For as long as I can remember, summer meant finding a body of water to jump into to cool off. Simply stated, if it's hot and I see water, I want to jump in.
Maybe this desire comes from having been born on an island. Surrounded by pristine and inviting blue everywhere always made me want to be a part of the liquid beauty.
In Cuba, we spent our summers at Varadero Beach. The most perfectly perfect perfection of the beach experience anywhere. When we arrived in Miami in 1961, we used to go to Crandon Park ("El Charquito") where there were zero waves and so sometimes the water temperature would get into the 90's. Crazy, right?
Well, when I was 9, we moved to Southern California. There were many culture-shock moments moving from East to West coast, and the personality type of the Pacific Ocean offered one of the most shocking.
The Pacific Ocean, I quickly learned, was not the same as the Caribbean. Or for that matter, the Atlantic. For one thing, there was nothing "pacific" about it. There were waves. And when I say "waves," I mean WAVES.
There was an entire language dedicated to the description of the ocean activity. We learned to recognize when a "set" was coming in. We learned (after getting tumbled a few times) how to move toward the breaking waves instead of away from them to keep from getting pounded into the sand by the shore break. "Shore break" is a thing. Who knew?
There's an entire "surf science" based on high and low tides and there are optimal times to surf. Beach breaks are better at a medium tide – mostly early morning or early evening. Reef breaks will "close out" if the tide is too high. If you get caught in a rip tide that starts dragging you out to sea, you swim sideways, not toward shore. See what I mean? So much to know. What a contrast between all of this and the yay-we're-at-the-beach-let's-go-swimming simplicity of the Caribbean and the Atlantic.
Also, in Cuba as well as in South Florida, ocean water is pretty much the same as bath water. You can walk right in with no shock to your system. The coolest the water gets there (please correct me if I'm wrong) is maybe the mid-80's. Still a very comfortable temp.
Ah, but in Southern California, the days of sea-water-the-same-as-bath-water were long gone. The water temperature here on the West Coast is routinely in the low to mid 60's. The cool water helps keep the coastal temperature refreshing, but surfing (which my people do routinely) or swimming usually requires a wetsuit.
There are lots of beach days where I don't do more than dip a toe in and complain about the cold water. And I miss being in the water. It's the only downside to life on this coast. (Well, that and our ridiculously liberal governor who is driving our economy into the ground and business out of the Golden State, but that's not important right now.)
However, these past couple of weeks there has been a heat wave here in So Cal. And mercifully the water temperature has risen along with the thermometer.
That's right. 74 degrees! Air and water temperature! And this coincided perfectly with our beach vacation. Thank you, God!
We spent our entire week splashing around, surfing, boogieing, and just cooling off in the ocean. Strangers were remarking to each other about how warm the water was. 74 degrees, people! Southern Californians headed to the shore in droves. We high fived each other over the awesome air/water conditions.
"The water is so incredibly warm!" We exclaimed to anyone who would listen.
I know. It's not Caribbean warm, but this island girl did not care. When the air and water are about the same (74!) temperature, magic happens. It was like this for the entire week we were vacationing at the beach. And there was no getting me out of the water.
Even when it was time to get out of the water.