Growing up as a grass-fed Prairie boy, “the ocean” would not have been high on any “things that could mortally wound me” list I would have made.
Tractors? Bulls? Climate change? Sure, those all would have made the list. But the ocean?
It seems that list needs a revision. A single day spent on British Columbia’s beautiful Sunshine Coast has convinced me that “the ocean” should now be right at the top of any such list, right beside car crash, bacon, bears, and beers. “The ocean” may, in fact, be slowly killing me right now as I sit here typing. Each key stroke reminds me of the deep cut on the tip of my finger that is slowly healing but still looks a little weird. The cut was made by a clam shell I encountered while digging through ocean sand, which has me concerned I’ve come in contact with some sort of clam poison. I’m no marine biologist/doctor/chiropractor, but I’m at least 12 per cent sure that “clam poisoning” is a real thing and I am probably dying of it.
But clam poison is not why the ocean is so high on my revised “things that could kill me” list. The reason the ocean is going to kill me is love. Unadulterated love. The Sunshine Coast made me realize that I want to be near the ocean, on the ocean, in the ocean all the time. It’s just so much fun out there. I am basically SpongeBob SquarePants, except he lives in a pineapple under the sea and I live with lower back pain.
That one single day out on the ocean made me realize just how much I love it out there, and how many different ways it can kill you. Let’s review, before the poison reaches my brain.
The day started with my two boys, showing complete disregard for the number of beverages that may have been consumed the night before, poking me awake at 6:30 a.m. and sneaking me out of our vacation rental in silence so as not to wake our sleeping friends. We then headed down to the dock where we spent the next three hours just staring at/touching/listening to/throwing things into the ocean. Not too dangerous yet, except for the fact that we were so entranced we forgot to eat or drink anything. Mmmmm, seawater.
Once we were done staring, we noticed that the tide was very low, so we slipped off the dock and walked out into the long, narrow cove. Then we walked, walked and walked some more, surprised to find that where just hours ago there had been ocean was now less than six inches of water all the way to the other side of the cove. We walked across the entire cove, each step bringing with it a fresh opportunity to land on something very sharp, like a crab or pirate sword. At this point I was having too much fun to notice how shredded my feet were getting on all the broken shells and rusty anchors on the ocean floor – there are so many little cuts on my feet now that it looks like I tried to shave them while driving a Jet Ski.
It was out on these wanderings that we discovered the fun of digging into the sand to look for clams wherever we saw a little air hole. Soon after, I discovered the fun of bleeding into the ocean.
Next came lunch at the cabin, and then right back down to the dock to hop in some floaties. Here we failed to notice two important things. 1) The tide had come back in so much so that all the paths that we had walked just an hour or two before were now at easy human-killing depths. 2) The skin on my back was frying like a slab of back bacon. Pro tip: don’t let a six-year-old apply your sunscreen.
It was at this point that my boys jumped into one of those inflatable rubber dinghies and then immediately started to float away, their enthusiastic attempts at rowing doing nothing except causing the boat to spin around in circles as they drifted farther and farther from the dock. Much chuckling ensued as we watched them row in futility, until we finally clued in to one more important thing. 3) Children floating away: not good.
That’s when it was dad to the rescue, and I floatied over to them, hopped into the dinghy and cracked off a few good dad jokes about ending up in China if I hadn’t saved them. Then I rowed. And rowed some more. And rowed again, for about 20 minutes, the jokes getting less funny as I realized we were getting no closer to our destination, every minute in fact bringing us slightly closer to China.
That’s when I decided to wave the white flag and follow the current to a neighbouring dock, hauling out our vessel so we could take a splashy walk of shame past some family’s deck, trying not to interrupt their game of Crokinole.
Back at our dock, we took one last chance at death by jumping off the dock into the water. Both my boys, who aren’t great swimmers yet, basically landed each jump on my head and then grabbed onto me to pull them back to safety. Still rocking an open wound, I never shook the subconscious thought that at any moment a killer whale could emerge from nowhere and give me a good ramming.
There was, it would seem, injury and the potential for death at every moment. But that day, if it had been a killer whale that got me, or an adorable child breaking my neck, or clam poisoning, or drifting out into the shipping lanes, or stepping on a naval mine, or sunburning myself to bleached bones, I would have died excruciatingly happy. It was, in fact, one of my favourite days in a long, long time.
And I’m pretty sure that’s not just the clam poison talking.
Andy Prest is the sports editor for the North Shore News and writes a biweekly humour/lifestyle column. firstname.lastname@example.org