Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

Never turn your back on the ocean.

I learned this the way no one ever wants to learn a lesson. The hard way.

You’d think I’d have already known. I mean, c’mon. I live just 20 minutes from the beach. But here’s the thing. I live near the Gulf. As in, the faux ocean. (Faux-cean??)

You see, the Gulf is rarely angry. Sure, the riptide warnings are no joke if you’re swimming. But those menacing, shore crushing, experienced surfers only sort of waves? Yeah… we don’t really see those here. That’s why I learned the hard way.

And here’s how I learned the hard way.

During my recent girls’ trip to San Francisco, we ventured north of the city to Muir Woods. Upon arrival, a park employee asked to see our parking reservation – whiiiiich we did not have. Apparently, this requirement had been implemented the day before our visit and the website hadn’t yet been updated. Ohhh joyyyy. But the kind employee did direct us toward an open lot a few miles down the road, so off we went.

I assume she referred us to the parking lot at Muir Beach, because that’s the next one we came across and it didn’t require a reservation. Unfortunately, an untimely drizzle killed our plans for a long hike through the redwoods. We could see the shoreline from the car, though, and the combination of sea mist and massive, white-capped waves had me mesmerized. Since we’d driven all that way, my sis Jenessa (Ness) and I couldn’t waste an opportunity to see the beach up close. Hoods on, we scampered off – promising our friend Kristen we’d be quick while she waited in the car.

The waves were quite wild, but we stayed out of reach, inspecting driftwood and snapping photos of each other.

When a young couple joined us on the beach, Jenessa wasted no time in asking them to take our picture and offering to take one of them. They agreed, so she handed the guy her phone and we posed, backs toward the ocean. BIG mistake.

At precisely the moment my lips formed a smile, we were slapped from behind by what had to be a rogue wave. But really, slapped isn’t the right word. That wave full on assaulted us. I fell backward on my butt, with only my head above water. My sister managed to jump right out of the water, but somehow her hair was wetter than mine! After recovering from shock, we looked at each other and could not hold back the laughter. As unfortunate, unexpected, and uncomfortable as our situation was, we found it HILARIOUS. Honestly, we were even bummed that the guy didn’t capture the wave hitting us, so we had him take an after photo instead. It’s honestly one of my favorite photos from the entire trip. Not kidding. In fact, the rogue wave attack wound up being my favorite trip memory, too. I’m weird like that. (Still wonder why the guy didn’t warn us though…)

After taking more ridiculous photos of each other, Ness and I sloshed back toward the parking lot – laughing all the way. Ha ha ha! (Yes, Jingle Bells totally applies.)

Now would be a good time to mention that we had zero cell service at Muir Beach. Poor Kristen had no clue what she was about to see. But, for not having a heads up, she switched her phone to video mode the moment she noticed us approaching the car. Good call, because as soon as she opened her door, we launched into a simultaneous, mile-a-minute synopsis of what happened.

Thankfully, I brought a change of clothes, since the thought of driving back to SF in damp, dirt-filled clothes was majorly unappealing. The challenge was cleaning up in the beach bathroom WITHOUT A SINK before putting on the dry duds. I spent a good ten minutes attempting to wipe wet sand off my skin, but there was just no hope for my legs. At that point, I decided to just go without pants for the drive back. (TMI, I know!) For modesty’s sake, I wrapped my jacket around my waist and walked across the parking lot toward Jenessa. She took one horrified look at my makeshift skirt and blurted, Jayme, what are you doing??!! Without realizing there was a guy walking right behind me, I yelled back, I am NOT wearing pants in the car!! Made his day, no doubt, as he laughed all the way to his SUV.

But not wearing pants proved a wise decision, for comfort’s sake. And, to appease my sister, I draped my dry leggings over my lap – lest a semi driver see my underwear (her words!).

It’s not every day a girl finds herself driving across a fog-engulfed Golden Gate… pants-less. Yet there I was, in that state of undress, reflecting on our wave encounter. That’s when I knew it would forever be one of my favorite adventure memories of all time – not just from this trip.

But you know what else I’ll remember forever?

Never turn your back on the ocean.

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