Crazy Ocean Swimmer: Your Knife is Your First and Last Line of Defense

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It took a good while to get here, swimming in the ocean as a way to work out.  I’d gotten fed up with crunching every other day.  Just can’t get myself to do a run, or a hike.  And I’d been missing the ocean so.  Figuring that I could have a short visit and get a quick work out, I went for a short swim. 

Before I knew it, I was going three times a week for over a month.  Making it a strong swim with no resting.  And I could see, truly see new lines, new shadows on this body that I hadn’t seen in so long.  Then I decided.  This was going to be my new way to work out.  Two to three times a week, I’d swim for 20-30 minutes (Of course, I timed it).  And we’ll see.

Soon after the first month, I watched Jaws on television one night.  And then, right after in the same night, I watched “Shark Attack” on Animal Planet.  Oh, baby.  That was it.  Scared me crazy all over again.  But I’ve got to make my swim.  I can’t stop now.  So what do I do?  Uh-huh.  Take out my very sharp dive knife and strap it to my right calf.

Now I’m standing on the shore once more, warming up for the swim.  My dive knife is on my leg and I really don’t feel much better.  Come on.  I know that I stand little chance against a shark.  Shoot.  The barest chance is more like it.  Man, am I scared.  I’m swimming for over 10 minutes straight out to the ocean and then again coming back.  Just me.  But I’ve got to do it.  I can’t just stop.  Fear, well, in this case, just pisses me off!  So I tie my hair back, take a few steps into the ocean and dive under.  There’s sweat to be had here in this blue water. 

This beautiful U-shaped bay in the smallest southern village of a very small tropical island just on top of the equator—whew!—well, it’s my very large swimming pool.  On this rare occasion, the water is clear and blue.  Visibility is about 30 feet.  A very clear day today.  Hasn’t rained at all.  Much drier days, these days (global warming anyone?).  No recent influx of sedimentation and all kinds of muck and debris brought down from the scorched mountains and deposited into the ocean.  The reefs and coastal marine life enjoy a few days of “clean air”.  It’s painful to know that all it takes is one good rain to make this vibrant blue water dull and dirty looking again.  And as much as I don’t want that, the land needs more rain.

I’m just about to the halfway mark.  Keeping the pace steady.  Flip underwater and kick the wall that is the ocean and head back towards the shore.  Make sure to keep a little push in my stride.  I’m thinking, if a shark actually attacks me, I don’t want to just go down.  Oh, no.  I’m not gonna let a shark take me away from my life, from my family.  If I’m going down, baby, you’re coming with me.  And that’s why I have my very sharp dive knife. 

I stop swimming for a moment, fake an attack on me, hammering it into my head that I’ve got to remember to grab that knife no matter what.  Pound his snout.  Head butt if I have to.  Jam my fingers in both his eyes.  Shove my hand through his gills.  Oh, yeah.  It won’t be easy.  I’m all too aware that lone swimmers in the ocean have successfully survived a shark encounter.  If it comes to that, so shall I.

Now I’m halfway home from halfway.  The last few minutes of the home stretch.  Made it again.  I’ll tell you, I’ve jumped off a boat into the clearest blue water way, way, way out in the ocean.  Hundreds of feet deep on a bright sunny day with not a thing in sight, above or below the water.  There’s nothing like it and few things come close.  And no matter how scared I get—and I get scared quite often—fear doesn’t stand a chance.  I won’t allow it.  There’s just too much beauty in the natural world.  Too much to experience for that.  Truly, truly wondrous and amazing.  I am so thankful that I know it. 

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Len Q. is a master blade sharpener and an adventurer who strives to protect the natural world.  If you would like to learn about

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