Small Talk

You won’t win against the ocean

I had a small disagreement with the ocean this summer. It was mortifying and frightening and rather educational. The bottom line is, I really don’t want to die in an embarrassing, foolish, shoulda-known-better way. Who does?But after 63 years of hanging out in and near the Southern California beaches and surf, I got caught in one of those rip tides that made the news here last month.

My girlfriends and I went out into the warm surf and gleefully leaped over and under large waves for maybe 15 minutes. We then decided we’d had enough water in our ears and up our noses and headed for shore. One friend was closer and made it the last 20 yards to shore while another friend and I began to flounder.

Suddenly I realized I could not touch bottom, I was completely winded and I was getting nowhere fast.

I would love to say I kept calm, remembered to swim sideways and did everything I had preached to my children for years. Nope. I kinda panicked.

I did think about rolling over on my back in a desperate effort to catch my breath. If I had been alone, I like to think I would have done just that…but all I could really think of was “I can’t get to shore!”

My much-younger friend stayed calm, bless her. She suggested we swim sideways but at that point I wasn’t sure I could swim anywhere.

Just then a small angel with blond curly hair, leashed to a body board, caught my eye. He was only a few feet away and I made a beeline for him. He calmly watched two “older” women swim over, grab his board and wheeze out a request to “borrow” it just long enough to get to shore. He remained nonplussed, said not a word and just let us do our thing until we were washed into the shallows. I have never been so glad to feel sand under my feet.

I did thank him, sort of. “I can’t thank you enough for letting us use your board, sweetie!” I panted. He just stared. I don’t know if he realized I felt I owed him my life. I am sure the lifeguard would have gotten to me eventually, but right then, this cooperative 8-year-old was my absolute hero.

When I got to shore, I just collapsed in my chair and lost sight of our little savior. I never did spot him again although I looked, in hopes of letting his mom know how cool he had been.

So if you have an adorable, fair-haired boy child who was out body-boarding at Ponto Beach Friday, Aug. 31 around 4 p.m., give him a really big hug for me, please, and let him know how much we cherish his willingness to let two crazy grandmas commandeer his board. The lifeguard says thanks, too, since he did not have to swim out and drag me in.

As fond as I am of lifeguards, that was not the scenario I was hoping for.

Jean Gillette is a lame but much wiser swimmer who may have an inner tube permanently attached to her middle. Contact her at