For the past two weeks, the ocean has been terrific. Water temps in the mid-60s (balmy for the Pacific), and almost no surf.
So, some friends and I have been swimming just about every morning. We’re usually in the water around 6, at low tide, and we swim before the sun really gets blazing (the marine layer usually burns off around 10 am).
The water around here is normally cloudy – 10 feet of visibility is a big deal. This isn’t a bad thing. Cloudy water means one can’t see the bugaboos of the deep swimming beneath – or the used condoms and discarded shopping carts arranged into some sort of unholy fish henge.
But this morning everything was clear as crystal. We could see the sun coming up, the sandy bottom of the ocean and the school of fish swimming about 10 feet below us (presumably doing maintenance work).
As I was thinking what a wonderful view it was and how lucky we were to get the nice water, I heard a loud splash about a foot (30cm) from my head.
It was a pelican, diving to get at the fish.
I looked up at the Hitchcockian pod diving inches away (not an exaggeration) from the swimmers and started to wonder about the birds’ ‘wild’ status.
Here is where I have to admit that I’m not exactly crazy about birds. I don’t have any past traumatic experiences with them (other than freshly washed car poopings and a nip from an aunt’s parrot), they just make me… uneasy.
Especially when they’re rocketing into the ocean water inches from my head.
My swim partner suggested we get the hell out of there (“I’ve worked too hard to not be in the middle of the food chain!”), and I agreed.
No amount of beautiful water was worth getting a shit to the back of the wetsuit (pelican shit is some unbelievably foul stuff), or, worse, a beak to the back of the head.
As I spun around and headed towards the shore, I saw a blurry gray mass slide past my face (I refuse to pay for prescription swim goggles), followed by a fluke so close I could have bitten it.
I turned my head and briefly locked eyes with the dolphin.
If you’re holding your breath waiting for me to wax poetic about what a life-changing spiritual experience it was, you can exhale now.
It scared the hell out of me.
In case you were wondering, dolphins are fucking huge. This one was at least 6 feet (2m) long. Plus, I think it was carrying a knife and a bag of bloody swim caps.
I attempted to exit the water by jumping straight up in the air, and making a noise that I’m told sounded like “GAAAAUUUGGGGHHHMMMFFFFF!”
I spun back around, only to see another dolphin pass about 3 feet (1m) behind my swim partner, who must have seen the reflection in my saucer-sized eyes, as she yelped and proceeded to swim like hell towards the beach.
Me: “Fuck you, don’t leave me!”
Swim partner: “I just have to outswim you!”
When we got to the beach, we both stood there for a few minutes while our heart rates dropped from hummingbird to normal and then decided to go back in – not into the deeper water, but just enough so that we weren’t carrying the memory of fear all day.
So we swam back out to not quite where the birds were, then came back in.
Where my swim partner stepped on a stingray.
She didn’t get stung – she just stepped on the ‘wing’ as the ray swam off, but she jumped and made a similar scream to mine.
We then decided to go back in, so we weren’t carrying the memory of Poseidon trying to murder us all day.
Third time’s the charm.
The birds had moved off, the water was clear and calm. We swam out to the buoy (about 200 yards offshore), hung out and enjoyed the view, and then swam back.
No dolphin attacks, no bird dive bombs, no lurking stingrays. Just a wonderful swim in the beautiful clear water.
When we came back up to the lifeguard tower where everyone keeps their stuff, one of the guys told me he’d been trying to get that close to a dolphin for years, and that I’d let everyone down by behaving in a cowardly manner.
He then imitated my shriek for good measure.
Easy for him to say. He didn’t see that bag of swim caps.