My husband Reliable Bob and I love the great outdoors. We’ve taken our kids on many excursions to canoe, ski, hike, camp and explore since they were young. We’ve faced danger because of abrupt changes in weather and water and bad parental judgment.
A close call in the ocean one day taught my son Ian to be more alert and aware around water.
While on vacation in Puerto Rico a decade ago, several of our older teens along with Noah’s girlfriend Kendra got caught offshore in swells and couldn’t get to shore. Kendra, the weakest swimmer, started to tire and panic. On the beach, Ian noticed the swimmers, wondered if something was wrong, but did nothing. He could have easily helped by going out with his surfboard. After everyone made it back safely and shared the harrowing tale, Ian, then 17, made a pledge to be more aware in the future. That pledge ultimately saved four lives.
We made our kids learned to swim, and participated on a swim team, which is an excellent way to develop swimming strength. Ian, now 27, is an avid kite-boarder, surfer and former lifeguard.
Ian and his girlfriend went to a “Howl at the Moon” party June 4 on Bald Head Island, N.C. He noticed a commotion on the beach and left the party to investigate. That’s the first important thing he did — put down his beer to find out what was happening. This takes altruism, a difficult character trait to nurture.
Ian found four ‘tweens were floundering about 200 yards offshore. Unbeknownst to Ian, a 43-year-old man had already gone in after them, disappeared and drowned. Amid the confusion, panic and commotion, Ian grabbed a small cheap raft from the beach and headed out into the rough surf.
The last thing that happens before drowning is the victim swallows water and vomits it. That’s the point the first victim had reached. She said to Ian, “Thank God you’re here. I thought I was going to drown.”
Ian ignored her panic and said, “Grab hold of the raft and start to kick.” They headed towards the other three swimmers 100 yards further out to sea, who were in the same condition, tiring and starting to swallow water. Everyone held onto the flimsy raft until the Coast Guard arrived 25 minutes later.
When Ian told me about the dramatic rescue, I was grateful he was safe and impressed he left the party and risked his life. Some people asked me, “Are you proud?” As readers know, I’m opposed to parental pride, however, this is an exception. Ian did a good deed. He showed good independent judgment, the objective of good parenting. Ian saved four lives. Wow. That makes me happy at the man Ian has become, and even a bit proud.
What can parents learn from this?
1. Teach your children to swim. Water-proof them as best you can as soon as you can.
2. Beware around water. Wear life jackets at all times even thought it seems like a useless precaution. A raft or noodle can save the day.
3. Exercise caution around strong tides, big surf and changing weather conditions when outdoors with young people. The four victims had walked out onto shallow shoals, quickly swamped by the tide without warning.
4 . Share this story and talk about it at a family dinner or a family meeting. What could the swimmers have done differently? What skills did the rescuer need? Ian said, “If not for the raft, there would have been only one life saved.”
5. Don’t let danger stop you from enjoying the outdoors with your family. Being outside is invigorating, enjoyable and good for you. Use caution and good judgment and be aware of the conditions.