Happy New Year!
For my family back home in Congo, it's traditional to spend the New Year on the Beach. It usually rains a bit, but if you drink enough, nobody minds. And if you drink enough (like say - Fuzzy has been valiantly doing), then there's usually a midnight swim in the ocean, often complete with phosphorescent plankton that mirror the stars.
9903 miles away here in Virginia, things were a little different. But, not to be outdone, my excellent family and I headed for the sea anyway - to Ocean City, Maryland.
Of course, as Australia lives in the future, The New Year rolled around down under at about 8 AM New Years Eve, our time. I was a little late, but thanks to the awesome guys down at Malibu's Surf Shop, I managed to get all kitted out and ready to get into the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter:
The swell was small - maybe 2-3 feet. Feeling pretty gosh darn confident with all my fancy protection, I sauntered out into the water. Then I heard this strange noise as the first wave passed around shoulder height - it was kind of like the hollow sucking noise as the last of the bathtub water drains. Shortly after, I realised there was no more breathing for me. That weird sound? That was all my air spontaneously exiting my lungs.
Turns out that Northerly swell was mainly just made of melted icebergs.
I have never, ever experienced cold like that. My brain was throbbing with the worst ice cream headache I ever had. My fingers wouldn't bend, my lips went blue, and I acquired the ability to speak exclusively in profanities.
Then, almost magically, I found myself standing on the beach. I really don't remember leaving the water. Some primal protection reflex just marched me right out of there. And for a while, I seriously considered going back to the hotel for a hot shower. But no, I came here to surf, and I wasn't going to let the Atlantic ocean beat me. So, I gingerly went back in and managed to get in a decent hours worth of surfing. I also learned to be very, very careful about bailing on waves - the thought of putting my head back in the ocean was a far too intimidating prospect!
All in all, it was a pretty great experience - As crazy as it sounds, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And I think I could maybe learn to deal with the cold. But I sure do miss the Pacific Ocean!