1 When Dreams Turn Into Watery Nightmares A True Story By, Sean Sprigle The fog had rolled in thick

and heavy like an army issue wool blanket. An eerie silence plagued the normally noisy staircase. The thirty or so surfers and onlookers stood quietly as if attending a funeral for a relative that had died unexpectedly - looks of disbelief strewn across their dew soaked faces. Although they lacked any motion or true expression they all wore a look of painful intensity. Their eyes were transfixed on the pounding surf that lie just beyond the bluffs, and their feet were planted firmly on the wooden planks of the rickety staircase that wound down, down, down into the fog below. Every time one of the waves broke thousands of gallons of angry, salty water would explode downwards and the ground would shake. These were mother ocean’s battle drums, and they were being beaten with a fury few have ever seen. My heart raced. I slowly walked down the slippery steps descending into the abyss. As I walked by I heard people murmur discouraging words: “What’s he thinking? He must be crazy. His board isn’t big enough for those waves.” What did they know? They were just too scared to paddle out into an opportunity that doesn’t come many times in a surfer’s life. The coast of San Diego was being pounded with one of the strongest winter storms it has ever seen creating towering waves the height of a four-story building - waves that were strong and fast enough to take on Zeus himself. I was going to prove to them and to myself that I wasn’t just some crazy, anger-fueled teen. I could handle this.

The freezing water took my breath away. It felt like I was being stabbed all over with a million tiny knives when I duck-dove under the first wave. I looked out past the breaking surf, and saw the battlefield I was about to enter. It was swarming with sleeping giants waiting patiently for the reef to rouse them from their rumbling slumber after which they would be sent foaming and spitting into an angry assault on the innocent shoreline. Wave after wave stacked up charging in one behind the other as if the shore of San Diego was actually the beaches of Normandy. The invasion had begun. The long paddle out through the channel was lonely and cold. My body rose and fell as wave after wave rolled underneath me. The shore and all the people grew smaller and smaller until they looked to be about the size of a pupil - my pupil dilated from fear. I was alone. Once I was past where the waves broke into white water I sat on my surfboard waiting. Watching. The long paddle out had exhausted me, and I struggled to catch my breath. There was no rush. I was the only one out here and the waves weren’t letting up anytime soon. Then I saw it. A massive wave towered up behind all the others. It was a skyscraper jutting up and reaching for the heavens. This was my bull. I scrambled to paddle out and meet my destiny. I made it just as she pitched up and readied herself to spit liquid fire. She was moving fast, and I paddled hard. I could feel my heartbeat throbbing in my neck - my bodies warning of lethal danger. I was faintly aware of the people off in the distance, of the freezing water and cold, foggy air, but completely lost in the moment. I stood up. I raced down the face of the wave as if I had been shot out of cannon. Water sprayed up stinging my face and eyes, and it was hard to see. I was going too fast and my board started

dancing underneath me like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever - shaking hard left and right. Please no speed wobbles, too late. My body slammed down hard against the water. I was moving so fast that the normally soft and forgiving water felt rock hard. It was like smashing into pavement from two stories up. All the air in my lungs burst out of my mouth as salt water rushed into my nose and dripped in the back of my throat. The weight of a Volkswagen Bug was dropped on the back of my head, and I was pushed downwards into the dark and turbulent water below. Down, down, down I went. It felt like I had been pushed down at least forty feet before I slammed against the sharp reef on the bottom, was pulled back up again by the surge, and then once again sucked into the raging waterfall which brought me back down to where I had just come from. My lungs burned. I needed air. I thrashed from one direction to another like a rag doll in a violent washing machine partially of my own accord because I am panic stricken and desperate to breath, partially because the waters violent movement is much, much stronger than I am. I have no idea which way is up, and even if I did it wouldn’t do me much good as I am trapped and powerless. I am at the mercy of the beast that holds me. I need air. Panic. My head tingled, and the blackness that consumed me began to lighten. Everything became white as I raced into the bright, bright light. The world around me slowed. The violent shaking faded away as everything became calm. I was suffocating. I thought to myself: “This is it. Get ready to meet God. Be at peace and let Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven. I’m ready God. Take me.” My lungs seared as cold air rushed in, and then another wave hit me sending me back down below again. I was shaken so violently that I could have lost a filling and would never

know it. The consuming darkness, complete disorientation, and the unbearable need to breathe reminded of outer space. I had dreams before about being lost in space without a mask or oxygen floating helplessly and panicked through the cosmos, but at least in the dreams I would wake up right before I died. I’m not sure what happened after this, how long I was under, if I stayed conscious or not, or if another wave hit me. What I am sure of is that I felt a hand drag me up. God had heard me and reached down into the murky abyss that I was consumed in and pulled me up to heaven. The hand of God pulled me up to where I could breathe. The cold air rushing in was painful but relieving. Someone dragged me over the reef that lay at the edge of the water. Murky voices shouted in the background. I coughed up sea water as someone patted my back. My face was covered in sand, and I was shaking. I looked up. It turns out that God is actually a forty year old beach bum with a shaggy beard and glowing blue eyes. His name is Fred, he drinks beer out of brown paper bags, and smokes weed all day. He lives on the beach in Encinitas. Fred saved my life.

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