Open water

I have heard that many people who fish on boats can't swim.  At first, that seems perplexing.  It seems like a crazy contradiction. Recently, I heard a seasoned fisherman explain that when you've been on the ocean long enough you come to understand that you are but a speck out there.  Your power has little on the ocean's.

I love swimming. I can't get enough of it, swimming in the ocean is my favourite. Ocean swimming invigorates me and evaporates the rigid boundaries I usually encase myself in.

Last summer, I began to understand a little more deeply why many people who work in the fisheries don't bother to learn to swim.  I went on a whale watching tour.  It was an open zodiac with four little children.  I was on edge the minute I got in the boat. The kids themselves and the adults (from what I could tell) were thrilled to be where they were, but for me, I was severely dislocated, practically disabled by my fear. I felt stranded in a place that seemed utterly hopeless to escape from if necessary. All I could see were specks of land and kilometres and kilometres of ocean.  Occasionally, a whale would come up for air and , although spectacular, did little to lessen my anxiety.   They were so magnificent and enormous and I felt so very tiny and insignificant. As we neared shore, I came to almost enjoy the experience, but I think that was just supreme relief kicking in.

The experience reminded me of both the prick of fear and spike of exhilaration I felt, sitting in a tiny training boat when I was a teenager, pulling up alongside a massive cargo ship.

It came to me that the very same reason I love ocean swimming is why the ocean is so terrifying to me.  The freedom I feel when I float and dive underwater is made possible because of what the ocean is.  She's a body of water that has the power to erase all the laws that rule my life standing on shore, namely gravity.  It can cradle me even though I am too old to be cradled. It can pull me under in a rambunctious storm.  It's waves can make it possible for me to jump up high and move my body in ways I never do when I am not in the ocean.

Open water renders you helpless, but isn't that the point?  Isn't that the reason I flock there every summer?  It forces me to submit on a hot summer day.  I surrender my faculties. This body of water has the force to recalibrate every limit I thought I had.


The same water that rubs out those seemingly immutable lines between me and the rest of the world makes it fun to swim near the shore and almost impossible to swim back to it.

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