Salt Pond: Two lessons learned at the beach

With sand in the crevices of my arm, red dirt stained feet, sunscreen grease on my sunglasses, and no pants on, I bring you today’s wisdoms on going to the beach.

The first lesson actually comes from yesterday’s attempt at beaching. With good intentions, I packed my book, camera, water, snacks, put on my swimsuit, grabbed a towel and drove down to Salt Pond Beach Park in Hanapepe. The beach near me is conveniently close but swimming in the water would include quite the pounding by the waves and risk of being sucked into a riptide. Also, the water is murky brown lately from the river water starting up in the canyon coming down and mixing into the ocean, the opposite of an inviting place to swim.

Anyways, after three weeks in Hawaii, I figured it was about time to take a safe swim in the ocean and Salt Pond is the place to do it. With a natural reef creating a breaker for the waves rolling in, the area is somewhat calm and shallow. The beach area has a lifeguard on duty, decadent palm trees for patches of shady goodness, picnic tables, fire pits, bathrooms, and a allocated section for the tent-dwellers.

With the water winking at me under the blue skies and windsurfers skimming along in the distance, I sat my butt down on the beach. It took me all of about five minutes to realize my mistake. I packed the entertainment for myself but no sun lotion. All the protection I had was spray on sunscreen, practically useless with the wind gusting the mist anywhere but my ghostly skin. Lesson one: If you are looking for a good time, bring protection, sun protection that is.

With the layer of screen on from hours earlier, I knew I had limited time out in the sun. The ball of fire having no mercy on a pale gal from Michigan, I dipped a toe into the water, read my book for a while, and attempted to hide under a shady palm tree before heading back home.

That brings us to today’s attempt at the beach. With face and body lotion packed, I returned to Salt Pond, this time stoked to finally go swimming with my snorkel gear. I spotted a few other swimmers in the water, cruising along as they cut through the waves.

Setting unrealistic expectations to spot a sea turtle, I snorkeled up and got to it. Within a few swim strokes, I realized even with the calmer waves, swimming in the ocean is much more demanding than I anticipated. As I attempted to swim the crescent shape of the pond, I forgot all about looking for the fishy friends below. I was just trying to stay afloat, breath properly without inhaling salt water, and get somewhere as the waves rocked me back and forth.

The mask fogged and I gulped one too many salty drinks, but made it out and back. As I found my footing on the soft sand, a nearby swimmer asked me if I saw any fish. It was then I realized I forgot to look, having been too focused on trying to not throw up as the ocean tried to swaddled me like a drunk Uncle. Unsatisfied with my snorkeling attempt thus far, I strapped the mask on one more time and plunged my head under. Swimming over the sandy bottom to the darker reef, I spotted a few dinky, brown looking fish. As my stomach turned with the motion, I returned to solid ground and laughed at myself for thinking snorkeling was going to be easy. Lesson Two: Those people out there cutting through the waves like the fish themselves, DO THAT REGULARLY. A gal who grew up in the tasty, fresh waters of Michigan who does a better job of floating on her back than stroking through the waves, can’t be expected to see a sea turtle on her first attempt because she can barely get off the shore and keep the salty waters out of her nose.

All in all, my beach days weren’t chalked up to failures, just momentary lapses in judgment. Otherwise, I enjoyed myself. I think tomorrow I plan to crush another canyon hike and then round out the day with another venture at swimming. Maybe by the end of the Summer I’ll have grown some gills and ridden on the back of a sea turtle. I’ll keep ya posted.

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