Woolamai Waters

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Woolamai Waters

A couple of summers ago, I almost drowned.

I was chatting with a couple of friends waist deep in the ocean, cooling off on a dry and windy 40 degree day.

A few waves rolled in and the water level rose. The water became high enough to lift our feet off the ground and we started floating away. We tried to escape the rip by swimming out diagonally but it was too wide, too fast and I was too unfit. My fitness levels were close to zero after a year of pushing myself through engineering work and uni whilst ill with CFS.

I had to stop swimming because I could no longer breathe. I stopped to gulp in air and a friend tried to hold me above the water but it pushed him under. I didn’t have enough in me to keep swimming. Treading water was becoming hard enough.

We looked up and saw that we had been funneled out into the deep water, behind the surfers lining up for the breaking waves. The shoreline was just that; a yellow line, with ants crawling up and down. It was clear that this was getting serious and I knew I couldn’t last much longer.

My friends put their arms up and started screaming out “HELP!”

Some pretty confronting thoughts went through my mind; “Is this really it… all that I’ve been through was just for this?”

I could hear my body saying, “Umm… its getting pretty tiring up here… and it seems awfully calm and easy down there…”.

A couple of surfers turned their heads just as some yellow ants swam down the rip towards us with floaties in tow whilst we watched an orange rescue boat grow from the size of a sesame seed rolling down the sand dunes to big and close enough for us to be grabbed and flung inside like hand caught fish. 8 seconds later we were back on dry land and sucking in gasps and gulps of air whilst wondering, “…did that just happen?”

We thanked them for being true to their name and laughed in a mixture of horror and relief when they informed us that they had only just arrived for a training drill!

Another friend who had been asleep in the sun but was unfortunately disturbed by all the commotion rolled over and said, “Wow, that was cool!”

I missed all of that because I’d sat down straight away on my beach chair to recover


The sand under my feet felt more solid than concrete. I closed my eyes but the sun still shone through and I realised in that moment what it is to be alive.



You may have noticed from my writing style that I was quite ‘disassociated’ during the experience. Disassociated means that you are in a state of shock and not fully present to your surroundings. Its a helpful reaction to have in a moment of trauma when everything is too overwhelming.

The next morning, I was crashed out in bed, allowing my body a chance to recover from the unexpected exertion. My friends were out learning to surf (not at Woolamai!) and I had some time alone to reflect. As well as going over in my mind what had actually happened, I asked myself some deeper questions.

What if that had been my last moment? Would I leave ‘happy’?

Was it a wake up call and a reminder that life is too precious to waste?

Is this my third and final chance to go down the path of whatever I’m here to do?

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