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.