This is a heartfelt letter to all you amphibious Aussies out there taking on the ocean like its a back yard paddling pool. That huge expanse of salty, wavey water is home to many a creature but not humans for many, many years. Our land is girt by sea – I get it – and it comes as naturally to you as putting vegemite on your toast in the morning.
Only understand this – It’s not natural. You jump into the surf in clothes you just went to the pub in and get out looking like someone from a surf magazine.
I was brought up on the north west coast of England where the sea was something to be absolutely feared. We may go paddling in the choppy water with the grey clouds looming overhead and the waves crashing noisily a few hundred yards out but swimming in there was never, ever, ever entertained. And this is in Blackpool where never a shark, crocodile or jellyfish has ever been seen.
You make it look bloody inviting and oh so simple.
Just recently I was at the beach with a couple of Aussie mates who were hanging out just past the break having a lovely conversation – bobbing along and occasionally pausing mid sentence to duck underneath a wave if it was too big and breaking a bit early. Do they teach this shit in school here or what? And a few metres behind them was me getting smashed in the face by waves whilst trying to look cool. My reason for not going past the break? The water was at least chest height which at the time seemed a much scarier concept.
My friends emerge from the ocean a few minutes later after a nice relaxing dip looking like pro surfers whilst I emerge out of the surf wearing half a bikini and expelling sea water/seaweed/small sea creatures from my nose – missing jewellery and decorum.
I’ve not taken my duties as an Australian lightly – believe me over the years I’ve braved many a session with the sea. My first and last ever surf lesson still gives me nightmares as I recall the cool surf instructor dudes chatting up the very capable 18 year olds in the class as I was dragged towards the rocks on a rip. I think in the end I was saved by a passing school kid out for a swim but to be honest it’s still all a bit of a traumatic blur.
To be fair it’s not just the Ocean that causes me problems – I’ve had a few panicky moments in sedate swimming pools too and as an Aussie citizen I feel I’m letting the side down every time I approach the water.
So please fellow countrymen if you see me thinking it looks pretty pleasant out there just remember we weren’t all born in board shorts with a snorkel in our mouth.
Please just take my hand and lead me to the nearest ice cream van or donkey ride, or sit me with the toddlers building castles in the sand where a native Blackpool girl really belongs.