Australia: almost drowning at Avoca Beach

after the ordeal

after the ordeal

This is how I’m going to die …

flashed through my mind as the raging water of a freak wave thrust Gary, me and three others in its fury across the rock platform.

Yesterday we were at Avoca Beach. The perfect day for a stroll, a swim and some reading in the shaded sand of Norfolk Pines.

My swim was short lived. The water was crisp and refreshing, but the rip next to the flagged area kept dragging me out. And then there were bluebottles pulsating about. There was no nor’easterly to blow them in; so benign was the day. Indeed, it was an ominous foreshadowing of my last little excursion, the walk around South Avoca rock platform. I jammed a pen and notepaper into my pocket to write some images for a poem.

If you have walked the length of this rock platform you will know it’s quite wide and high. It’s dotted with rock fishermen and families exploring the trammels of the platform.

The sea looked pretty normal, with occasional waves spilling over the edge. Nothing to cause alarm. And then, out of the corner of my eye I saw something rise. A freak wave roared above the edge of the platform. We ran towards the cliff base, but the raging white water was a metre high. It smashed us off our feet and tumbled us towards the boulders at the base of the cliff.

This is how I’m going to die. This nanosecond thought flashed through my mind. As I struggled to breathe, I was tossed towards a huge sandstone block. I thrust my hands in front of my head. If I was knocked unconscious, I’d be dragged back over the edge of the platform and would drown.

My hands hit the rock with huge force and my legs were whipped around other boulders. I was battered and bleeding as I scrabbled to rise above the water that was now receding and sucking us towards the edge of the ledge. Then the second wave hit. Bigger, higher – waist deep, and more ferocious in its fury. A maelstrom.

It picked us up again and smashed us into the cliff base. As the water hit the cliff, it rose twice as high and dragged us back over the boulders. Underwater, everything was white. I clawed at anything I could find to hold me, rather than be swept again towards the edge.

A fisherman and a man with his teenage daughter were struggling beside me. The man yelled to climb high up the boulders. Gary had been dragged 100 metres away and had been wedged between the boulders. We stood up in shock, shaking, drenched, covered with sand (where had this come from?) and bleeding from our hands, legs, arms.

My fingernails were ripped down to the skin, sunglasses gone, thongs gone, mobile phone gone. My rings are scoured. I have cuts on my hands and feet like they’ve been grated, bruises and welts on my calves and a cut across my knee. Gary’s legs have been chopped by the rocks and we both have sore, bruising backs where we were pummelled against the boulders.

Had there been any children near us, they wouldn’t have survived. It would have been a New Year tragedy.

I have never felt fear like this before, and I’m still shaking.

28 thoughts on “Australia: almost drowning at Avoca Beach

      1. Christina Moss

        That’s terrible news Marian! I’m glad you and Gary are continuing to recover after such an ordeal!You were extremely lucky to survive this by the sound of things Some one was definitely looking after you both! It is certainly a wake up call and it no doubt has made you appreciate just how precious this life of ours is Our thoughts and prayers are with you Hope you feel better soon Will talk soon love Christinaxx

        Reply
  1. Chris Hunter

    So pleased you escaped relatively unscathed from this. What an ordeal – & one that we hear of so often with far worse consequences! Thank you for sharing this as it is certainly a wakeup call to anyone who enjoys the rock platforms & beaches.

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      I love a wild sea, but not while I”m in it. It could well have been a 5-people tragedy. All ok, now.

      Reply
    2. marian Post author

      Could have been so much worse, Chris. We had no broken bones and we all survived. It is a wakeup call for taking the sea for granted. xxx

      Reply
  2. Andrea

    So pleased you both survived! Verena told me about it and to read your blog. Your poor things! I hope your wounds heal soon and as for your minds? I hope that time will heal the memories of this terrible ordeal, or at least recede the memories more from your every day activities. Thinking of you both. What a lesson to all of us not to assume that calm seas around a rock platform are necessarily safe. I’ve walked many times on rock platforms at beaches where the seas appeared calm and I would have never expected a freakish wave to do such a thing.

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Thanks, Andrea. After the two freak waves, the sea went back to being calm. In the wrong place at the wrong time.

      Reply
  3. Briar Jensen

    Oh Marian, You poor things! You must be feeling like you’ve been tumbled dried with a crate of oyster-encrusted rocks. So glad that you survived the horrible ordeal without more damage. Hope you have your feet up now to speed up the recovery. (Was going to send txt until remembered you lost your phone too 😞.)
    One more life experience to incorporate in your books! Take care.

