Today, we made our first trip to the Jersey Shore since our move to this area. It was complete with unnaturally toned muscles, orange-tanned bodies, and a long, wooden boardwalk lined with funnel cake vendors and carnival rides. I’ve heard that the freezing ocean up here is not fit for swimming until at least mid-July, but the beach was packed with sunbathers nonetheless who worked up the nerve to go mid-calf into the chilly water. Seagulls flew overhead, shrieking as they swooped near open bags of potato chips. Sea shells covered the fine, golden sand. Umbrellas sprang up from the ground to form an insignificant, but appreciated dot of shade among the barren dunes that stretched on either side of us as far as we could see.
Eddie, Goose, and I laid on the beach relaxing and getting some much needed color on our pasty legs, when the sweat began to trickle down our faces. We decided to sacrifice our toes and ankles to the cold water in exchange for momentary relief from the heat. As the foamy waves approached the shore, we braced ourselves for the shock, which did not disappoint. The second the water rushed over our feet, we retreated back to the dry sand, shrieking in disbelief at the cold. As we looked far out into the ocean, we saw one brave pioneer, fully immersed and swimming in the water. The very idea seemed absolutely ludicrous and we immediately pegged him as a fool, vowing then and there that we would never be seen out there.
As soon as we decided that, I thought that maybe we were the fools. After all, it was the ocean, on a beautiful hot day, lifeguards were on duty, and we were in our swimsuits. Why on earth wouldn’t we give it a go? And suddenly I knew that I would. In a moment of impulsive determination, I marched further into the freaking freezing water and suddenly dove headfirst into the waves. I won’t lie, it knocked the wind out of me. I came up for air, gasping and yelping, then fought my way through the salty current back to land where Eddie and Sarah stood with eyes wide in disbelief.
After a few moments of recovering from the sheer shock and slight fear of hypothermia, I turned to Sarah, “Come on Goose. You’re going back in with me.” And although she put up a brief protest, I knew that I could count on her. I coaxed her into the water and we waited for the upcoming wave to crash at our feet. Then I gave the command “Now!” and we plunged into the sea. This time, my shrieks were far fewer and I managed to paddle past the heavy waves into the calm. We lasted only a few minutes before we retreated back to dry land. After that, we worked up the nerve to make several more trips in and out. After our final dive, as we walked back to the safety and warmth of our beach towels, I noticed several on-lookers. No doubt they thought, “What fools.” But as Goose and I laid back on the sand and let the sun absorb the water droplets now tingling on our legs, feeling exhilarated, we both knew who the real fools were.