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Personal Essay By Declan Hamilton

A hot day at the beach is a lovely place to be in the middle of summer. No clouds covering the skies or winds destroying the air so why was this not an enjoyable day? Well if I remember correctly, I was excited and beside myself. My Father, Michael, and my mother Sue thought it would be a good idea to take the kids on an adventure. I was at the age of 11 and was very enthusiastic about the idea. A day at Cowes beach in Narooma, a day of excitement and wave riding was what I considered entertainment. We would then be back in time for the movie ‘Over the Hedge’ back at the resort.

Getting into the ocean proved to be harder than I imagined. Each step brought a cold sensation that slowly crept up my leg until I gained the courage to immerse myself in the water. A refreshing cold sensation covered my body as I climbed up onto my surfboard. My father and sister joined alongside me as we waited in anticipation for the first set of waves. I was relaxed as all three of us bobbed up and down, mimicking each other. White sunscreen was painted across our faces, and we wore bright colourful wetsuits over the top of our bathers. The hot sun shone brightly upon us as we drifted slowly and let the ocean take control. I glanced over to my sister Madeline and joked about sharks, but my dad’s steady voice told me to be quiet.

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Soon after, the first wave became visible. Slowly rising, it became more gigantic than I thought. I felt anxious, knowing that as soon as it reached me I would become a slave to it. My desire to control would become stronger but there would be nothing I could do. A deep roar turned my attention to the first wave that launched me and my surfboard in an upward motion. I tried to control the surfboard but ended up clinging for dear life. A wall built rapidly behind me then forcefully smashed onto my back, but I managed to keep my balance. The wave suddenly lost strength as my surfboard slowly slid away from the wave. A sense of relief overcame me as all my thoughts and memories were lost, in all the concentration to keep my balance. Nothing was remembered in all the chaos.

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After that first experience, I was keen to get back out into the blue water. However, this time I would tackle it alone. Whilst my family had lunch I decided to stay out in the ocean to catch a wave. My attempts of getting out into the waves ended up being unsuccessful, the water spitting me back to the shallows as though it hated my presence. After many efforts, I decided to surf the white water that came in from the waves like fluffy white foam. I managed to stand up on my board, which brought a floating sensation, an amazing feeling, a feeling of which I was at one with the ocean. I continued to surf the smaller waves, keeping an eye on my family. After catching a small wave I went to reach the bottom of the ocean. Nevertheless to my despair nothing pressed back at my feet.

I then felt the urge to reach the shallows, so I continued to swim towards the shore. However, my efforts proved useless against the ocean’s strength, which pulled my feeble body into its depths. Fear then took over my body; my arms reached out and brought my surfboard to my side. I then screamed out in a panic, waving my arms frantically. My mother’s face caught my eye. The terror painted across it brought a tear that disappeared into the water. I then felt the need to act; without thinking I jumped into the water and swam towards a rock to the side of me. I could feel the force of the water underneath me trying to lure me in, and take me away. I then fought my way towards it putting the fear behind me. I reached out in desperation as my hands gripped onto the rock’s edge. Its edges were sharp and rough, proving to be an uncomfortable surface to hold onto. However, I held on for dear life as waves tried to knock me off.

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A large wave approached from the ocean, I closed my eyes and let my mind drift off. What was I thinking? As the wave fell over the top of me, my surfboard ripped at my leg as it went with the wave. My hands still held on but deep cuts formed in the palm of my hands, as I screamed, “Help!” My father jumped into the water in desperation. I could see the determination on his face as he swam towards me. I was over this whole experience; my mind filled with ‘what ifs’, but I tried to stay in the present moment. Seconds felt like years as I waited in eagerness to be rescued. Waves continued to try to push me off as though they were trying to protect what I was perched onto. My fear soon turned to anger towards my dad. Why was he taking so long? My surfboard strap kept pulling at my ankle and it was as though it was also an enemy to my weak and suffering body. Finally, my dad’s rough hands pulled me down onto my surfboard, and a sense of freedom overcame me as we pushed towards the shore.

My dad’s arms lifted me into the air and placed me down on the sand. I pushed my feet into the soft dry sand. My body ached but I felt safe and no longer trapped. My mother’s arms flung around me and she embraced me tightly. “Don’t you ever do that again” she whispered as I closed my eyes and thought of what had just happened. The entire experience was a test of physical and mental strength. At the time I wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else. The feeling of helplessness and having no control over my actions was a daunting experience and seemed to never end. However, once back at home, I was able to think through the thoughts and fear and treasure the unique memories I had of the experience.

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Personal Essay By Declan Hamilton. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved August 8, 2022, from