We were vacationing in Huntington Beach that summer day. I spent time working on an envy inducing tan before the sun became too hot to lay still.
I lifted my head off the beach towel. A yellow flag whipped above the life guard tower. Rolling to my back, I watched an obese man flip over and over in the surf. The lifeguard walked to help him out, not even bothering with the red floatation device. A smirk crossed my sixteen year old face. Fat ass, I thought. Shouldn’t go in the water if you can’t handle it.
I headed for the water with my younger sister following.
“Make sure you keep an eye on our umbrella,” my mom called after us. “The current can pull you down the beach if you’re not paying attention.”
We rolled our teenage eyes, then turned and smiled and waved at her. No one could lose sight of that hot pink umbrella.
The wet sand crunched between my toes as the cool surf wet my feet. I rooted in the sand, until I could no longer resist the ebbing tide. I dove through the crashing waves popping out in the calm waters on the other side. Strong strokes took me out far enough to body surf. My sister swam up beside me.
The waves were larger than they looked from shore. One lifted me high so I could see the hot pink dot of our umbrella on the beach, then I dropped into a trough losing it. Each time I rose, the umbrella had moved farther down the beach. We swam well past it so the current would carry us towards it.
Situated in our spot, I began the process of selecting waves to ride. Arms outstretched, water splashing in my face, I flew on the top of the waves over and over. We were far enough out the waves crashing on shore were barely audible. Buoyant, I laid back, spread my arms and legs like a starfish, and let the ocean rock me.
After an hour, it was time to head in. I scanned the beach unsuccessfully for the umbrella. The undertow had pulled us out of sight. We decided to head to shore and walk back, ready to work on our tans some more.
We chose a wave to bring us in. The break line approached. As the waves crashed, they met the surf rushing back in, creating a foamy, white whirlpool.
I held my breath as the wave slammed me down to the rocky sand on the ocean floor. Water bubbled around me. I flipped over and over, not sure which way was up. Finally sun broke through the water and I exploded toward the surface.
My sister next to me, we turned to see the next six foot monster bearing down on us. I gasped air as the wave struck. My face scraped the bottom. The water spun me. I thrashed as though I could physically beat the ocean. Almost out of breath, my head popped through the water.
I stood and saw my sister next to me. She moved forward a couple steps. I stood my ground. The stronger swimmer, I wasn’t going in until she did.
A third wave hit bouncing my back off the bottom. Silt from the bottom mixed with salt water slashed my body. I tumbled like clothes in a washing machine before breaking the surface once again.
I scanned the beach and saw my sister crawling out of the surf. I looked at the life guard station. No one was watching me. No one was coming.
The fourth wave hit, pinning me flat to the bottom. It was eerily calm on the bottom. Water churned over my head. Sunlight reflected off the glittering sand swirling in the water. There was no more fighting. I was out of air. I prepared to inhale.
Then the ocean released its hold and I pushed to the surface, gasping and red faced.
I staggered backwards before another wave claimed me and stumbled onto the beach. I collapsed next to my sister letting the hot sand stick to my bruised body, wet hair plastered to my head.
I’m participating in the RemebeRED memoir prompt this week from the Red Dress Club. Concrit is welcome and appreciated.