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Thanks, Briar and thanks for the phone call. All on the mend and one hell of a way to get real-life experience for writing! xx

      Reply
  4. Tess

    I can’t believe what I just read! Colin & I were walking along the rock platform between Collaroy & Long Reef only last Sunday morning….the thought of a freak wave never entered my mind! Yesterday I refrained from doing this again because it was raining & the sea looked dangerous, unlike your experience…..you poor thing! I hope you are recovering both physically & mentally….are you back home now?

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Thanks, Tessa. I can now well understand how people get washed off the rocks, even when you’re nowhere near the edge. The sea has such power. It’s given us some interesting tattoos.

      Reply
  5. Vicki Conn

    Hi Marian, so glad you and Gary came through that terrible ordeal ok. Hope your injuries heal very soon,can imagine how frightening it must have been. I was hit with a freak wave as a child and am still terrified of the beach.Thinking of you both, Neil and Vicki x

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Thanks Vicki and Neil – I can well imagine how the memory will stay for quite a while, makes you really respect the sea’s power. Hope you are both well. xx

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    1. marian Post author

      Thanks, Michele, sobering indeed, but thankfully we all came out of it. Take care on your wanderings this year. xx

      Reply
  6. Christina Moss

    So sorry to read about your terrible ordeal Marian! I hope you and Gary are continuing to recover well.It certainly sounds like you were both extremely lucky to survive this!Someone was definitely looking after you both on the day! It no doubt has made you appreciate more how precious this life of ours is.Our thoughts and prayers are with you Hope you will be feeling better soon. Will talk to you soon.Love Christina and Peter xx

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Thanks, Chris and Peter. It was a terrifying ordeal, but we are on the mend with bruises and cuts healing. Since it happened there have been so many tragedies on the coast from the rough seas – life is so precious and easily lost. See you soon. xx

      Reply
  7. Frances Violi

    OMG!! A near death experience indeed. How many times have we been casually walking along our beautiful coastal, rock platforms…with children, family and friends mesmerized by the calm waters and warm breeze? It sounds like it happened so fast, your survival instincts kicked in when you attempted to protect your head. Hope you both repair with time, emotionally and physically.

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Yep, you got it in one. Perfect Day = Perfect Storm. The worst bit was there was no time to get out of the situation. All good now.

      Reply
  8. wendy Fitzgerald

    Oh my goodness. That would have been terrifying. I’m glad you’re both ok. This is very well written too, by the way. Well done. There’s definitely a poem in it too… and a stirring story. See- no experience is wasted. xxx

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      That’s what I thought in the days after. What a way to get first-hand experience for writing. I’ll just imagine my scenes next time. xx

      Reply
  9. Rachel Logan

    Dear Marian,
    I don’t know what made me check your blog but reading your news (so wonderfully written) made me shake for you, and Gary. So glad you survived. I grew up with Avoca and have a clear memory of Therese once saving me, unwittingly, from just such a freak wave. She told me she had a bad feeling and we should get off the rocks quickly, and had we stayed we would have been two children in the situation you found yourselves. Hope the bruises heal quickly.
    On another note, thank you so much for the Christmas card. We have just moved to Newcastle and have been in the throes of our own big waves, in a way, though in this instance more predictable. We’d love to see you soon, and Sandra. Sorry for the long silence.
    Sending love.

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Hello lovely Rachel! So thrilled that you have moved to Newcastle – it will be wonderful to catch up when you are over your own tidal wave of moving. It will be wonderful to hear of your past, busy year. Can’t wait. Our Avoca bruises have almost faded, but the memory stays – like yours when Therese saved you from near death at the same spot! Love to Dave and your gorgeous children. I’m also on Facebook, so you can catch up with my shenanigans there as well. Don’t leave it too long to contact me (and Sandra) and we’ll organise meeting you for an overdue catch up. xxxx

      Reply
  10. Liz May

    Wow. I’m know I’m slow checking up on Facebook,but have just found this post. What an experience – I could feel myself sucked into the maelstrom along with you. So glad that you have survived this ordeal, which is now seared into your soul. Hope to catch up soon, hopefully on the 13th. Xxxx

    Reply
    1. marian Post author

      Hi Liz, it was an experience that I never want to revisit. Still bearing scars all these months later. See you on the 13th. xxxx

      Reply

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