Beware the Seduction of Perfection

I remember once when I went to the beach with a friend of mine. It was the first time we’d been to that particular beach. We were both avid body surfers, and were always looking for new beaches that had waves that were shaped well enough for a nice ride. Everybody knows how fun a nice ride is, right? So we came up to this beach, and it wasn’t very crowded, and the waves had a very slow rolling break that looked like it would support our average skills in body surfing. We couldn’t really do a lot of tricks like barrel rolls or anything like that, but it was fun, and we enjoyed it.

We approached the beach with high expectations, because as the nice shaped waves kept rolling in, we suspected they were the norm, rather than the exception. We’d been to many beaches before where the waves were generally pretty lousy, and good sets came in only once in a great while. But this beach, however, was seemingly unlike that. This beach seemed to offer a fairly consistent supply of ridable waves. We both walked into the water, it was late spring so we weren’t wearing any wet suits, as this story takes place in San Diego. After putting on our flippers, we backed out until we were deep enough where we could swim without dragging on the bottom. It’s hard to walk out wearing flippers, you see.

We suddenly realized why this beach was so sparsely populated. There was a huge amount of kelp just below the surface that you couldn’t see. The more we tried to fight our way through it, hoping it would ease up eventually, the more we realized that it just got worse and worse. Pretty soon it became clear that not only was it a nuisance, but it was dangerous as well. For anyone that has body surfed before will know what I’m talking about. When you wipe out, you are plunged under the surface of the water, in what my friend refers to as the “spin cycle,” like in a washing machine. Because of the rotating motion of the wave, when you are plunged into the water, your body continues with the spinning motion. Sometimes it can take a while to figure out which way is up. What makes it even more difficult is when you are struggling for breath. Add in the possibility of being tangled up in kelp, and drowning suddenly becomes a likely outcome of a wipe out.

No thank you.

We exited the water as quickly as possible, realizing the danger of this beach. The waves no longer looked like inviting sources of fun and pleasure, venus fly traps of death beckoning us, only to swallow us and kill us.

It’s amazing how the surface of something changes when you realize that just underneath are things that will grab you and cling to you and never let you go. It is lucky we found the kept when we did, and not on our first wipe out. That would have been quite dangerous.

We both learned that day to be very careful. Sometimes it’s important to tread carefully below the surface. What might appear to be enticing, may actually harbor deeper things that you can’t see that can grab you and pull you under. Never to let you see the light of day or take another breath of life sustaining fresh air.

I’m glad we decided to proceed cautiously. While it’s imporant to actively search for things in life that you can enjoy this, now, it is also important to check below the surface a little bit sometimes before you dive in.