I haven't been getting home so much recently, so when I do, I go surfing with my friends. We catch up, we hang out, we laugh, we catch waves. To be honest, I don't really want to be on my own much when I do get home, and I like surfing with my friends, so it works out best for me.
But on Saturday morning no one was up yet and the bay beaches were flat, so I went and checked over behind my place. I live on a long, open beach, and usually it's not so suited to a longboard, but it was small and looked ok and the water looked nice, so I thought, why not?
I paddled out with no legrope, which was a bit of an oversight because losing my board there, on my own, would have sucked. Usually, that would make me over-cautious, but, well, I didn't really care. (And I didn't lose my board.) The waves were fine - they were small and kind of closing out, but they were pretty and fast and the water was clear and the sun was shining and there was no competition. I was happy.
Between small sets, I sat and thought about the guy who drowned there the week before. Everyone has been talking about it. I don't know a lot, but he went surfing with his mates and was over it so went in on his own, but something happened in that short amount of time and he washed up on the beach two days later. He was a traveller, from somewhere else, some other country, and had been living here for a year, apparently. His family was far away and may not see the place where he visited and drowned. I don't know much else - I don't know if he was experienced in the ocean or not, or if he was a reckless person or a strong swimmer or whatever. I don't know. But it's sad. We have a lot of these stories in my town of travellers and visitors. And they're always sad, and are often recalled and mourned in local conversations about the beach; these nameless people become a part of the place in a way they could never have imagined. Many of the local surf crew have dragged in bodies, or found them, or helped people out, or tried to resuscitate someone. They're not usually well equipped for these situations, but they always help. I'm proud of them for that.
Earlier in the morning, when I walked to the shops to get a coffee and a croissant, Bernie had warned me about going out at that beach.
Be careful, Bec. That beach is dangerous. You dunno what's gonna happen. Don't go out on your own. Go into town.
I was confused though, because it's my beach. Yeah, it's dangerous and tetchy and unpredictable and isolated and people drown there every year, and sometimes I get scared. But it's the beach I grew up on and it's where I learned about the ocean and its moods. I'm not trying to sound over confident, because I'm not, but that's why I always feel safe there.
I have a more than healthy respect for salt water, currents, rips, tides, storms, waves, gutters, schools of fish (flocks of birds), and scary conditions. I learned my limits and I learned that you are never quite in control. I learned that there are risks. But that's my beach, that's my ocean, that's my home.
And I sat out in the water, content with that, feeling safe.