and—to my great surprise—had even more fun than before. 

I’d like to leave you with “I Go Down To The Shore” by Mary Oliver

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

Thank you so much for reading. Hope you've been loving the poems we've been adding at the end. We've actually got something in store with that, so stay tuned! Do you have any crazy stories from the ocean? Do you hate or love the beach? Let us know in the comments down below!