I was recently recounting this story to a friend and I realized that I never mentioned it on my blog, so here it is.
This tale is subtitled “How My Friend Austin Tried to Kill Me”. We were on Maui for the eponymous Austin’s wedding. A week of sun, sand, surf, and celebration. It was our last day and we all had a late flight so we decided to hit the beach one last time before departing. It was simply gorgeous out. 80’s, nary a cloud in the sky, calm as calm can be. Austin comes flipper-flopping in from a snorkeling excursion and says that he just saw a sea turtle out over by the giant outcropping of lava rocks nearby. I, having never seen a sea turtle in its natural environs, decided that I needed to find said turtle. I grab someone’s snorkel mask and head out sans swim fins because none were available and I’m a decent enough swimmer and my destination wasn’t terribly far out.
I’m out searching for maybe 10 minutes and still no sea turtle in sight. At this point, I’m in this kind of natural alcove made by the surrounding lava rocks and probably 50 or so yards from shore. I’m swimming along the surface, looking down in vain for the turtle when the water kind of slaps me on the head. I find this strange so I bob up to see what’s what and get my bearings again. Nothing seems amiss so I head right back to it. No more than 30 seconds later and I get hit again so I bob back up and the wind is blowing in gales and the ocean is a frothy frenzy of blue and white and everyone is very quickly exiting the beach. It’s definitely time to head back. As I said, I was in this volcanic rock alcove so heading directly to shore wasn’t practical at this point so I decided to try swimming parallel to the shore a while up the beach where i was met by waves of water lolling over volcanic rock which was under water prior to the wind kicking up, but was now exposed to the air at regular intervals. Attempting to get through there with the threat of being smashed on the rocks didn’t seem like the best of plans, so I attempted the same down the beach the other direction and was met with the same conditions. At this point, with the water in a frenzy as it was, I was getting pretty tired so I bobbed there for a bit to weigh my options. I remember thinking to myself that this is when people drown, but I’m not one to panic. I wasn’t entirely sure how far out to sea I’d need to go to get past the volcanic rock so I decided my best bet was to swim further in to the alcove and climb out over the volcanic rock. Luckily, the alcove provided some natural shelter so the water was fairly calm the further inside you went. Unluckily, I was still surrounded by volcanic rock and the water was very shallow at this point. Attempting to walk on the rock in bare feet was painful so I decided to swim as much as possible over the rock before having to walk the rest of the way. Swimming through the shallows, my legs were getting scratched by the rocks and I was getting endlessly poked and prodded by sea urchins that had taken shelter there. Finally, when I couldn’t swim any further, I raised myself up and began the slow and painful process of walking the rest of the way to shore over needle sharp lava rocks. By the time I reached sand, my legs were a bloody mess and my feet were screaming in pain. I doused my legs in sand to keep the worst of the bleeding in check and headed back to our room to lick my wounds. And by lick my wounds, I mean pull shards of volcanic rock out of the bottom of my feet. Rock shards would occasionally dislodge themselves from my feet for the next few months. In fact, to this day, I’m pretty sure there’s still one left right underneath the callus on my left foot by my pinky toe. A little souvenir to perpetually remind me of the day the ocean tried to kill me.