Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A boogie boarding close call

Boogie boarding (aka body boarding), according to Wikipedia, is a form of wave riding or surfing that started in the late 1900's. Here's a picture of wide spread boogie boarding at the Waikiki Beach in Hawaii:As described in Wikipedia the boogie board differs from a surfboard in that it is much shorter and made of foam. Here's a story as reported in Bay of Plenty Times of New Zealand by Vicki Waterhouse entitled "Close call as rip takes boarder under."
A freak wave hit her and dragged her under the surface. It felt like she was in a washing machine, being thrown around.

She was running out of steam. She didn't know which way was up. She screamed and cried for help. This is it, she thought. The end of her life.

The 43-year-old Tauranga mother had headed to the beach on New Year's Eve for some down time with her son and her friend.

She never expected to come within inches of her life about 5:30 pm while out boogie boarding.

I guess calling a freak wave in the first sentence of the report is more of a figurative speaking than a true fact. Long time ago the "establishments" tend to dismiss seafarers' calling of freaque waves, nowadays the media may be guilty of using the words too casually also. Indeed, here's the details of her story:

"I was originally up to about four feet and I was making my way out and a big wave just came and it took me out quite a bit," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

More than a week later she is still recovering from a chest infection brought on by the huge amount of water she swallowed and the water that went into her lungs.

Like most people, she never thought it would happen to her, and she wants her story to serve as an example to others. Shelley had been swimming for about an hour before she got into trouble.

The wave hit her and dragged her and her board under the water. In her panic she ripped off the strap to her board, leaving her without a flotation device.

Then things got worse. She was taking in a lot of water, and nobody was there to save her. Eventually, after what seemed like an age, someone came to help.

Shelley, who asked for her surname not to be printed, found it hard to express the immense gratitude she had for the man who pulled her out, but who she never got to thank.

"The wonderful young man who had long brown dreadlocks who came to my rescue and the other men who came to assist us, I don't know who you are but thank you so much, God bless you."

The man she spoke of was a surfer in his 20s, athletic and softly spoken, and he came to her aid before the lifeguards could reach her.

Shelley was at a part of the beach the lifeguards patrol, but was not between the flags. The young man got her on to his board and on to the beach before leaving her with the lifeguards.

When the lifeguards pulled her on to the beach she was not in a good state, lifeguard Leigh Sefton said.

"She was convulsing, in a state of shock. Her body was shutting down, basically trying to vomit.

"She was in the early stages of hypothermia."

Shelley was dressed appropriately, in togs and boardshorts, and considered herself a strong swimmer.

Shelley didn't see any rip signs and didn't think there was anything to worry about.

She had paid attention to her three teenagers' swim safe school messages, and thought she knew what she was doing.

And those teenagers, two boys and one girl, were the first thing she thought of when she thought she was nearing the end of her life.

"I just really didn't think I was going to survive it," she said.

"You don't go through that and not start to re-evaluate your life.

"Life is very short, it can be over very quickly and I really thought that was my day."

When she was returned to the beach she was given oxygen, and transported back to the surf club on a quadbike.

"Our main concern was secondary drowning. You think you've swallowed a lot of water but it's actually in your lungs," Mr Sefton said.

He added there were a few lessons to be learned from Shelley's experience that include always swimming between flags and using flippers while boogie boarding.

Shelley has since purchased some new flippers, but is yet to test them out as she has not been back in the water.

Rip currents are the most dangerous thing to worry about when swimming on a nice ocean beach. Combining a rip current with a large wave increased the danger exponentially. Shelley is really a lucky one, thanks be to God! No one would blame her for taking her time to be back in the water and business as usual again.

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