There are times in most men’s lives that we feel the masculine urge to prove ourselves to be tough. It is usually a dumb decision and I have to admit that it has happened to me a few times. Whether it is the competitive nature that comes out when racing your brother down a water slide (that might’ve happened recently) or a simple taunt of “I bet you can’t”, we all of a sudden go back to the caveman mentality and puff out our chest. Well I had a recent experience of this but it was completely internal and I seemed to challenge myself.
My family recently went on a vacation to North Myrtle Beach and we were staying in a condo in the same building as my brother’s family and another family that are close friends of ours. My dad was down in a different hotel for most of the trip as well. We used to rent jet skis to go and have fun one day during our annual vacation, but all of the kids, my dad and the price of jet skis, my brother found a place that we could rent a pontoon boat for half a day and we could all go on. We were given a map, told not to worry about the sand bars because the tide would be coming in the whole trip and we were on our way! We started out on the Inter Coastal Water way and made our way out towards the ocean. I opened the cooler pretty early and had a Red Bull and a beer.
We navigated the treacherous (not at all) waters and went to the deserted small island before the ocean that we could explore and swim for a while. We all jumped right in and swam around, explored the ocean and got to see a bunch of fish swimming all around us. I might have even had another beer while wading around. We saw a large splash about 100 yards from us and we couldn’t tell what was jumping but it was a decent size. It was nice and very relaxing but I got to thinking that I had not worked out on that Monday and despite a good beach run the day before, I might not get much of a workout for a few days.
I looked across the water and there was a very small island roughly 300 yards away. I got the masculine urge to go for a swim. I said that I was heading over to the little island, my 13-year-old niece said she would come too and I said no way that I could drag her back if she got tired. I kept on my sunglasses and white round floppy fishing hat to protect my dome. Lauren said it was best to keep my hat on so that I could be spotted easily and she later admitted that she was keeping an eye on the gap between the hat and the water level. I walked out as far as I could stand and then started at a very leisurely pace towards the small island, I quickly notice the incoming tide was acting like a current but it wasn’t strong so I adjusted my angle and kept on. I changed my stroke a number of times to keep from one part of my body getting too fatigued but I was getting tired. About 40 yards from the island I realized that the current had gotten much stronger and my angle had changed a lot but I was swimming more upstream than across and I came to the realization that I was going to overshoot the island altogether.
“Crap” I thought, well that wasn’t the exact word I used but it was similar in amount of letters. I was exhausted but knew I would be in much worse trouble if I missed the island and would be stuck in the middle of the waterway and stuck in a strong current. I regrettably turned back and started heading for the boat but the current already dragged me over 100 yards down the coast. It wasn’t too bad, I still had another 100 yards of sand before it turned into marshland where I didn’t know if it was shallow or what might be living in the Everglades-looking area. The problem is that I never got my rest on the other side of the water and fatigue was taking over. I flipped to my back and was staring at a house between my feet and I continued to swim to the shore and thought that as long as I stared at the house, I would be aiming for the boat and wouldn’t get too swept away.
Another poor assumption as I realized that not only was I getting swept farther down the stream, but I was also now aiming right at the grassy area. I paused and thought about yelling and waving for help but I knew with nobody on the boat, it would take almost 10 minutes to load everyone up, pull the anchor and get to me, not to mention the thought of the stories that would follow about how I needed to be rescued and that wasn’t going to happen to me! I pushed on, this time going almost completely upstream and was winded to say the least. When I was about 40 yards from shore I was ready to give up and was debating about trying to doggy paddle for a few and the greatest possible thing happened, I kicked the ground. There was a sandbar going diagonal from the end of the sandy beach past the grassy area. It was a savior! I was able to walk, well more hobble my way to the beach and then up to the boat. I was shaky and thought my shoulders were going to fall off, but I made it!
I chugged a giant Gatorade and stole some of the kids’ snacks and was so happy that I decided to get a breakfast sandwich that morning at Starbucks. I sat for a while as my family chatted and laughed and played in the water. My dad told me that he was keeping an eye on me, but couldn’t see very well and he thought I made it. We decided to move on, I was rejuvenated enough for a few more beers as we anchored out and swam around the boat and I even checked off a bucket list item of jumping off of a moving boat, which was a blast.
On the ride back, right in front of the boat we saw another splash, but this time, it happened twice in a row and we were able to see the culprit, it was about a 5-foot stingray jumping out of the water. I had never realized that they did this, so I decided to jump on the google machine and investigate. Turns out that they only jump out of the water for one reason, to avoid getting eaten by their predators. A stingray that size only has one predator, a large shark. We were in brackish water, nearing the line to fresh water which means it was most likely a bull shark, the most aggressive shark. I was swimming in open water, fatigued, likely with a bull shark very close-by. Needless to say I had another beer when this realization hit me.
Why must we be this macho, why do we feel the need to prove ourselves? What made me think this was a good idea? I am very glad that these are questions that I can ask myself on dry land and they are not questions being asked as I’m in the hospital or even worse!
Stay strong, smart and macho out there dads!