Snap Shot #2: Waves Don’t Care

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The “wumph wumph wumph” of helicopter blades is not an unusual sound in Bondi. Perhaps this is why I’ve work away in my study for hours to this steady back beat without giving any thought to its persistent pounding. It is only when I head outside for a walk that I become curious as to its source. I soon find myself in a park near the coast. Although the destructive storm finally passed during the night, it has left behind a heaving ocean. Earlier in the day I had been surprised to see a foolhardy paddle board rider surfing a monstrous five metre wave – until it crunched him. He surfaced but without his paddle. He managed to get back to the beach, deciding not to push his luck any further. Now, overlooking the cliffs near the Bondi Icebergs pool, I get a better idea of why there is a chopper hovering above. The street below is closed off by blue and white police tape, with five police cars and two ambulances parked in a line. As well as the police chopper just above the crashing waves, I notice another one further out to sea. Below it are two police boats. I am part of a curious crowd craning their heads like meerkats with mobile phones. I use my own to take photos, a video and to text my wife. She too is now intrigued. What’s going on? Not sure. Some sort of rescue I guess. Can’t see over the cliffs. I am animated with restless excitement. I decide to continue my walk and head down towards the beach, away from the commotion. I pass a huge water tank that was dumped onto the sand, a battered testament to the storm’s strength. I get to the main stairs leading to the beach, sit down and check online for any news of the incident. Among all the stories of the storm’s devastation, there is a recent post about a search for a missing man last spotted either swimming off the rocks near Bondi or perhaps swept in by a giant wave. Either way, the police have been searching now for hours. I quickly share the news with my wife, keeping her in the loop. I then stare out onto the sea. The north end is not as rough as in the morning and a group of surfers is taking advantage of the still impressive swell. Suddenly, I am aware that there is wave about to engulf me. It is not shaped with water but by melancholy. What I witnessed was not a rescue attempt – it was a body search. The ocean has consumed someone and is not in a huge hurry to cough him up. I think of the panic that the man felt as he was tossed about, perhaps wedged under a rock, perhaps just continually churning below the surface. I think about the police in the chopper, straining their eyes for a glimpse of a hand or a foot. And I think about the waves and how they simply don’t care. Waves don’t care if you ride them. Or if you dive into them. Or if you are too close to the edge when they come crashing down. Forces of nature have no conscience. And so I leave the beach and the buzz of the chopper behind, attempting to ride the wave which now surrounds me.

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