Watch out Jaws…I’m coming in.

9 Mar

Last weekend I faced one of my top 5 fears.  (Other fears include; indefinite solitary isolation & being trapped in a room full of pigeons – unlikely I’ll come face those fears in the near future)

Spending a night cruising on the backwaters in Kerala = fine. Watching the waves crash onto the shore whilst eating fish and chips = fine. Being submerged in the ocean amongst 320 other people = not fine.

I love the ocean. The vast, endless and seamlessly  facade it presents. Actually, let me be more specific…I love the ocean, depending on where I am in relation to it. On top of it, Looking at it, a casual dip in it…all good. Swimming…not so good.

I am an Indian. Excuse the massive generalisation, but we are not built for swimming. Cricket, yes. Weight-lifting (Light weight category), maybe. Swimming, no. We lack buoyancy. Our chicken legs, twiggy arms, excessive hair and odd shaped noses do not help us. When submerged in water we literally live out a ‘butter chicken’ dish; we look like chicken pieces bobbing up and down in a thick curry….straggling for the top, but ultimately submerged by the buttery goodness.

Swimming for me, is irrevocably tied to unpleasant memories; accidently doing breastroke in the freestyle race at my school carnival (I thought the cheers were because I was coming first…nup – it was the crowds screaming “Nikita…freestyle, freestyle”) and forgetting my undies in Yr 3 after a morning swim session – No, it was not my intepretation of going ‘commando’!

Back to the story –  last weekend, I participated in the 20/20 challenge. I was given 1 week’s notice. I awoke at 5:30am and squeezed into my sexy one-piece. Upon reaching the beach, I was blinded by the sight of big shoulders, a flurry of warm up ‘windmill arms’ & size 11 feet. Without intending to be racist, I looked a flimsy licorice stick amongst rows of strong milky bars.

I was scared the race administrators would mistake me for a refugee swimming to shore. I kept thinking; if the Titanic sunk….what chance did a lanky Indian girl have?.

The race gun went off, I ran towards the water. That’s when the waves anxiety engulfed me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Arms and legs whipped me in the face. At one stage, I think I grabbed onto a man’s speedo’s. No, it was not an underwater-seductive pass, I honestly thought I was going to die. It was not long until the 310 swimmers swam past me. It was just me vs the ocean. That is when I realised… it was all in my head. I did a small prayer and started some positive self-talk. I also may have started humming Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’ in my head. I could do this. Slowly began to get into a rhythm. After x2 500m laps around the buoys, I had made it. I had done 1km.

There was a lot of fist pumping and self high-fiving. It felt good.

Then came the sea lice bites, ear-ache and the cut foot from the coral…but that’s another story.


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