Playing with the Sea

It was harmless fun at first. Embracing the waves. Sitting in the pools created by them. Dreamily gazing out to sea. But then, and I knew it as I saw it approaching – a wave bigger, stronger, faster.

White water over my body – enveloping me, lifting me, throwing me onto the rocks. As if to say, ‘play with me at your peril, weak and fragile human.’

The water retreats, and I am left scratched and bruised and bleeding.

As if I didn’t know. As if I had never dared the sea before.


Age 13, on a family trip to the Giants Causeway, I played chicken with the sea.

The Irish giant Finn McCool, so the legend goes, built the hexagonal, stoned causeway to connect Northern Ireland to Scotland; all to challenge the Scottish giant Benandonner to a fight. But Benandonner was so much bigger than Finn, so away Finn ran, back to wife and home. Sensible Finn. I should have payed heed…

The waves come in, one after another. If small enough I let myself get soaked, laugh with glee and it is all silly, watery, fun.

The bigger waves, developing further out, building and building and then crashing and sucking the sea back out again – those I step back from.

Then I think: Don’t be such a chicken. Stand your ground. Just stand your ground.

So I stand my ground.

I keep standing as the wave rushes towards me, white and high and strong.

I am still standing when it embraces me.

It picks me up like driftwood. Weightless. Consumes me.


I don’t remember struggling to breathe. Or the pain of being smashed up against the rocks again and again.

I remember the most astonishing blue I have ever seen.


Then, back up against the rocks, trying to hold on, but the water is stronger. So much stronger. It pulls me back under.

Twice I go under. The third time I come up and cling to the rocks – my Father’s hands are there holding onto me. Holding on, despite the heavy, gravitational pull of the water.

Sound returns, and it is then I hear my sister’s voice screaming my name over and over.


So I know the power of wave and water. I know it well. Yet here I am at 42, bruised and bleeding from arse to elbow, because I dared to play, once again, with the sea.

One thought on “Playing with the Sea

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