Twilight descends over the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island, Ga.

During a trip to Georgia last week, my wife Wendy and I spent several days on Tybee Island, one of many barrier islands along the southeast U.S. coast.

Tybee is about 15 miles from Savannah and is home to a beach-oriented community that is steeped in history. While we were there, we enjoyed many activities, including walking on the pier and watching groups of people fishing, perusing several classic “beachy” stores, observing pelicans (our favorite bird) and riding bikes on the flat streets and firm sand at low tide. We also – of course – found plenty of good seafood to eat, visited Savannah for a day and generally had a memorable time.

But the highlight of the stay was the Atlantic Ocean itself – more specifically getting into it.

On the second day we were there, a storm passed over Tybee Island. When it had left the area, the weather went back to being warm and sunny and we decided to go for a swim.

When we reached the beach area near our accommodations, the water looked pretty standard, with some good-sized waves but nothing that appeared “rough.” But as we have all been taught, appearances can be deceiving.

Because of the storm, the water was very warm – probably about 80 degrees or so. We got in and immediately were in that blissful state that only comes from being submerged in fresh, clean ocean saltwater.

We moved out to about chest depth and soon began to notice something: We kept having to right ourselves after being knocked off balance by sizable waves. As that continued, we reacted by dipping under them as they came our way, but when we came up for air, there would be another one rapidly bearing down on us.

Both of us ended up being hammered by at least one forceful wave, and found ourselves tumbling head over heels like a rag doll underneath the surf. Wendy even sustained a boo-boo on her knee from impact with the sandy bottom, and I clearly recall instinctively pushing off the bottom at one point, almost like a running back stiff-arming a defender.

I finally suggested that we do the smart thing and head for dry sand. Whew, what a workout. There’s nothing quite like being pummeled by tons of saltwater.

Not willing to give up on the swimming idea, we returned to the scene of the battle two days later. The decision was worthwhile, as we were rewarded with an entirely different scenario.

The water wasn’t quite as warm, but it was virtually calm and no waves were breaking at chest depth. Rather than being rocked silly every few moments, we simply held our position, light-heartedly bouncing up over the swells that came though and landing back on the smooth sandy bottom.

Wendy said it was like, “float up and glide down.” She even got on my back for a while and we floated and glided tandem style.

The setting was so peaceful, there was even a young couple with a baby nearby doing the same thing. We both said, “Now this is more like it.”

While we harbored no ill will toward the Atlantic, we felt like she had been merciless the first time and merciful the second. While we fought with the angry version for only about 15 minutes on the first occasion (a losing proposition from the outset – you don’t beat an ocean), we stayed in the kinder, gentler Atlantic for about an hour.

I’ll tell you what, that second round was a refreshing, rejuvenating situation and represented what being at the beach is all about. Well, that and getting sand between your toes and in your teeth.

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