Thursday, August 14, 2014

Facing death

This IPS thread features an article on free diving, diving deep without any oxygen tanks on just the last breath you took. They folks stay down for minutes at a time. One comment was about surfing, which brought back a memory.

I spent 2 months on Oahu for an intensive study with a tai chi master. I also enjoyed bodysurfing so engaged it often. One day on the north shore a storm was coming in. It wasn't the season for the big 30-footers for which it's infamous, but they were about 15-20 footers. I had been instructed by a local what to do if I got tossed, and fortunately I listened carefully. I'd already ridden a few 15 footers well but then I caught a 20 footer. I was riding it well, staying ahead of the break when it instantly broke out of rhythm and I was thrown head over heel. Round and round I went, several times, even though I tried to go in sideways so as to avoid such a possibly calamitous roll, since if I were to hit bottom on my head like that, even into the sand instead of the coral, I could easily break my neck. I was lucky I was in deeper water so that didn't happen.

However, I was thrown down under pretty deep by the time I quit rolling. And it was hazy from the bubbles and I couldn't tell which way was up for a few seconds. I finally figured it out when I saw another big wave break across the surface so I swam up toward it. And it seemed to take forever, as my air was running out. I didn't have time to take a deep breath, given the sudden and unexpected break that threw me under. It must've taken about 10 hard strokes to break the surface and the very moment I did another big wave came crashing down on me and down I went again. Down, down, down. Same story again, only I didn't roll. I realized it must've been going on a minute I'd been under, as I was starting to feel the oxygen starvation. Only due to the circumstances I didn't experience beauty and glory but panic and dread, as I might very well die from this. Many had under similar circumstances.

I again finally made my way back to the surface to yet another big wave about to break, only this time I had enough time to dive under it so didn't get pushed down. Then I had enough time to swim quickly back in, riding the white water from the waves that were breaking further out. The strangest emotion hit me though once I was out of danger. I just started laughing and laughing so hard to the point of crying. The friend I was with was worried when I got sucked under and came rushing over, thinking I was gone for good. He couldn't figure out why I was reacting that way. I can't say for certain why either, other than I literally stared death in the face and survived. And it was really fun.

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