Trouble in Paradise


Posted by peskypippi | Posted in Love, Memories | Posted on 09-10-2012

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I know a sweet family that traveled to Cancun, Mexico: a woman, her husband, and their two-year-old son. A perfect little trip to paradise where they encountered white sand, aqua water, and palapas (thatched umbrellas). Like a Corona commercial.

The family brought sand buckets, shovels, and plastic sharks to spend an afternoon under the palapa. Their son was busily enjoying an ice cream, as it quickly melted down his chin. The woman massaged her feet in the flour-like sand. Talking, smiling, laughing, relaxing. It was the perfect day.

The boy grew sleepy in the warm breeze and the couple made him a bed out of beach towels. Siesta time.

The aqua waters beckoned the woman. She looked at her sleeping toddler and made a bee-line for the waves. No problem, her husband would stay with the child while she played.

Ah. Warm water. She dunked her whole body in and jumped the waves. Like a child. Happy. Carefree.

Body surfing. It was blissful.

When she peeked at her husband and little boy, she realized she was further from the shore then she was comfortable with. So, she started to swim back in. Without warning, the waves increased their volume and force.

The magnet of a rip tide pulled her out.

She could no longer touch the bottom. The reassuring sandy bottom of the ocean floor.

She panicked.

Her head submerged, with the waves three feet over her head. The timing of her breathing was off. She inhaled salt water. Choking. Losing her breath. Sputtering. She wailed her arms frantically.

She was going under. Only 200 meters from the shore, she was drowning.

She could still see the palapa in the distance, but it was shrinking. She could barely make out the outline of her husband. Couldn’t he see her? She tried to signal him, but her head kept going under. He was watching their sleeping child.

Choking on salt water. Helpless. Trying to tread water, but powerless. She tried to yell for help, but her voice was a salt-filled whisper. She tried to swim, but she ran out of energy and the current was holding her back. Her worst fear: she was going to drown and never see her family again.

Then it happened. The parasailing crew spotted her and signaled the lifeguard. At that same moment, her husband looked up and saw her struggling. He sprinted–with sleeping toddler, rubber-like, in his arms–yelling frantically for help.

The lifeguard swam with intensity. The waves were still crashing over the helpless woman. He draped her arms around his shoulders and pulled her in, diagonally, to shore.

Her body was shaking. Her lungs were filled with salt water. She was bawling. But she was, oh, so grateful.

To the lifeguard, she was just another woman. But for the woman, he was an angel, who saved her paradise.

When I reflect on that near-drowning experience in Cancun more than a decade ago, I can still taste the salt water in my throat.

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Comments (46)

Wow. I thought the horrid diarrhea I got in Cancun was frightening, but this was a terrifying experience. It’s amazing how things can turn badly so quickly. Thank God everything turned out okay.

Wonderfully written post!

that is a life changing trauma… i’m an ocean phobe as it is. scarry stuff there. glad you’re here to share. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, this really hit home. I once thought I was going to drown in the strong undertow and cold water of Santa Cruz (CA) as a teen. It was probably not as close as it felt but very scary stuff. You totally had me emotionally back there with this piece! Glad it was all ok in the end!

It was a different trip where I also got that horrid diarrhea. Ugh! That’s another post. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you for the kind words,

Thank you. Yeah, I was crazy-busy being thankful for all that I had (in those fearful moments in the water) and was sure it was all going away.

Thank you,

You never know…those undertows are vicious. I’m glad it was all OK for you too!


Terrifying! I’m so glad you’re okay. I got caught in a current off the coast of Florida a few years ago and no matter how much I swam (and I am a great swimmer) every wave left me farther from the beach. I was sobbing and exhausted and I thought I would never make it back.

Holy cows, Pippi, that’s scary as hell! I’m so glad you survived and we’ve got you here to appreciate!! Excellent post, so glad it’s got a happy ending!


How absolutely terrifying and traumatic. And having this near death experience during such a happy family moment and even seeing your family as you think your life is slipping away — I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. Thank goodness for that lifeguard! What a vivid post!

That is scary. I’m glad that you, too, made it back.


Thanks, Teri!


No kidding. It was the closest I’ve ever come to dying. So real, so terrifying. And yeah, I literally was watching my family as I was slipping away.

I wish I had done more to thank that lifeguard, but I was pretty loopy and just weeped, “Gracias!”

Thank you for your support,

Great intensity here! What a story. I think this could be a winner …

Been there… it is almost an initiation into really living life… once you make it through!! Life is so much sweeter.

Terrifying. Just terrifying.
And clearly, vividly written.
I’m breathing again. I think.

Thank you. I tried to capture the intensity that was my horror.


That’s a great way to think about it! And when I get down or pissed, I need to remember “that day.”

Thanks for the reminder,

I am breathing too, deeply, with no salt water.

Thank you for the nice compliment!

Just had this happen this summer, but not as badly as you described. I felt like I was there struggling with you when I read it.

It was scary, huh? Glad you’re OK.

Thanks for reading!

Whoa! I can’t swim and am terrified of drowning. I was right there, albeit hanging on a floatie, with you the whole time.

You did a fantastic job of telling the story, Pippi. I especially loved the ending, though. Phew!

Oh, man! I have a fear of deep water, so you not being able to touch was terrifying — let alone the rest of the post. I am so, so, so glad you are able to write this!

I can swim but apparently not that well in the ocean.

Glad you liked the post and thanks for the kind words!


Yeah, when I couldn’t touch the bottom and the waves were going over my head, I just lost it.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


What a miracle that your struggle was discovered! I don’t know if I could ever go back in the ocean after such an experience.

Wow, that is such a scary story. I love, love, love the beach, but am unreasonably scared of the ocean. This is one of the reasons.

I felt like I was right there with you as you told it so very vividly. What scary, helpless, terrible feelings you experienced. Thank God for the ending!

I could absolutely feel the terror in the middle. I’m so glad you made it out OK.

Indeed, it was a miracle. I only go up to my knees now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading and commenting!

It is so much fun yet can be so dangerous.

Enjoy carefully!

Thank you for that. ๐Ÿ™‚


Thank you. Just telling my little story.


Well done! I always find writing in the third person so challenging, but you really managed to use this angle to your advantage! Also great use of line breaks to create good flow in the piece…Glad to hear you are alive and well ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks! I hardly ever write in the third person, because I agree, it is so challenging. This was my first time.

Glad to be alive and well!

So frightening! Your poor husband, too! Thank God for your angel in paradise. Well told story.

Thank you so much on both comments!


Once the water gets to my shoulders, I’m done with the ocean. It’s big. And scary. You absolutely hit on the scary but I’m soooo glad you were rescued!

So scary! That’s why you’ll never find me swimming in the ocean! ๐Ÿ™
So glad the parasailors saw you!

Now I only go in up to my knees.

Thank you…I’m glad too!

I wish I had thanked them more.


Geez….I need a drink after reading this. Stay well and out of the damn water;)

So scary!! Glad you were saved. The ocean, as beautiful as it is, scares me so much. This is why.

[…] editorโ€™s pick by Kristin Wย  […]

Thank you. Yeah, it is both beautiful and scary.



Thank you!

Wow! Thank you! I’ve never written third-person before. Thanks for the shout out and the writing tips!

I’m honored,

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