I love to swim. I was raised at the Jersey Shore, where every summer became the time to plunge myself into the dark blue water. I have been swimming in the Atlantic Ocean every summer since I was a toddler. I taught myself to swim at age eight, by watching others. My summers as a youth consisted of body surfing in the waves and sunning myself on the beaches of Cape May and Wildwood, New Jersey.

As I grew older, I began to Travel so I could immerse myself in the water of a new place.

As I discovered a new place to swim in my travels, I could not help but compare my new experience against my earlier experiences in the Atlantic.

Besides swimming, I have also snorkeled in places such as Puerto Rico and Key West. I always thought of my time spent in the ocean was graceful like a dance, and every time I am introduced to a new body of water, I feel as if I have met a new dancing partner.

In November 2013, I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii for a destination wedding and honeymoon. Before the big day, we had a couple days free to finalize the wedding arrangements, adjust to the time difference and recover from jet lag. We stayed at the bustling Waikiki Beach area on the island. One of my prewedding days was spent swimming and sunbathing at Waikiki Beach. Due to the man-made seawall there, the waves were subdued. In harmony with my beach going personality, I was married on the property of Waialae Country Club ten minutes outside Waikiki Beach at sunset.

The next day, my now husband and I climbed into our rental car and drove to Oahu’s famous North Shore. As we headed North on the Island via Highway 83, I noticed how our car moved around cliffs and canyons enveloped by tropical forest.

Waimea Bay Beach Park is located on the North Shore of Oahu along Kamehameha Highway.

It is part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The park is equipped with changing rooms, picnic tables and outdoor shower areas. The park is also host to the Quiksilver Big Wave invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau. This tournament was started in 1984, but has only been held nine times. This is because for the competition to be held, the open ocean swells much reach a minimum height of 20 feet.

Along with other North Shore locations including Sunset Beach and the Pipeline, it is known mainly as a surfing beach due to the huge waves in the winter months from November to February.

I did not heed those warnings, as my beach girl arrogance lead me to believe that I could handle it. There were a handful of lifeguards on duty in their tower, but the yellow line indicating dangerous conditions was not up, so I assumed the conditions that day were harmless.

My feet were swept out from under me

The sand at Waimea Bay is a topaz colored course sand that was hot on your bare feet. The deep blue water of the Pacific, my dancing partner, was intimidating at first. The surf break was at least ten feet high right at the embankment where I walked in.

I am tiny, five foot one inches tall, and 120 pounds, but the giant waves knocked me over as if I was weightless. I continuously stood back up and accepted the challenge the bay invited. I was knocked over by the strong surge repeatedly.

As I was standing at the water’s edge, I heard a loud, suction like sound. I looked down at my feet and saw the undertow pulling back inwards toward the ocean. My feet were swept out from under me, and before I knew what was happening, I was on the shore break on my back. At that point, I surrendered to the mighty Pacific and accepted defeat and returned to the beach. It turns out what I thought was going to be a beautiful dance evolved quickly into a battle with nature, and I was losing miserably.

When I came out of the water, the course sand was in my hair, eyes and several places in my two-piece swimsuit. I wandered over the one of outdoor public showers and like many swimmers around me, spent about 20 minutes immersed in the shower trying to wash away the sand that was stuck stubbornly in my bikini panties and top.

Swimming on Oahu’s North Shore in the winter months can be challenging. My experience at Waimea Bay humbled me as a swimmer. I came out of this experience with a renewed respect for the ocean, I accept that the ocean cannot be controlled, the best you can do is enjoy the journey.