Story: Wave Runners

Everyone has a story of something they did once upon a time, which, in retrospect, was probably not a good idea. This is one such tale.

Flashback to the 1990’s. At that time, I was splitting an apartment in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a friend named Ralph, who also enjoyed outdoor challenges. As such, every now and then, when the weather turned foul, we’d telephone a wave report recording, which detailed conditions present on Lake Michigan.

One stormy summer day, this report cited waves near Holland, Michigan, as high as 8-12 feet, including a stern recommendation to avoid coastal areas. Well, that was exactly what we were hoping to hear, and so quickly jumped into the car on a road trip to the south pier, demarcating the channel between Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. Thirty minutes later, we parked and continued our trek on foot through strong winds and rain, toward the pier.

This was a big storm, as whitecap waves crashed up and down the beach, surging far inland along the coastline. As we approached, it became apparent that roughly 20% of the pier was engulfed in waves at any given moment. This observation should’ve served as an omen not to proceed…

However, after an extensive discussion it was decided that, though obviously dangerous, our individual attributes of bravery, keen sense of observation and quick reactions, respectively, were sufficient to undertake the challenge: which was, to see who could traverse farthest along the pier?

Note: digital cameras didn’t exist on the market at that time, but I’ve included a few photographs taken many years later, which show the coastal landscape and piers:

Relative to the second image – which is actually an aspect of the other pier, to the north – the storm we faced was significantly stronger and with much larger waves. In point of fact, unlike the common and predictably wind-driven pattern of waves rolling in uniform rows, what we encountered was less organized and wild, with waves crashing from both the front and side directions.

Painted blue, bollards were positioned along the length of each pier. Were the situation to present itself where either one of us was unable to elude an oncoming wave, my friend suggested that the best course of action was to drop down onto the pier and secure oneself by clutching on to a bollard for safety.

And so began the challenge.

This endeavor was as difficult as it was foolish, as waves broke across the pier at essentially random intervals, all the time of which my eyes were glued on the water. Movement entailed both quick footsteps and brief sprints, scrambling on the concrete both forward and backwards in order to safely create space between potentially hazardous waves. It was a major adrenaline rush, to say the least.

I’d estimate that I was approximately 50-60% of the way out on the pier when it happened. I glanced back to check on my friend, only to see Ralph hunkered down and clinging for dear life to a bollard…as he was swept away by a huge wave, washing him over the other side of the pier toward the channel, down into the rocks.

I immediately moved back toward where he was, all the while watching over my shoulder to remain cognizant of approaching waves. From a distance of 15-feet away, I spotted Ralph among the rocks with only his head visible above water, and without a stronghold for safety. Glancing back once more, I then saw him suddenly disappear into a trough of shifting waters, sinking an estimated 5-feet among the rocks and vanishing, out of sight. There was nothing I could do to help him.

Then, only seconds later, the water crested, lifting Ralph up and out of that den of death, tossing him like driftwood on to the rocks, where he latched-on and was able to dash up the incline to the top of the pier.

We hightailed it back to shore as quickly as possible, never again to challenge such a storm as was experienced on that day.

Lessons From The Trail

Spatial Awareness

We walk alone in fields, pass through doorways, stand in crowded elevators and wait in lines. Point being – we’re all familiar with our own presence and girth, in a variety of different settings, and generally don’t give it a second thought. However, to stay safe when hiking, some situations mandate a heightened sense of awareness.

In order to get the shot I want when photographing waterfalls, for instance, I sometimes access areas which are inherently dangerous – such as narrow, elevated ledges. Of course, I don’t do so haphazardly – I first closely observe the environment, width, footing, stable handholds within reach, etc.. Perhaps most important, though, is that I remind myself I’m wearing a backpack!

Few scenarios are more startling than attempting to turn around on a ledge, only to have the added bulk of ones backpack bump into a rock face or trees – creating an unbalanced sensation of being pushed forward. It’s difficult to regain ones composure in close spaces when balance is compromised – understand the space you occupy.

Shoutout To Friends

I have many friends here on WordPress and would like to mention a few. Please visit their sites, like their posts and leave comments, too.

01


Tiffany Arp-Daleo

visit web site

From San Diego, California, Tiffany is a very good painter & mixed media artist, utilizing a style she describes as Bohemian Abstract…

02


Carla Milho

visit web site

From Lisbon, Portugal, Carla is a very talented creative writer sharing imagination, positivity, courage & her inspirational life experiences…

03


Mamen An

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From Spain, Mamen An describes herself as a free thinker with the soul of a poet, with splendid lyrics about dreams, relationships & love…

04


Anna Liwun

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From Germany, Anna is Indonesian and trilingual, sharing her experiences on travel, food, faith, communication & also writing fiction…


PHOTO CREDIT: modified photo from unsplash.com.

Poem About A Writer

I have a friend who is a gifted & imaginative writer. She also is often a source of inspiration for me to write poetry, including the following…

She Writes From The Heart

Putting pen to paper she writes
Words flow from her creative mind
Imagination without limitation
Always, one of a kind.

From deep in her heart, filled with love
Her life experiences teach
With wisdom and inspiration
She shares advice but doesn’t preach.

A humble woman with courage
She’ll tell you to believe
She knows the best is yet to come
Her goals set to achieve.

I’m so grateful to call her friend
Yet sometimes my heart skips a beat
Her eyes and face, so beautiful
And precious soul, so sweet.

© 2021 Phil Perkins

An Aspiring Writer

Do You Speak Portuguese? I don’t, but I have a friend from Portugal who is an aspiring writer with a Google Translate button in the sidebar – she is Carla Milho.

I encourage you to visit her site and follow her work! She’s an honest, truthful person who writes from the heart with sincerity and passion, following her dreams through engaging, life-experience discussions of ambition and goal-setting, an appeal to self-improvement, cautious tales of deleterious external influences, the value of family and friendships & other points of interest.


Note: the header design is a modified photo from unsplash.com