The man speaking to us had a full grey head of hair, slicked back by the salt water, remnants of the recent dip in the ocean dripping slowly onto his face. He tells us he has been swimming in these waters- this little plot of beach and ocean- for twenty years.
"Only the second or third time, I reckon." He pauses, exhales and proceeds on a long winded story about close encounters of the whale kind. It's the shark part I'm interested in, the shark part I want to come back to. I shift my weight between my sand-packed zebra coloured flops, waiting for a moment to ask again.
Only 500 meters earlier, treading water just off the shore break, the endurance swim group we stumbled upon (invitation via exceedingly friendly lifeguard at the local pool) paused before carrying on their Sunday morning swim to Big Beach. The consensus in the group was quick and unanimous. Due to the murkiness of the water we must swim back immediately. The group was vague and unwilling to explain to us mainlanders why the cause for alarm.
"We don't swim in this water because of the risk of shark attack. It goes up substantially when they can't see you, and because this water is so murky, that's a factor. They don't understand you're not prey. So to keep our arms and legs, we only swim when we can see the bottom." The man grinned. (Later he tells me how often a swim about-face has occurred since he started wintering here).
I swam a record pace back to the beach.
My Dad had a Blue Elantra car, seek standard edition, when I was 14 years old. He found out his company vehicle was going to be traded in, and as such decided to teach me how to drive a standard car before this event occurred. It was wintertime, and I didn’t take really easily to driving a standard.
Most people who can drive “stick” have a pretty good story about learning. Stalling on hills, grinding the gears, or being unable to move the car forward. Dad was exceedingly patient was we worked through making the car move, although I never really graduated past traveling in the neighborhood. Many years later, with an impending European schedule that would demand efficient stick driving, Dad took me out again. This time I borrowed a co-workers car, and managed also to go out on the road. My biggest problem was changing gears. I didn’t easily pick up that magic touch, the sticking point, the sweet spot. The place where you put the clutch down and swiftly and smoothly change gears. No, that did not come easily for me. Even now when I borrow Jon’s car, it takes me more than a few moments – and a few turns- to fall into that beautiful and easy gear change.
I was thinking of this yesterday as I was running towards Kiehi. I have been in Hawaii for five days now, and it is only now I really feel a complete sense of changing gears. I struggled to let go of routine, schedule and the busy pace that has been demanding through the fall, specifically October and November. The magic feeling of away and total escape from the world that is your daily life. I let myself smile. Perhaps even one more shift down is in order.
I live in Calgary where I own a small business, instruct fitness classes and call myself an endurance athlete. I am the proud owner of four bikes, an expensive wine education, and a strange fascination with the colour orange. I have a long-time love of football, baking, and coffee. I put my minor in creative writing to use occasionally both here and in other publications. I live with my tall, handsome and often-hungry professional triathlete husband.
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