By now you’ve probably read about the truly sad events that took place at Mawgan Porth, Cornwall last Sunday. Three people drowned while trying to rescue four teenage surfers in trouble. It’s thought they died while battling a rip current.
Mawgan Porth is not a dangerous beach and you shouldn’t avoid it as a result. But you should read up on rip currents before you go surfing, swimming, stand up paddling or even walking at any beach anywhere. It’s good sense, as two thirds of all incidents the RNLI attend to involve rip currents. This RNLI site has some very useful advice, including this key point: “The risk of harm increases with decreasing experience and understanding.” And Mpora has a good guide on what to do if you find yourself caught in a rip current.
Reading about rip currents brought back a few heavy memories of my own, thoughts I’m incredibly lucky to think at all as in truth my brain and everything south of it should have been fish food.
I’d just turned 22 and was on a post uni dream trip to Bali with one of my best buddies. We’d flown for days, arrived in the thick heat of paradise at night, and celebrated said arrival with some drinks. Turned out we’d got our dates wrong and our hotel room wasn’t ready ‘til morning, so we semi-dozed on some upright wicker chairs as best we could.
At first light we of course bounded to the beach rather than catching up on sleep and ran straight into the sea, laughing and diving into the warm waves like the sea-starved lottery winners we felt like. And then, just like that, it was as if someone switched on a fast current, and we were pulled into the ocean with frightening speed. We barely had time to dive under the breaking waves, which also happened to be getting heavier with each new set.
I’ll never forget the look of panic on my friend’s face. My memory tells me I said to him, “This isn’t fun anymore, let’s go in.” But it could have just as easily been something I thought. We fought the current, swimming with all our might. I should maybe add we were both strong swimmers, but I obviously wasn’t strong enough as only he made it into shore.
I was in the impact zone and getting pummeled.