I married a man with saltwater in his veins, unbeknownst to me at the time.
Well the first clue should have been the night we met chin-deep in mineral springs. Two girlfriends and I had taken a long weekend to drive five hours north of San Diego, Calif. to soak in hot springs located in the foothills of the Sequoia National Park.
We began our courtship in mountain waters and hiking the dusty trails around south and central California. We married, and two years later moved to Kaua`i where in short order, I lost him to the sea.
I’ve never been confident in the ocean. Living surrounded by water here though, I thought it wise to develop a relationship with the Pacific. I joined a six-man canoe club, hoping to overcome my discomfort and share in Wes’s passion. Three years later I accepted my land-loving legs and succumbed to the life of a “volunteer.”
Thirteen years later and I continue to shuttle my amphibious husband from point to point so he can charge down the coast in his surfski, a racing kayak, while I find a trail to forge with my dogs.
Wes paddles alone most often and I accept the dangers involved.
To quote president of Kaua`i Hoe Wa`a, Margie Goodno, “You can be safe and prepared out on the ocean and a whale slaps you and you’re done.”
I get it.
And while I know he’d die happy, I am still relieved when he takes every precaution before pushing into the surf.
I married a Boy Scout. Safety first really is his motto. And with each additional drowning here, I’m relieved to know I married someone with keen observations and a cool head.
Wes is one of the few paddlers on Kaua`i who wears a Personal Flotation Device, known as a PFD. He straps fins to his boat in case he has to swim back to shore. He carries a whistle, a cell phone and dresses in a high visibility polypropylene top. He always calls to let me know his entry point and destination.
His safety is in his hands and in the benevolence of the unknown.
Margie and I stood on the beach one day before a race and she told me about one of many times she’d been humbled by the sea.
“I had my boat fall apart on the water. I heard it cracking and paddled closer to shore so if I needed to, I could swim in,” she recalled.
When her ama (outrigger float) separated from her akus (rails connecting canoe to ama) she was left bobbing in the sea with her boat in pieces.
“I had to swim after everything and then use my leash to wrap it together,” she said.
She waved her paddle overhead trying to draw the attention of other paddlers but no one could see her over the chop of the waves. Somehow she was able to rig her boat while floating in water.
“Being on the ocean keeps everything in perspective,” she said. “You realize how insignificant we are – so you get over yourself.”
Danger doesn’t keep any of us apart from what we were born to do. Writing is no different. There are always risks taken when voicing an opinion or choosing a side. But loss of life while tapping away on the keyboard isn’t all that common. It’s a pretty safe pastime and career choice.
I’m a wimp when it comes to the water and the increase in drownings further supports my instincts to never turn my back on the sea or swim alone.
Margie told me her son is a lifeguard who worries for her safety.
“I tell him, I do what I love everyday.”
Me too Margie.