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A few days ago I did something that I had never done . I went snorkeling in Sharks Cove — a tropical tide pool. It was amazing!

Sharks Cove, located in the North Shore region of Oahu, is formed by a nearly perfect semi-circle of lava rock that starts on the shore to the left, arcs gracefully into the ocean about 100 yards, and then wraps back to the shore on the right side. This barrier serves as the breaker for the waves, thus creating the tide pool.

If seawater fills the tide pool slowly, then you get stunningly clear water. If, on the other hand, the water washes over the breaker, as was the case when we visited, then it stirs up the sediment.

Thankfully, the surf wasn’t too bad.  As long as a rare wave — The Big One — doesn’t come over the wall, we should be in good shape.

A Local Provides a Warning

My wife and I went to the make-shift surf shop just across the street from the beach. Picture the burrito buggy from your local festival, make the buggy twice as long, and then fill it with all kinds of mostly new surfboards, flippers, and anything else you would ever want to rent for a day at the beach.

The place is dead empty as my wife and I stroll over to rent our gear.

“I haven’t really been renting much equipment today,” said the 50’s-looking local manning the booth. “The surf is coming up over the wall.”

“Yeah,” I said. Not really knowing just why he wasn’t renting today. Was he just not in the mood? I couldn’t get a bead on him at first.

“Where are you guys wanting to go?” he asked.

“Just across the street to Sharks Cove,” we answered.

“If you are going to go over there to Sharks Cove, I guess that would be ok. But you don’t want to get too close to that wall in case a swell comes over.”

“Ok,” I thought. “He’s coming at this from a safety angle.” That works for me. My wife and I promised to stay away from the wall, and then left with our snorkels, masks, and water shoes.

The shoes turned out to be life savers because a great part of the floor of this tide pool is all lava rock, which could make short work of bare feet.

Overwhelmed by Beauty

While the visibility may not have been up to par for the locals, I was amazed at what I could see under water.  My visibility was about 10 feet in any direction, which allowed me to see more than I could take in.

The fish were beautiful and too many to count.

After about 30 minutes, I almost forgot I was wearing any gear. Another 10 minutes and I forgot I was even in the water.  Somehow this all seemed so natural.  Like I was meant to live in the sea, and that life was supposed to be this beautiful all the time.

Caught Unaware

Lost in visual bliss I was not keeping track of how close I had come to the wall separating the cove from the pounding surf outside.

A huge wave rushed over the barrier and into the tide pool – it was The Big One.

While under water I suddenly found myself being swept quickly about 5-8 feet toward the wall, and then — woosh!  I was catapulted about 30 feet backward toward the shore all the while bouncing across every last piece of lava rock in my path.

I got pretty banged up. My knee took a bad shot. My wife had a few 3-inch cuts on her shin. We were both pretty shaken.

Banged Up but Rewarded

But isn’t this just like life? We have our heads down, working on some project that has our attention, trying to beat a deadline.  Then, woosh!  Something comes along and sideswipes us.

Something that we should have seen coming if we were paying less attention to the project and more attention to our surroundings.

Did my wife and I stop snorkeling, hang up our gear and do something safer?  No way!

Did we pay closer attention? You bet. We kept a respectable distance from the wall.

About 30 minutes later we were rewarded for staying in — the sun came out.

I didn’t think it could get any better, but the transformation was remarkable.  The light dancing through the ebb and flow of the water added an entirely new dimension to this inner space. The drab lava rock exploded in colors I hadn’t even noticed, and the colors of the fish were even more vibrant.

When life throws you, when the big one comes along and drags you across the rocks, get back in the water.

Put your mask back on.

Go explore.