Rip tide terror
As a large woman I am very self-conscious on the beach. Of course, this is probably true of maybe one or two, but most people tend to be immersed in their own world rather than focus of the ‘fat’ lady at the beach.
On this particular day it was so hot, I couldn’t resist the beach. I love the beach, I grew up alongside the beach and love the smell of the sea, the breeze.
I knew the water would be cold as I was so hot, so I decided to dive straight into a crystal-clear wave, drenching myself immediately. I was covered in little tingly bubbles that made me yelp as I came to the top. I felt like I could spend my entire life bobbing in the waves.
I started to swim out past the medium-size waves to the calmer part of the ocean. I was very confident in the sea and always seemed to go past everyone else in the water. I loved the sounds of the ocean, the taste of the salt and most of all, the weightlessness.
When I got far enough out to feel myself gently bobbing, I lay on my back like a starfish, closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun beaming down on me while the crisp tang of the water felt divine against my skin.
I lay like this for some time, my ears under the water drowning out the outside world. I could feel myself moving, but it seemed only lightly moving in the waves, but after a while I looked up to see I had drifted quiet far out. I decided I had better move back in. At this point there was no fear; I am a strong swimmer and I feel like the sea is my second home.
I started to slowly breaststroke towards the shore but soon found I was moving backwards, despite my strokes. This is when I realised I was in a rip.
Still I didn’t panic. I’ve been in rips before – never this far out, but I know you just ride the rip, swim to the side of it and you will be free from its pull. So I took note of the sea around me and surmised that if I swam to my right, I would eventually swim out of the rip, then I could swim back to shore.
But as I tried to move to the right, I seemed to have swum directly into an even stronger rip. It grabbed hold of me and whisked me out to sea so quickly I became suddenly frightened and a bit breathless. I kept my head above water with gentle strokes but I clearly had no control and the shoreline was becoming more and more distant.
At this stage I realised I was in trouble, so I tried holding one arm up – not that easy when you’re in a strong rip and trying to keep your head above the water.
I could see I was too far out for anyone to see me. I could hardly see them, the people on the beach were becoming dots in the sand, I must have been a couple of kilometres out by now.
I suddenly realised I could die, and was now very scared, but something kicked in and I started to try to swim to the side still. Then, just as suddenly as the rip pulled me out to sea, I was being pulled towards the shore, fast, very fast, in fact I had to focus to keep my head above the water; it felt a bit like I was being dragged by an unknown entity.
As I got closer to shore I began to feel hope that I was going to be OK, but all of this had taken its toll and I was week, my body felt like a jelly. I felt like I had no muscle and could barely breaststroke at this stage, so I just went with the flow.
The people were getting closer and closer, I could see I was being towed close to the shore.
There was a young girl in a bikini in my line of site. She looked about 16 and was jumping the small waves with her friends. As I got near enough to her I grabbed onto her leg, hugging her thigh as hard as I could, and tried to say, “Help me!” But for some reason my voice was hoarse, possibly from swallowing some of the salt water. All I could do was make weird sounds.
The girl screamed. She tried to pull my arms off her leg, but I wouldn’t let go. The unfortunate thing; what must she have thought? Then others came to her aid and I managed to push out the words, “Help, rip, help!”
Suddenly, everyone realised I was in trouble. I felt strong hands under my arms as they dragged me to the shore. They let go of me on the wet sand and rolled me over.
I was trying to get my breath back and lifeguards came and put an oxygen mask on my nose and mouth.
I closed my eyes, and let everyone take care of me.
My relationship with the sea would never be the same again. – Sharon Ralston, Rutherford New South Wales
(Sharon’s bravery and brush with death reminds us of the pilots who crashed into the sea.)
Unwanted elephant shower
When I was four, I was sprayed with water from an elephant while visiting Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Elephants like potato chips and so do greedy little four-year-old girls from the high country of New Zealand.
I am now 59 years old and still can remember feeling like a drowned rat. My little sister in her stroller was also wet. I can still hear Mum and Dad laughing, and other visitors. We had to go to the game keeper’s house to dry our clothes. – Catherine Houlihan, Oamaru North Otago New Zealand
(That elephant remembers it too, Catherine. Here’s proof.)
Lost on the 20th floor
Sun, sand and the sea. It can’t get better than this. Or so I thought.
June 2010 will always be remembered in our family holiday history as the day our youngest daughter was lost on the 20th floor… found on the 13th floor… and all of us reunited on the ground floor!
It was the second day of our seaside holiday. Beautiful weather, a hotel right by the scenic Tanjung Bungah seaside in Penang, and a well-deserved break during the school holidays.
Our daughters, Ani and Amy, then four and seven respectively, were looking forward to a nice, warm breakfast spread before jumping into the pool. My husband left a little earlier to book us a table while I promised to catch up with the kids later.
After shutting the door, the three of us walked down the hallway of our 20th floor towards the lift. Little Amy, ever the bundle of energy with a rainbow permanently etched over her, trotted happily a few steps ahead of us. As we approached the lift, we realised there was a young girl crying while facing the closed lift doors. Immediately, I understood that her family might have left her accidentally before she could join them in the lift. My youngest pressed the lift button, and just as I was about to kneel down to ask the young girl about her family, the lift doors opened. To my shock and horror, Amy entered the lift before I could even stop her!
To make matters worse, my frantic attempt at pressing the button repeatedly to hold the lift was of no use. I just watched helplessly as the doors closed with only my four year old inside, and I had no idea which floor of the building she was heading. Panic seeped through me, as my mind tried to imagine her running out of the lift in ANY of the floors and into ANY of the hallways, searching for us in vain.
I held both my eldest daughter’s and the little girl’s hand, got into the lift and went straight down to the lobby. Thankfully, as the doors threw open, the girl spotted her family outside and ran to hug them. I was so glad that the girl was now all right and immediately looked for my husband to tell him about Amy.
All the while my eldest, Ani, had remained incredibly calm, asking just a question or two. But most probably she must have been trying to understand what was going on. When she saw her dad and heard me say, “Amy was lost after entering the lift,” she broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably as she kept calling her sister’s name. We quickly reported the incident to hotel staff, and with swift action and a few calls on the walkie-talkie, we were told that Amy had been spotted on the 13th floor by one of their maintenance staff. All this was possible thanks to the CCTV available on each floor. Thank God!
It was such a huge relief, we couldn’t stop thanking the hotel staff as my husband rushed towards the lift and headed to the 13th floor to get her. Was she traumatised? Crying non-stop? All these questions were soon answered when the lift opened after what seemed like a few centuries. She was in her dad’s arms, safe and sound, with a shy smile. A bubbly maintenance worker recounted how Amy remained calm when he spotted her as she came out of the lift on the 13th floor. She answered a few questions about herself, and sat quietly on the chair available near the lift while waiting to be brought back to Mum and Dad.
Despite that, her tears flowed when she leaped into my arms in relief, sobbing just like her sister!
In the months following, this story was told repeatedly until both girls could bear no more. Yet now that they are teenagers, whenever we mention the story, both girls just roll their eyes and the eldest tries her best to deny she cried for her now annoying sister! – Shamsun Nisha, Subang Jaya Malaysia
(A rescue on the 13th floor? That’s nothing. Try a rescue at 4500 feet.)