Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Dolphin Inside the Break.

May 2nd, 2012

With all the dolphin excitement of late in Bolsa Chica, I recall the story of the only time I ever remember being inside the break (inside of the wave’s breaking point) with a dolphin even further inside of me at the same time.  This occurred a few years ago when I spent a lot of time in the Pacific Ocean.

While body-surfing one afternoon in a sea of average to decent sized waves, I had just caught a left on about a head-high wave with inviting (but walled-up) shape.  I remember seeing my friend going down the wave to my right, so I split-out to the left. After getting some tube and as the ride was coming to an end, I was quickly approaching a wading swimmer at about ten/twenty feet in front of me.  I then did my favorite summersault flip while sort-of going over what was left of the falls at the end of the ride to land on my feet and to have the remaining energy of the wave push me up on to my feet.  At which point I was directly facing the beach in less than waist deep water.  As I regained myself, I remember seeing my friend about forty feet down-beach to my right.   The wading swimmer in thigh deep water was about ten/fifteen feet away at a ten o’clock directional vector from my location.

I then realized that another creature must have been riding that same wave toward the beach.  Because, I immediately noticed a fairly large grey mass under about knee-deep water and almost directly in front of me and nearly right next to the wading swimmer.  After my natural and initial alarm, I immediately realized it was a dolphin.  I figured it must have been a young one playing around because it was only about five feet long and I had never seen one of the larger ones come so close to shore in such shallow water.  Often I had been in the vicinity of seals and sea lions that were hangin’ on the inside, but never had I seen a dolphin even faced with the possibility of being beached as such appeared at that moment – not to mention the creature was then nearly surrounded by humans in shallow water.

That’s when the sea mammal apparently decided to have some more fun at the expense of me and the oblivious swimmer wading right next to it.  It seemed to me that the dolphin at this point realized how close it had come to being beached as a result of body surfing the wave with me and my friend – needless to say it got a longer ride than the two of us.  Because, the very next thing after I recognized its presence there was a loud smacking/popping sound as it smacked its good-sized tail against the surface of the water and did so right in the face of the unaware swimmer wading immediately next to it.  One could say the wading swimmer appeared somewhat startled by the unexpected noise of the tail impacting the water. 

Now here’s where I come in.  From a dead stop at about ten+ feet away and in a depth of about two feet of water, the dolphin turned and was beginning to head back to sea.  However, much to my dismay, at that moment I was immediately outside the critter and I was blocking its straight shot back to the break.  Within fractions of a second it was now heading directly at me as it began to pick up speed in its race to return to the outside.  From a dead stop of about ten+ feet away to where it was merely about two feet in front of me, it was moving so fast that I barely had time to become alarmed.  Again, it was moving so fast that I instantly realized I was about to get hammered by the creature and t‘weren’t nothing I was 'gonna be able to do ‘bout it 'neither!  I was starting to hope that it didn’t dislocate my knee or hip or anything else upon impact.  As I began to brace for the impending and imminent collision and when it appeared as though it was within a foot of slamming me, the dolphin maneuvered around me better than a hot knife through butter and went on its way without even slowing down.  I saw it looking at me and it seemed like it was sort-of smiling and I'll always remember making eye contact with the critter as it went by on its way back out to sea. 

It was all pretty funny.  The wading swimmer, trying to regain his obviously shattered-cool, says, ‘hmmm, frisky one!’  He got out of the water within moments afterwards.  Here, I almost got slammed by the creature and this other guy was still trying to regain his composure from being splashed by the dolphin’s tail.  I was chuckling to myself as I swam back to the outside to wait for another ride on another wave.   :)

Adam T.

Follow-on note (June 2020) :  A few years ago, I rewrote this blog entry for an admissions essay.  I somewhat cleaned it up grammatically, and added some more emphasis here and there.  I suppose the school liked it because I was admitted as a student.  However, as I rarely change my blog entries after the fact, it is unlikely I will post the rewritten version.  If nothing else, I suppose, maybe I'm loyal to a cause.  The subject for the admissions essay:  Describe an activity in your life you wish you could be doing again now.  My answer was that I would prefer to be body-surfing with my friend again.  Subsequent to this story, he died of cancer.  But on a happier note, I'm sure he would agree that body surfing the walled-up waves of Redondo Beach are among some of the best times in a life for which one could hope.